Insight

Fall 2020: Beta Testing The Future of Education

While universities might not be able to give students the full college experience this fall, those that are quick to recognize students’ newfound priorities are best-placed to tackle the disruption they are seeing.

Tamara Mathias
February 2, 2022

As universities and schools around the world open their gates (virtually) for the fall semester this year, students and parents are apprehensive about the quality of education they will be able to deliver.

A survey from McKinsey found nearly half of high school seniors in the United States are likely to defer enrollment, or look for a different school if faced with remote learning this fall. EY- Parthenon reports that 50% to 70% of college students expect tuition discounts if online lectures are the new normal this semester.

Fewer students can afford to go to college simply because it is the natural next step in their education, so they care far more about career outcomes.

While universities might not be able to give students the full college experience this fall, those that are quick to recognize students’ newfound priorities are best-placed to tackle the disruption they are seeing.  


A report by the Institute for the Future estimated that nothing less than 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. Further, the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs Report” estimates that 133 million new jobs may emerge by 2022, which means that innovations will create 58 million more jobs than they displace. 

Universities that want to continue to be seen as pathways to emerging careers have to be laser focused on preparing students for them and must play a bigger role in facilitating co-ops, externships and project-based learning through industry partnerships, so students build updated and relevant skills. 

They also need to reimagine virtual learning - merely converting an in-person lecture to an online webinar by making the professor stand in front of a camera is not the optimum way to engage students who are attending university outside the classroom. COVID19 has accelerated the pace of innovation in higher education, but has also allowed schools to test what aspects of a virtual education might continue to be in demand after the pandemic. Being able to deliver greater flexibility via online classes, for example, might be just one way that schools can adapt to continue to attract students and receive endowments in future.  

Julia Freeland Fisher, Director of Education at the Clayton Christensen Institute, who has studied disruption in higher education for a decade, notes that the business model for US universities is “very much broken”.

“However, institutions like Arizona State University, Southern New Hampshire University and Western Governors University have differentiated themselves by offering fully virtual and competency-based courses. They’ve also been fairly forward thinking about integrating employer demand into their curriculum.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tamara Mathias

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