“When we think about who is able to make it to campus to learn new knowledge and skills to get economic opportunities, it is generally a pretty limited set of people,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera.
“I would challenge anyone who says everybody needs to get back on campus to say, ‘Well, what about the 95% of people who can’t do that’. They don’t have access to transportation. They’re working two jobs. Or maybe they don’t know the language, or maybe they can’t move their families.
“Any country that says it will only do on campus teaching, is essentially cutting out the vast majority of adults who need to continue to learn.”
Online learning is “the only option” for a large category of learners who are non-traditional learners, founder and CEO of edX and chief open education officer at 2U Anant Agarwal agreed.
Remote work will “uncork the real possibility of online learning”, Maggioncalda continued.
In the same way that online learning can offer “more equal” educational opportunities, remote work can give “much more equal job opportunities”, he said.
“Suddenly the value of learning certain skills is not restrained by the job opportunities in [students’] communities, they don’t have to leave their community to get good opportunities. They have learnt things from right where they are, and they have turned that into a benefit for their family, themselves, their community, without having to leave.
“When I talk to ministers of education of governments, many of them say that it is not just online learning but the remote work that might be able to mitigate the mass migration of human populations.”
The edtech leaders, speaking on the opening day of THE Digital Universities Week UK in London, also urged institutions to partner with providers that are able to assist with new demands from students.
“It’s perfectly fine to have synergies and unbundle”
“We shouldn’t try and be educators and at the same time, educators shouldn’t try to be technology companies,” FutureLearn CEO Andy Hancock stated.
“It’s about which aspects of the value chain where we can offer value… And it should absolutely be around the role platforms play, how we can bring more AI, machine learning to the customer experience and how we can work with partners to provide services that enable them to scale, sustain and grow.”
“Universities and companies need to work together,” Agarwal continued.
“As professors we need to focus on things like pedagogy, learning, knowledge transfer, research… engaging learners,” Agarwal, who is also .
“We should partner with companies that help provide scale, marketing, career services, software, and tech platforms. It’s perfectly fine to have synergies and unbundle and do what we do best as professors, and let companies [help us].”
Understanding the environment and the situational awareness of what is changing is “really important”, Maggioncalda noted.
“Like with any species of animal, you’ve got to be able to figure out how the environment is changing and what you need to do to change to be successful and thrive in that environment,” he suggested.
“I think unfortunately because academic institutions have generally not been subject to fast changing environments, they just haven’t built as many muscles as a start up tech company in Silicon Valley. Not to say that all the academic institutions need to become tech start ups, but I do think the pressures and the change will be greater than they have been before.”