By Laura Brassington in discussion with the Skills Transformation team at Coursera.
In a recent blog post, “Five Common Predictions About COVID and Education That Now Seem Wrong,” HEPI Director Nick Hillman pointed out that, contrary to common assumptions, the pandemic has seen an increase in job applications. students in higher education institutions, and it appears that drop-out rates have remained low or even decreased. But perhaps one of the most predictable outcomes of the pandemic has been the rise of online learning platforms. In April 2020, the World Economic Forum stated that “the COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever”. They found that:
For those with access to the right technology, there is evidence that online learning can be more effective [than learning in person] many different ways. Some research shows that, on average, students to hold onto 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This is mainly because students can learn faster online. online learning requires 40-60% less learning time than in a traditional classroom, as students can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping or accelerating concepts as they please.
World Economic Forum, ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how‘, April 29, 2020.
The pandemic has accelerated the need for more established online learning platforms – those with expertise in harnessing technology to enhance teaching and learning. Ten years ago, Stanford University computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng founded such a platform, Coursera, which provides access to online courses and degrees from leading universities and companies around the world. The company partners with more than 250 leading academic and industry educators to deliver online learning to nearly 100 million learners and more than 6,500 governments, employers and academic institutions worldwide. Coursera’s COVID Response has supported the platform’s community of learners by offering a wide selection of free courses for anyone, anywhere in the early stages of the pandemic. (*This initiative ended on December 31, 2020, but you can continue to explore many free courses on Coursera.)
Upgrading and retraining: the UK digital higher education sector
By modernizing programs and preparing graduates with professional skills, e-learning can help higher education institutions retain students and increase enrollment. The University of London, for example, offers students the opportunity to claim credit from Coursera’s Google Computing Support Certificate – one of their many industry-provided courses – in the university’s BA in Computing.
By connecting learners, academic institutions and industry, Coursera serves as an essential bridge that enables students to acquire in-demand skills and, in doing so, boosts both their confidence and their employability.
Coursera for the campus team
Due to their high volume of learners and partner institutions, who regularly signal their requests for new content, online platforms ensure that the skills they offer remain up-to-date in rapidly changing technological fields. This approach allows a quick and flexible response to the demand for new modules. Courses are ranked by students and updated if they fall below expectations.
In line with current UK Government policy focus on development, Coursera’s model is all about enabling learners to acquire the digital and human skills most in demand by employers. The end goal is to prepare students to thrive in real work environments. This may be one of the reasons why Coursera has proven popular among entry-level employees, graduates who haven’t yet decided on their next steps, and professionals looking to upskill or retrain more. late in life.
As a recent article in The International Journal of Educational Technology note, universities’ choices to improve access to online education are driven by a range of economic and environmental factors, as well as a desire to use digital technology to serve larger and more diverse populations. Indeed, if the demand for higher education is a global phenomenon, so is the inequality of access. As a recent HEPI blog post pointed out, “higher education must now bring policy on refugees from the fringes”. Over the next five years, the UK could see up to half a million displaced people arriving in the UK from Ukraine, Hong Kong and Afghanistan. As Michael Natzler, author of the post, said:
This is an important moment for the [higher education] sector to assess how to respond to [these] immediate challenges. …The sector should now consider how best to lay the foundations for strong responses to future displacement crises and prepare for what will be an important part of international higher education for the foreseeable future.
Michael Natzler, “Higher education must now bring refugee policy in from the margins,” HEPI blog post, March 16, 2022.
In the absence of a comprehensive government strategy on providing higher education for refugees, online platforms have started offering free courses to refugees around the world. In collaboration with governments and non-profit organizations, Coursera for refugees provides access to learning for more than 94,000 refugees in 119 countries. To date, the program has had nearly 492,000 enrollments and 114,000 course completions. Lifelong learning has always been important, but now it’s even more critical — and more widely available — than ever.