2018 predictions CEO Keys

In the monthly CEO Keys blog series, Keypath Education CEO Steve Fireng shares his thoughts and insights into the most prevalent topics in the higher education industry today.

The ever-evolving education space and incongruent predictions that accompany it have left many folks scratching their heads. It seems impossible to know where to focus or invest in a sector that’s moving more quickly than you can track. Remember when gamification was going to revolutionize eLearning? Remember the forecast of MOOCs everywhere, at every school? While many schools do employ these innovations, none actually changed the fundamentals of higher education. 

While it’s near impossible to predict the exact trends that will dominate education, it is possible, by analyzing global, political, cultural and technological trends, to see the direction in which demand will alter the course of higher education. 

Here are three predictions I’m confident will transpire in 2018:

1.    Online learning will intensify the globalization of education

International students will increase the demand for online programs in 2018 and beyond.

Here’s what we know: students are no longer limited by geography when it comes to higher education. Those from countries with lower quality educational systems now have the opportunity to benefit from the best colleges and universities in the world. However, mobility will be a challenge. Tightened immigration restrictions in the US, the impact of Brexit on UK schools, and yet unrevealed political challenges elsewhere will mean students leaving their home country and attending a school in the UK, US, Australia or Canada will become even more difficult. 

To combat the challenge, some schools have founded satellite locations in the countries where they see student demand, specifically in the Middle East and Asia, but that’s quite costly. Others – those focused on today’s students as well as the future scale of higher education – are capitalizing on the increasing acceptance of online education that will drive more adoption internationally as it penetrates the world. Currently, the global online higher education market is approximately 96 billion strong, expected to grow to 149 billion. That means it’s here to stay, but there’s still lots of room left for growth. 

As access to online learning continues to expand around the world, institutions will be able to harness the power of international students and expats not only to boost enrollment, but to improve their programs through the introduction of diversity of thought, geography, and workforce.  

2.    Online degree programs with a clinical component will grow most quickly 

Business and Education programs have driven much of the growth in online education to date. Currently, 40% of all MEd programs are offered online while the MBA has 54% of programs online.  While there is still demand for these programs, their early adoption has led to high market saturation.

Programs with a clinical component, like nursing, social work or speech-language pathology, on the other hand, present opportunities with room for growth.  

Interestingly, the biggest challenge of clinical programs is also their greatest opportunity: placements. Universities need the capability to find and manage the required placements for these programs, with students who may be spread around the globe. Placement programs can be challenging for some universities to structure, but with the right support, schools can develop relationships outside their state or region and expand graduate employment potential. Schools than can rise to the challenge will find lots of opportunity for growth. After all, students who are passionate about these programs can’t always attend them in person. Find a way to solve the placement program and see the demand for your clinical programs soar. 

3.    2018 will be the year of the student

More and more, universities are conforming to the desires, demands and expectations of their students, rather than the other way around. Many are investing heavily in student services, career outcomes, and distance learning. Rigidly-scheduled semesters are making way for short-term courses that can be taken as training or stacked to complete a full degree. Tuition rates, while still too high in many places, have either come down or stabilized in many instances.

Yes, universities, these are good things. For too long, schools forced students take what they could get and conform to an unyielding, unrealistic standard of education. Thanks to today’s more competitive learning environment, students are taking control of their educational experience. Universities need to meet students where they are, not expect students to come to them. Those that don’t innovate will quickly be left behind.

It’s difficult to know how exactly these three demands will manifest in the long run. By focusing on distance education, clinical programs and student satisfaction as overarching concepts, universities can prepare themselves to transform at scale as time goes on … no matter which trends take the lead. 

Good luck with 2018, everyone. Have a prosperous year! 

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