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EdTechX Summit: Beyond COVID-19


Author: Holly Shiflett PhD, Head of Partnerships 

I recently attended the annual EdTechXEurope event, this year hosted virtually. It’s a great event, usually in person, that brings together leaders in global ed tech. Joining from the comfort of home in Southern California, we collectively shared our experiences, observations and hopes for the future. I’ve shared my experiences at the EdTechXEurope conference in a couple of blog posts related to the conference themes of Lessons Learned and the Second Wave of COVID19. This final post of 3 shares my observations of the Beyond COVID-19 track of the event, as the conference was organized around 3 very appropriate themes:

  • Lessons Learned – Covering the immediate effects of the COVID-19 outbreak – highlighting actions taken and lessons learned
  • Second Wave – Understanding how COVID-19 will affect education and work for the next 6-18 months and how the industry can prepare
  • Beyond COVID-19 – Looking ahead to see what future trends will arise due to the outbreak

Blog 1 covered the immediate observations with Lessons Learned and blog 2 addressed impressions and planning for the Second Wave.  My Post COVID19 observations are shared in this final blog.  Most conference speakers were in agreement that in a Beyond COVID19 world, lifelong learning is going to drive students and employees to new approaches to engaging with education. The Times Higher Ed suggested that this will be a new revenue stream for universities who are losing out on international students who are not able to enter the country and not particularly interested in learning online, when there are similar options close to home.  Pearson (2019) highlighted this trend, pre-COVID in their Global Learner Survey. Numbers 1 and 2 on their findings are directly related to this shift. 

  • A DIY mindset is reshaping education.
  • The 40-year career is gone, replaced by life-long learning and diverse career paths.

The old reality – study – break – study – break – is a broken paradigm according to David Blake, of Learn In. I personally followed this a version of this traditional path of BA, work, MA, work and then PhD and then work again, but really I always worked while I was a student and I’m still working and learning now, so I consider myself a lifelong learner. In his presentation, Blake highlighted that “Stop start models are no longer supportable as employees, students, and the general public are embracing learning on demand and anytime, anywhere learning”. Just in time learning is really becoming the new future.

What I didn’t really see was a presentation from an organization or higher ed group that is really using online education in a transformative way, integrating it into the fiber of their organization. The future will really belong to the innovative universities. I shared my vision for a truly integrated virtual university in an Inside Higher Ed article –  March 18, and I’ll share some of the ideas again, here. Online education offers an opportunity to really create a University teaching structure that can flex with the needs of learners, for example:

  • When higher-than-expected enrollments require additional sections to be offered quickly, add them online
  • When an individual student is required to miss an on-campus course, share the online version
  • When adverse weather challenges commuters, shift to learn from home on the fly
  • When work or personal priorities keep an adult learner from attending class, make missed material available online
  • When illness of a faculty member requires another to step in remotely, move to remote teaching
  • When a student wants to create their own path, mix and match from online segments
  • When an individual student needs a single class in order to graduate, make one available from your library of online offerings
  • When high-demand courses are overbooked, approach it like a MOOC 
  • When lower-demand courses still need to run to meet student requirements, jump online on a social platform like FutureLearn and lower facilitation models
  • When an employer has an immediate need to fill a skill gap, map to the need and go online

My vision for the future beyond COVID19 is for EdTech to allow universities, workplaces and governments to envision and create a new normal that meets the needs of learners anytime, anywhere and any situation. Themes from several of the EdTech firms not surprisingly suggested that all have seen exponential growth. Increases were in computer and data science and business but also personal development were common subjects of interest. I think the common theme here though, is that learners want to learn and recognize the need to do it themselves and to engage with available materials online.  Universities will have a more unbundled approach while corporations and industry will need to focus on constant reskilling. Thank you EdTechXEurope for a series of very inspiring sessions. I’ll “see” you next year, I hope! 


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