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EdTechX Summit: Second Wave


Author: Holly Shiflett PhD, Head of Partnerships 

I was thrilled to again this year have an opportunity to again attend EdTechXEurope. Last year I shared time with Ed Tech experts in London, but this year I joined remotely from warm and sunny, San Diego, where I live. Experts from all across the world joined me from their living rooms for a time of sharing experiences and observations. 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

The first blog on Lessons Learned was posted previously.  This second post in a series of 3 will focus on the Second Wave.

While the Lessons Learned track was focused on the short  term and current experiences moving online, the Second Wave has universities brushing off the dust and ramping up for more. In the Second Wave it is clear that universities are bracing for a loss of revenue that has historically been generated by international students. These students are now no longer able to participate on campus and universities are needing to be creative. In Australia they created a campaign to promote a collaboration of Australian universities that invites global learners to learn “WITH” Australia rather than “IN” Australia.  This was an initiative that FutureLearn supported with our Australian partners and others.  Universities are discovering how to make maximum use of the online content by reusing digital materials for different audiences. For example, dual purpose online content, for example microcredentials on FutureLearn for a global audience (use #1) and also for use on campus as for-credit courses (use #2).  This provides reach to a global audience and a local one simultaneously to provide new revenue streams and also maximize online development efforts.  

Simon Nelson, our CEO at FutureLearn, cited access and work being done to support displaced students through FutureLearn Campus and FutureLearn for Schools, in his keynote. FutureLearn has provided access and outreach in a number of ways, in alignment with our mission. Access is a key focus as many of the jobs lost from COVID and lost through future automation are jobs where education is not required, suggested Coursera’s CEO, Jeff Maggioncalda in his keynote. These workers may need education to reskill for new types of employment as jobs that require education seem to be less at risk. A recent blog from Linkedin highlighted the top soft skills that people will need in the future – creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence – and many of these can and are being developed through real responses to COVID19 and the need to face an uncertain future.  FutureLearn and others have a number of soft skills courses online

Already, as the Second Wave is cresting, content is starting to evolve to address not just traditional higher ed outcomes but the employment skills gap. Tomorrow’s content will be more job relevant as learning moves from a fixed space and time, to lifelong learning and learning at work. David Blake of Learn In, highlighted in his session the shift to lifelong learning and the universal ROI of continually developing skills.  “Any individual who prioritizes their professional development will be at a premium” he suggests, “as skills carry an ever greater value.” This is supported by the fact that in the next 2 years – by 2022 – 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change (World Economic Forum).  A shocking statistic but certainly the new reality.

Keep an eye out for post 3 of 3 Beyond COVID19

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