Higher education institutions are transitioning to a hybrid model. To further expand the learning universe, they must focus on personalized microlearning experiences and certifications, including industry-relevant stackable courses.
Higher education is experiencing both significant changes and great opportunities. The current pace of change has shined a harsh light on the challenges—new ways of learning, changing learners' and educators' preferences, demand fluctuation, digitalization, and educational technology (edtech)—that the industry must address. These challenges have required higher education institutions to innovate forward. While institutions have transitioned from a digital-first to a hybrid model, they must be mindful of the transformation in learners' perspectives and educational priorities. In doing so, colleges and universities need to expand the limits of what is possible in the learning universe.
This article highlights the severity and magnitude of the inevitable shifts in the current learning paradigm and the spin-off impacts on the industry. Along their journey from rationalization to revolution, higher education institutions must adopt a sustainable solution as the blueprint for more resilience and business growth.
The Learning Renaissance
The global education sector has been truly disrupted. An evolutionary process is under way, wherein higher education institutions must stay relevant to learners and provide hybrid approaches to support digital learning and other modes of education delivery. The era of customer-focused educational models is dawning, accounting for the accelerated digitalization in the global system. As a result, increasing investments in technology infrastructure and rapidly expanding edtech markets are building the foreseeable future of education. Startups are working to leverage a $300 billion opportunity in the edtech market.Footnote1 Amid these trends, higher education institutions are supplementing their traditional marketing efforts with digital and social media marketing to attract younger demographics. As they embrace omnichannel approaches to reach a large audience cost-effectively and increase revenues, many of them are also taking advantage of the growing popularity of educational apps.
Technology: Not a Panacea
One of the primary takeaways from the rapid industry changes is that the world cannot return to the way it was before. For higher education institutions that switched to virtual learning overnight, the struggle to understand how to get hybrid right is real. Besides, the education market has attained an elastic state with demand fluctuations that do not follow a pattern. The reality is that in an attempt to be all things to all learners, institutions are missing out on the much-needed personalization, customization, and relevancy aspects. One-size-fits-all offerings do not serve the individual requirements of diverse demographic groups and increase the complexity of catering to students with different motivations for enrolling. Today, as institutions reopen their doors for students, their existence is threatened by declining enrollments (domestically and internationally) and the elevated financial stress of operating competitively. In spring 2022, student enrollment in undergraduate programs fell by 662,000; during the pandemic, undergraduate enrollment dropped by 1.4 million students.Footnote2 Besides the declining enrollment rate, global fiscal policy challenges have affected the budgetary allocations to higher education institutions. To meet these challenges, institutions must actively find and drive collective, intelligent action.
Turbulent Times, Sustainable Solutions
While challenges continue to ebb and flow, the truly sustainable solution to the problem is to expand the learning universe. Higher education institutions can do this by adopting a culture of innovation that constantly produces and releases meaningful, accessible, and affordable offerings to learners all around the globe. Product innovation must be supported by platforms that meet the individual requirements of each learner. These digital platforms must enable an omnichannel experience for users, thereby helping institutions convey specific messages to the right audience at the right time. This is in line with Tata Consulting Services' (TCS') vision of creating channels that expand the realms of education and reach learners who were traditionally considered inaccessible due to geographic or economic constraints.
A World of Opportunities Unlocked
After studying the trends and interacting with industry experts and analysts, we believe the future of education will be characterized by the following:
- Modular, stackable, bite-sized courses that are affordable and easily consumed. A collection of such courses can be turned into credentials that are recognized by industries. For example, a person qualifies as a "four-star full-stack developer" after completing thirty-six modules of the full-stack web development learning path created by a higher education institution.
- Personalized learning programs that learners can find at their doorstep or at the click of a few buttons. These programs reach learners easily through digital channels and open doors to intuitive learning experiences.
Rewriting Success with TCS
A step ahead of the changes, TCS is committed to converting the vision of expanding the learning universe into a reality. In doing so, we are empowering higher education institutions and their faculty with the right tools and platforms to conceptualize, create, and bring their unique products to the market faster. TCS is investing in creating solutions that provide the launchpad not only to build and roll out courses with increased agility but also to market them by leveraging cloud-native services that can be scaled up easily. We enable institutions to connect and engage with learners by helping them deliver superior, personalized experiences. Sophisticated interactive websites combined with strong customer experience solutions increase the reach of institutions and create bonds with learners that repel competition.
- SkyQuest Technology Consulting Pvt. Ltd., news release, "Global Education Technology Market Witnessed Gold Rush of Investors, Secured $35 billion Funding in Just Two Years as Market Is Eyeing to Surpass $302 billion by 2028," July 21, 2022. Jump back to footnote 1 in the text.
- National Student Clearinghouse, news release, "Undergraduate Enrollment Falls 662,000 Students in Spring 2022 and 1.4 Million During the Pandemic," May 26, 2022. Jump back to footnote 2 in the text.
Pramita Sharma is a Consultant at Tata Consultancy Services.
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