At the start of 2020, the world was expecting a number of much-needed changes within the education system, especially within colleges and at the tertiary education level. For years, the industry has been plagued by scandals, lawsuits, and discrimination allegations. Colleges have been accused of being inaccessible. The lack of transparency to the public has set a number of institutions in a bad light. So, going into the new decade, it was widely predicted that a number of these critical issues would need to be addressed and amended.
Enter the COVID-19 curveball in March 2020, and the industry has, like many others, been thrown into disarray. Universities have had to learn to be agile and adapt. Not only are the institutions still having to manage the previous issues that they were facing, but now, they cope with the challenges that lockdowns and social distancing have created. We took a look at the key trends on the education front for 2020, what you should expect to see for the remainder of the year, as well as for the foreseeable future, post-COVID-19.
Online Colleges are on the Rise
Even pre-COVID-19, there was a great migration toward online universities and digital education. Statistics were showing, toward the end of 2019, that due to the accessibility, convenience, and affordability of online courses, that this was one of the fastest-growing trends in education worldwide. In fact, by 2025, the industry is expected to grow by at least $331 billion, with millions of students opting for online education over on-campus facilities.
A number of colleges have already adapted their offerings and the numbers are already painting a very successful picture. Over six million Americans have enrolled for some kind of online education, with the majority of the students being over the age of 30 and being experienced professionals. The success of these offerings has been noted almost instantly, as with the case at Georgia Tech who offered a master’s degree in computer science online for $7,000. Over 26,000 students have already applied and they have 8,000 enrolled for the program.
Standardized Testing Is Going to Change
Plagued by endless scandals and crippling lawsuits, the standardized testing industry is under great pressure to be critically overhauled to be more inclusive and reduce bias. The industry has, over the last few years, come under fire for being biased toward privileged students and selling student data without their consent. The cheating scandal that erupted at the end of 2019, with various celebrities being involved and placing the testing system directly in the spotlight.
For years, tests like the SATs and ACTs have predicted the academic performance of students to help gain entry into institutions, but concerns have been raised about how race and economic background impacts test scores and thus the final decision. Already, many schools across the US have done away with the tests, and a number of institutions are debating whether to join them.
The Use of Technology Will Soar
Optimizing the educational experience for students, as well as providing teachers and professors with more accessible tools, technology is set to revolutionize the college industry. Supporting both teaching and learning, the advancement of technology allows for increased productivity in online education, on-campus classes as well as the blended learning experiences. The technology will increase student and teacher engagement by up to 56% and will provide the student with 24/7 support and materials to promote learning.
Virtual reality technology can also be used to extend the learning experience by offering virtual tours of campuses, or even educational field trips that would have been impossible beforehand. Hand-held devices and computers reduce the costs of previously unaffordable educational materials and allow programs to be delivered and worked through at the student’s pace. This can increase the likelihood of the student graduating by up to 60%.
Many Courses and Majors Will be Impacted
The next major trend that looms on the post-COVID-19 education horizon is a mass shift in the choice of education and majors. Not only will students be swayed by degrees that they can take online and as blended education, but they will be considering what education will be most likely to land them a well-paying job soon after graduating. The Post-COVID world is expected to be similar to the 2008 recession, where departments like the humanities sector took a 28% drop in applications.
2020 and beyond should see a big push for graduates to choose majors that will land them in economically viable and stable jobs that are still needed in uncertain economic times. Healthcare, engineering, finance, and economics majors are expected to soar over the next few years due to the perceived stability of the careers in those fields. Work-from-home roles will also be taken more into consideration due to social distancing and computer sciences and digital marketing courses are gaining popularity due to their remote working positions.
The Vetting of Financial Reporting and Admissions Will Need to be More Transparent
As mentioned previously, the controversy has been swirling around the admissions process in institutions since the end of 2019. The Varsity Blues scandal shone a very direct light on the fraudulent and discriminatory admissions process taking place in schools around the country. Privileged students have long been accused of buying their way into Ivy League schools with large grants and funds going directly to the schools, cutting out deserving, yet economically underprivileged, students.
2020 was pegged as the year to start overhauling the admissions processes and to start holding the schools accountable for their financial decisions. It is expected that universities are going to be more vigilant and transparent about who is giving donations and the reasons behind the donation. It is also predicted that the universities will increase the rigor of their admissions processes and students applying will need solid social proof to back up claims made on their applications.
Pre-COVID had already seen a marked need for the transformation of the tertiary education industry in the US. Pushes for equal admissions, transparent financing and resource reporting topped the list of needed changes in the colleges and universities, but since the spread of the pandemic, online resources and education has taken first place. With all of these necessary changes made, the college and university-industry should be a more equal and transparent environment with an available and affordable education open to those who need it.