Last week, on the Time web site, Udemy CO Dennis Yang claims to have “cracked online education”. They haven’t of course and this is exactly the sort of glib claim guaranteed to to annoy those that have thought deepest and longest about the ways in which technology can be used in education. There is a ‘but’ though. Whilst Udemy’s claim is overstated they are, in fact, onto something and that something is that
Udemy CEO Dennis Yang, 42, believes online education can serve a different role, helping professionals long out of college keep up with changing workplaces. “Through a combination of technology, automation and globalization, things are changing quickly, but at the same time, what we learn in school, and how we’re teaching and being taught in school, is the same,” says Yang. “So traditional education is not really keeping up from a pace standpoint.”
And Udemy are not the only ones that are doing this. A host of providers are offering flexible, affordable online learning aimed at the workforce. Particularly those seeking to change career. My first degree was in Construction Management I currently study with Pluralsight and Lynda.com to keep my programming and tech skills up to date and I’ve just joined a course from Udemy on creating computer games. I’m not the only one, more than 10 million people have taken a Udemy course.
What’s disappointing about this is the degree to which higher education providers have completely missed the opportunity to provide learning opportunities for those in the workforce.
For as long as I’ve worked in the sector universities have talked about providing life long learning and connecting with the wider world through work place based learning and yet they have conspicuously failed to provide the opportunities. Some people will point to organisational sections of universities that may have been created to offer training opportunities and short courses but visit any university web site and you will be hard pressed to find these. It remains all about the big, first qualification, the degree and, increasingly, to selling the degree to differentiate you, the Masters degree. These are big, inflexible and expensive courses.
In an age where people change careers several times this seems incredibly short sighted. It remains to be seen whether this approach will eventually feed into decisions made by entrants to higher education that would normally enter a degree program.
Feature image: Licensed CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/rfX2Xw by Per Gosche