Need-to-Know-News: What’s Trending Now and How it Affects Education

This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it.

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Each year leaders, entrepreneurs, and analysts from a range of sectors, including technology, healthcare, and business closely analyze Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report. I’m optimistic that many leaders within the education sector are part of this group and are analyzing Meeker’s ‘trends’ and considering the implications for their own institutions and the future of education in general.  Meeker is a former Wall Street analyst and partner in a venture capitalist firm, which contributes to her expansive research of global industries, insight and acumen that come together in her much-anticipated annual slideshare. It’s packed full of statistics and facts, and I’ve no doubt readers will find something of interest (Meeker’s full slideshare is below).

Meeker devotes a handful of her 164 slide presentation to education (#23 – 28). There’s not many surprises, yet the real value comes when considering where the education sector is now in light of what’s in the rest of the report.  I highlight three themes that may impact providers and educators working within higher education.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 3.01.03 PM
Screenshot of slide 9 displaying chart of Global Mobile Usage

I. Mobile Computing is BIG:

  • Mobile computing continues to grow; fueled by decreasing costs of devices and internet access
  • People’s lives are entwined, virtually embedded in their mobile devices. Apps facilitate users to socialize, communicate, share, track physical activities, etc.
  • Mobile use expanding globally, led by Asia and Africa

Implications for education: Education institutions need to meet students on their mobile device, i.e. creating apps and a platforms that allow students to study, register for classes, communicate with tech, homework and other support 24/7  •  Opportunity exists to reach students in countries where education is inaccessible due to geography or cost • Delivering quality education on mobile platform, that is regionally specific and relevant, will be the next challenge for education institutions • Opportunities are endless, too many to mention in this brief post

II. Cybersecurity in the Spotlight:

  • Millions of resources, dollars will be invested by businesses, government, non-profit institutions, banking and more to combat the pressing and increasing threats to security of government intelligence, business, financial and personal data.

Implications for education: Who will prepare the next generation of workers needed to address Cybersecurity? •  Will our institutions be ready to educate students in diverse areas to address the challenges? • Programs of study that go beyond computer science, and expand to ethics, communication, law, computer science engineering, etc.

III. Tablet and Smartphone growth.

  • Laptop and desktop sales continue to decline—mobile device growth, both smart phone and tablets continue to rise globally.

Implications for education: Students will show up on campus, [and are already], with more than one device, putting demands on brick-and-mortar institutions’ infrastructure to support demand for bandwidth • Big opportunities [driven by student demand] for education institutions and educators to integrate, embed mobile device use in classroom and distance learning •  E-textbooks likely to take over hard cover texts within next few years, affecting how students interact with content • Increase in interaction with classmates, faculty, administrators, facilitated by mobile device and apps such as whatsapp, allowing for customized, personalized learning.

2. Three Trends in Non-Traditional Education

The American Council on Education’s (ACE), shared via its blog three trends specific to non-traditional students —a vast share of the higher education market. As per the blog post, Three Trends Worth Watching for Continuing Education Leaders on May 5, 2014:

I. Variable Wrap-Around Services and Flexible Tuition Models
Non-traditional students represent a wide range of sub-populations and their needs are as varied as their characteristics and experiences. There is no one size that fits all for these students, so institutions need to be flexible and innovative in serving them.

II. Analytics and Data-Driven Management
As more tools to measure all aspects of institutional performance become available, it’s increasingly possible for colleges and universities to use that data to improve student learning outcomes and improve decision-making. This trend will only grow as more performance measurement tools become available.

III.  Alternative Credentials
The four-year degree is the gold standard and will continue to be for some time…However, many new forms of non-degree credentials have emerged that may be helpful to many students in the current educational and economic contexts. Though most students will pursue associate or bachelor degrees, others now have the option to earn high-quality certificates with labor market value. Still other students may consider a series of highly specialized micro-credentials recognized by employers.

Implications for education: Non-traditional students are the primary driver of changes in higher education. MOOC growth for example, is not fueled by undergraduate-age students, but by working adults, professionals and educated individuals. Mature students continue to seek education and credentials for specific and job-related skill sets as technological advancements increase access and reduce costs. Institutions interested in serving this population, need to be ready with adequate support services and infrastructure.

3.  Zappos Ditches the Traditional Recruiting Method, the Job Posting

Zappos, an off-shoot of Amazon, embodies the new generation of workplaces; offering an offbeat work environment, unique culture, and way of doing business.

Now it’s turned recruiting upside down. Who needs traditional [and mundane]  job postings? Instead Zappos encourages potential applicants to become ‘insiders’, where the applicant, or real person as Zappos states, gets to know how the company works and the culture before even sending a resume, which is also now passé.

Screenshot  ZAPPOS web page, 'Insider FAQ' inviting potential applicants to become an 'Insider' and join a team.  It's  Zappos alternative to the 'careers' page on a company website.
Screenshot ZAPPOS web page inviting potential applicants to become an ‘Insider’ and join a team.  It’s  Zappos alternative to the ‘careers’ page on a company website.

You’re not just a number; you’re a real person with a real personality and real skills and we want to treat you that way by getting to know you before making any decisions one way or the other. This is your chance to shine and show us how perfect you’d be for Zappos. And we recognize that this getting-to-know-you stuff is a two-way street!   Zappos, Insider FAQ

Implications for education: Why have I included this news story readers may wonder. Because it is an example of how organizations are taking a traditional and routine function common to an organization, recruiting, hiring and training new employees in this instance, and reinventing the process. Zappos identified the problem, what wasn’t working in its hiring practices, determined how the traditional process was outdated in the context of today’s culture, and reinvented the function. Note, they are still hiring candidates, yet they are going about it in a completely different way; using a method that fits the needs of the culture in which we live. I need not elaborate further to draw parallels to the processes and functions within higher education.

That’s it for now. You can keep up to date with developments in education and related sectors by following me on Twitter, @OnlineLearningI 

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