“The species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” This succinct summary of Darwin’s theory of evolution perfectly encapsulates today’s current context.
The fact is, higher education is going through a period of rapid evolution. From dramatic shifts in tech-based teaching methods to broad structural changes in funding, universities are having to adapt to the future of learning more quickly than anticipated. This transformation has been further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought these issues to the fore.
Many universities are responding to this crisis context by innovating and rethinking their strategies. But their long-term success still depends on how well they embrace these new approaches after the sting of the pandemic fades.
Given this context, only one question remains: what trends are redefining the future of higher education?
4 trends shaping the future of learning
1.- Blended learning models will be the standard
As the world woke up to the reality of the pandemic, universities were forced to undergo rapid digital transformation to enable classes to continue at a distance. Since those early days, we’ve seen a sharp increase in hybrid learning programs that combine a traditional face-to-face approach with tech-powered online learning.
The blended learning methodology has proven to have several advantages over conventional education models. A well-integrated hybrid program combines the best of traditional and online learning. It gives students the flexibility to choose from various methods of content delivery in order to incorporate quality education into their individual contexts.
At IE University, we are pioneers in this form of education. Our experience over the years allowed us to develop our Liquid Learning methodology, which enables students to attend classes in person and online while providing an unrivaled, highly enriching learning experience. Through interactive tools and platforms like the WOW Room, discussion forums and recorded lectures, the transition from in-person to digital learning is seamless.
2.- Alternate funding options will need to become available
Cost has always been an important factor when deciding to pursue higher education. It has now grown in significance due to the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected society as a whole. Universities will need to provide alternate funding options if they are to be affordable and accessible to high-potential students.
Such alternate funding options can include fellowships, scholarships or part-time work opportunities within the school. By offering these opportunities to students, universities can show that they are sympathetic to students’ issues while attracting qualified and motivated individuals who are willing to go the extra mile.
The IE Foundation is an organization at the forefront of making higher education accessible through scholarships for students and candidates. These scholarships, made available through the IE Resilience Scholarship Fund (COVID-19), add to the already extensive list of scholarship programs that provide worthy candidates with access to world-class education.
3.- Competency-based education will continue to grow at a steady pace
Technology is changing every aspect of how people learn. Universities are trying to adapt to these changes by implementing competency-based education programs, which enable students to learn at their own pace. Students enrolled in competency-based programs master individual skills and knowledge areas (competencies) at a pace that works best for them, as opposed to enrolling in predetermined courses that require a specific amount of time to complete.
This type of learning leads to better student engagement because the content is relevant to each student and tailored to their unique needs. It also leads to better student outcomes because the pace of learning is customized to each student.
The number of competency-based programs across universities around the world is expected to increase in the next five years, and 83% of institutions with programs already in place are expecting them to grow across campus.
4.- More microcredential programs will pop up
Online courses have helped provide more flexible, accessible higher education options, but microcredential programs are taking it one step further. Microcredential programs are graduate-level courses offered by top universities that are designed to help people advance in their careers.
As online versions of university and graduate programs, these courses take a deep dive into specific career topics, which can then be recognized and rewarded by employers. Students also receive credits directly from the institution, which can then be used to pursue a master’s degree.
You can find a multitude of such High Impact Online Programs on topics ranging from data science to disruptive leadership at IE Exponential Learning. Participants of these programs receive highly specialized training on the subject area of their choice. Furthermore, these programs follow the same methodology and provide access to the same resources available in IE Business School’s world-renowned Global Online MBA program.
It is never enough to remain where we are—we must always look to the future. The way we approach higher education is being transformed as we speak. At IE University, we place great importance on not only anticipating trends in higher education, but actively driving them forward to unlock a new era of world-class learning.