Mike Feerick, CEO and Founder of Alison, explores how education is evolving, explaining why governments need to re-direct funding towards non-traditional education such as online learning platforms
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the popularity of eLearning platforms was already on the rise. However, the industry has seen millions of people turn to online learning as a result of the global health crisis, but it’s not only school pupils forced by worldwide school closures, it is also those who lost their income due to the pandemic who resorted to this less traditional form of education. Online learning platform have seen exponential growth during the past two quarters. Learners and educators alike are starting to realise the massive potential of online learning and the gaps in Higher Education. We are on the verge of an online learning revolution. Governments need to recognise the opportunities created by online learning and to redirect education funding to align with the future of education.
Education is becoming more accessible as costs are driven down. At the beginning of the MOOC revolution, many of the startup online learning platforms quickly changed their business model from free, to what was believed to be a more sustainable offering, such as free learning and paid-for certification.
With the eLearning industry becoming more learner-centric and the barriers to accessing information now almost nonexistent, the idea of charging anything for study material is becoming a harder sell. These are among the many reasons why it is becoming impossible for traditional education providers, such as universities and colleges, to keep up with online learning platforms. Platforms such as YouTube, offering free learning with no certification, and Alison which offers free learning with paid-for certificates and diplomas, are only going to become harder to compete with. It only makes sense for governments to start backing less-traditional forms of learning too.
With only 7% of the world population attending a formal education institute, it seems ridiculous that governments are investing so much money in them. eLearning can offer benefits to those who do not have the financial means to attend college or university, and those who prefer a different non-traditional academic programme. Nowadays, employers are seeking new ways to identify key characteristics in the remaining 93% of candidates. Psychometric testing can provide critical insights into a potential employee’s behavioural skills; how they work and learn, how intelligent they are and their strengths and development areas.
With the continuous rise of EdTech companies, many vital services funded by the government can be brought together. We expect more of the large global platforms to extend their offerings beyond learning and into platforms that cater to a learner’s entire career. Platforms are now integrating free learning, publishing, psychometrics and recruitment to create one consolidated platform. We have already seen similar transformations in industries such as the travel industry bringing flights, hotels, cars and restaurants all in one place and the education and careers industry is experiencing a similar transition. eLearning platforms such as Alison are evolving into empowerment platforms, offering so much more than just educational resources. These platforms are supporting individuals by providing them with the means to empower themselves through knowledge and self-development to improve themselves and increase their life prospects.
Formal qualifications have their place. However, in this fast-evolving world, they are becoming outdated quickly and are losing value. Traditional courses are being updated too slowly and are becoming outdated too quickly. Employers are more concerned about what you currently know and how you can apply your skills to benefit their business, instead of what you can prove you once knew. As more candidates are proud about what they have learned on free learning platforms, these brands will gain even more recognition amongst hiring employers.
The UK government not only needs to redirect their funding towards e-learning platforms, but they need to invest in free or more affordable education options and introduce measures to welcome free and informal learning into the workplace. I believe that funding needs to reflect the transition of learners as they increasingly move towards eLearning. To not do so is an opportunity missed.
It is great that adults without A-levels are offered a free college course to help boost their employment opportunities, but it does not need to stop there. Recognising the promise and potential of informal learning and by valuing it in government employment interviews will encourage the same practice across all industries in the UK.
If policymakers want to support the future of education for the public at large, then they can no longer afford to ignore eLearning.