Ed tech upgrades will outlast the pandemic

Major technology investments will lead to the intersection of higher ed and industry, and fill the critical skills gap.
By: | November 24, 2020
The Touro College & University System serves 18,000 students across 35 schools in 4 countries.

Massive change is sweeping across higher education. While the pandemic has forced many in the academy to finally accept that remote education can work, the tsunami in higher education will emerge not in response to COVID but because the slow burn of change, fueled by digital technology, is about to explode.

Marian Stoltz-Loike, Touro College & University System

Marian Stoltz-Loike, Touro College & University System

Money is pouring into educational technology. And it’s not just about building digital classroom platforms in response to Covid. In the first half of 2020, $4.5 billion was invested in ed tech and experts predict that $87 billion will be invested over the next 10 years. This investment will drive development in higher education and will be directed to a greater intersection of higher education with industry needs, filling critical skills gaps.  It will also likely provide resources to address inequality, access and cost issues.

Most of the technologies being used for remote education solutions during the pandemic did not exist a decade ago. Microsoft Teams is about three years old.  Over the last eight years, Google classroom resources have become the primary way that children find information, create documents and turn them in.  Google Cloud launched in 2011 and has been expanding its reach into higher education ever since.  Even Zoom did not exist ten years ago. Had the pandemic hit a decade ago, we would have been running classes by phone.

The first massive open online courses (MOOCs) emerged on the educational scene in 2007 as a higher education disrupter.  Initially, their power fizzled as they tried to determine how to monetize the ability to hold courses for tens of thousands of students. But very recently that has changed.  While most universities are proud of their ability to shift online using a zoom platform, more than 55 programs around the globe have been using MOOC platforms to primarily offer graduate degrees ranging from MBAs to Master’s in Engineering and Computer Science, using slick and sophisticated technologies that measure student activity, performance and engagement. And the money is pouring in. An iMBA program that costs $22,000 and enrolled 2,500 students generates over $55 million over two years, effectively monetizing the platform for both Coursera and the University of Illinois.

We can’t lose the innovative technology power that we harnessed in our remote education classrooms during the pandemic.Click To Tweet

Corporations are also using technology to enable them to penetrate the business of education.  Corporate training is a $200 billion industry, with e-learning accountable for about half of that and 42% of corporations reporting that e-learning has increased their revenue. But companies are not just bringing in experts to train their employees. Companies like Google, Amazon, At&T, and Microsoft are also setting up online “schools,” to build their employees’ expertise and enable prospective employees to master business-ready skills. And that training is also being offered through remote education to others beyond the company who receive badges and other micro-credentials documenting their drive toward mastery of relevant technology skills needed by leading organizations.

While many university classrooms were conducted in February much as they were a hundred years ago, innovators had already started using ready-made digital tools to disrupt higher education. We can’t lose the innovative technology power that we harnessed in our remote education classrooms during the pandemic. To keep education relevant for the always-connected, digital natives of Gen Z higher education needs to reboot using sophisticated digital technology tools when we return to more traditional education. Otherwise we risk being drowned in a tidal wave of change.

Marian Stoltz-Loike is vice president for online education at the Touro College & University System and dean of Touro’s Lander College for Women.