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The Disruption of Higher Education and Its Impact on Business

Higher Education and Online Learning

While elearning has been a growing trend for years, from online MBA’s to full online undergraduate degrees, it had not come even close to replacing the traditional on-campus and in person experience. But just as the pandemic has forced businesses to go remote, it’s forcing universities to go partially or fully online – over the course of weeks instead of years. What does this mean for the future of higher education, its graduates, and the businesses who employ them?

For years businesses have complained that the majority of college graduates have not been prepared to enter the workforce. Less than a quarter of employers believe graduates are prepared to begin their career and only one-quarter of working Americans believe their education is relevant to their work. Yet, many colleges and universities have been slow to collaborate with businesses to offer more relevant curriculums that include building the basic skills that will be required of future employers. Last year JP Morgan Chase ended its practice of on-campus recruiting, and Google and Netflix loosened degree requirements, all indicative of a changing landscape and disruption in higher education, lead by the very employers that graduates expect to work for.

For business leaders, it is vital to pay attention to the accelerated changes being implemented for digital natives in higher education and continuing education in the workforce. Forward-thinking businesses are beginning to build their own infrastructure for higher education. Ernst & Young, a top employer of MBA graduates, has partnered with the Hult International Business school to create a part-time, tech-intensive online management degree free for its 280,000 employees. “Our clients demand we are skilled for the future. Traditional programs weren’t keeping pace with that, we feel we can upskill faster” said Trent Henry, Vice Chair of Talent at EY.

Many colleges and universities have been slow to collaborate with businesses to offer a more relevant curriculum that includes building the basic skills that will be required of their future employers. And, current circumstances have put many higher education institutions in real danger of sustainability, both in the short-term and long-term, and this has forced them to take a hard look at every aspect of their business. 

With all of the uncertainty in education right now, the only certainty is that while the industry is undergoing an unanticipated and expedited overhaul right now, education is vital, but its traditional format isn’t the key. And businesses that recognize the opportunity will have a first mover advantage in the “new normal” of education.  With or without partnering with an established institution in higher education, now is the time to invest in online learning initiatives for your business.