In this series, we ask education leaders how they perceive current opportunities and threats in postsecondary education.
EdX, which was launched in 2012 by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has used its online platform to give learners more options for earning a credential and its partner colleges a new way to generate demand and vet students.
While it started with MOOCs, the nonprofit has since opened to a range of credit-bearing credentials, including options to stack courses into a full master's degree. The organization is developing a similar feature to these MicroMasters for bachelor's degrees, and it is also exploring ways that programs from different institutions can support each other.
But edX's president and co-CEO, Adam Medros, who was previously its president and chief operating officer, expects groups of credentials beyond traditionally recognized degrees and certificates to become more widely accepted by employers. Getting recognition among hiring managers has been one noted hurdle for these so-called alternative credentials, and their lack of standardization also threatens further uptake.
Below, Education Dive posed three questions to Medros over email about the current and future state of postsecondary education.
EDUCATION DIVE: What's the biggest change you see underway in postsecondary education from how the sector has previously operated?
MEDROS: When it comes to postsecondary education, the traditional "packages" in the U.S. are well-recognized: associate, bachelor's and master's. All three of these degrees are familiar to HR managers when screening new hires. However, the credentials market is beginning to evolve at a rapid pace, and in 2020 we will see newly defined packages for credentials that will gain credibility among hiring managers, educators and learners themselves.
As the education industry innovates and reimagines how education can be packaged, people will become more accepting of alternative credentials and truly begin to understand the value of these less traditional methods of education. It's something we are already starting to see now on our end, with the increase in professional development courses and credentials being offered by the top universities and course providers in the world on edX.
What are the most common questions edX gets from employers about how students are being prepared for the workforce through your programs?
MEDROS: In the various conversations I've had with enterprise leaders around edX For Business, many have expressed the importance of providing employees with opportunities for continuous learning. They are recognizing that rather than hiring new people with their desired skill sets, it's much more beneficial for the company, and the individual employee, to invest in their workforce by developing and building these skills through continuous learning opportunities. Online learning providers like edX enable this type of agile learning by offering short courses and programs in the in-demand and emerging skills and subject areas that companies need.
What does the postsecondary education sector need to do to be ready for the potential forecasted recession?
MEDROS: In a recent edX study, we found that one-third of respondents have experienced a lack of proficiency in at least one new skill or subject area of a position they've held. By creating and offering access to affordable and shorter-to-complete credentials such as our MicroMasters programs, higher education institutions can provide learners with more flexible and relevant solutions to continued learning. These types of programs can be completed while maintaining or growing a career, or in the face of a potential recession, making a job candidate more marketable.