By Adam Wadi
In this increasingly technological world, no industry is immune to disruption. Airbnb has given hospitality a wake-up call. Uber has rocked the taxi trade. Menulog revolutionised the way we order home delivery. These innovative start-ups listened to customers and have dramatically changed established industries.
In the same way, tertiary education is crying out for modernisation and a better customer experience, especially for students who are mid-career. Adult education is a unique opportunity for the next major industry disruption.
The needs of adult students are different to those going to university straight from high school. When I started my first diploma I had a full time job and a family to support. There are plenty of others in the same boat. They may want a qualification to help obtain a promotion, a payrise or to change industries, but face big barriers in obtaining the appropriate certificate, diploma or degree.
The two most significant barriers for adult students are:
- The cost of a qualification
- The amount of time involved in study
If we want to continue to prosper as a smart country, we must allow people to obtain qualifications in a way that is both cost and time-efficient, without sacrificing quality. So how do we do that? I see two major disruptions set to shake up the education industry:
- A customised course structure for every student
It is no longer appropriate to present potential students with an old-fashioned one-size-fits-all pathway to gaining nationally recognised qualifications. We all seek customisation in everything from phone plans to holidays to cars. Students are the customers of educational services; so how long will they accept demands that they fit into a uniform learning and assessment regime?
It is the institutions that need to adapt to meet the needs of individual students, not the other way round. Half of this challenge is recognising the prior experience of a student and converting this into advanced standing (through Recognition of Prior Learning). The other half is delivering educational services at a time and place, and in a manner, that suits the student, rather than the provider.
- Real collaboration in the virtual classroom
Physical classrooms are old hat. There is little reason to be physically present in a lecture theatre in order to learn. People returning to study later in life usually value flexibility over the benefits of attending class. They don’t need the clubs and social activities, and are likely to be able to motivate themselves to study.
But online learning does have its drawbacks. It can be impersonal and isolating and may not provide the opportunity to interact with other students and share ideas. Many people like the traditional classroom experience that you just don’t get online, but they are unable or unwilling to fit into a typical university schedule.
That’s why there’s a race to see who can perfect the online classroom experience. Clever education providers are investing in creating the ideal ‘virtual classroom’ to attract and engage students.
The VR classroom overcomes many of the obstacles that prevent people from chasing a qualification. It provides remote and overseas students an opportunity to participate in world-class education. International students can easily attend Australian classes. People in remote areas will have the same experience as their classmates. Students can collaborate on projects, teachers can provide feedback in a custom-built virtual environment and everyone can ‘attend’ sessions hosted by guest lecturers and specialists without leaving home.
Addressing the pain points: The future of adult education
A combination of RPL, flexible delivery and improving the online experience for students will deliver lower cost, more time efficient study. The lower overall cost comes thanks to exemptions from some units of study (where appropriate). The reduced time commitment is a result of fewer subjects and less travel time to the virtual classroom.
I started GQA with an ear to the ground and an eye for innovation. Now I have 40 partner institutions offering 400 nationally recognised qualifications across 29 different industries. Personally, I am always driving the team at Get Qualified Australia to be the improvement we want to see in the industry. We will forever be developing and refining our products and services with a view to making sure as many Australians as possible can get the qualifications they deserve.