Cinching the Divide in Digital Education: Educating our Educators on Distance Learning

In education the last two years have highlighted a sentiment we have known for some time, to stay relevant to the changing times, i.e. technological advancements, students’ attention spans and the way in which academics is approached with a focus on learning versus an emphasis on teaching, it is necessary to innovate. The volume of students studying exclusively or partly online swelled in the fall of 2020, especially among undergraduates and at public universities where the number of students enrolled exclusively online grew by 367 percent.[i] The sheer numbers were overwhelming. Schools, administrators, and teachers had to grapple with a whole new way of approaching their job. Drawing life to a still, turning students away from on campus learning, the global health crisis initiated an unprecedented transformation.

Taking a rudimentary approach at first to online learning, those institutions that did not have a platform in place leaned on videoconferencing like Zoom and various connectivity tools that were not streamlined or incorporated into one program offered students some resemblance to a “traditional” classroom but a decentralized one in fact, frustrating students and teachers alike. While the approach served as a band aid, temporarily mediating the acute crisis, it did not model those pioneering institutions that had robust systems, support, and platforms already in place warranting the cost of tuition. According to data reported by U-Multirank, about 60% of universities reported online learning provisions in their strategic planning prior to COVID-19, while only one third offered full online courses in some capacity.[ii]

It’s not only colleges and universities that have seen a shift in how education is approached but other EdTech businesses like MasterClass are recording courses led by famous actors, designers, artists, chefs, scientists, and business mentors delivering certificate programs online. Influencers on social media are also promoting online courses that involve issues from self-help to business development and everything in between. With the aptitude to reach a wide audience, a new multi- million-dollar business has hatched and the need for managers and administrators is at an all-time high. For without educated professionals savvy in the operations of these platforms, businesses and academic institutions would not be effective. That is why it is so important to place an emphasis on providing a quality, state-of-the-art education to academic professionals looking to specialise in digital education management.  According to Jeff Conlon, co-founder and CEO of Everspring, a digital enablement firm that helps universities design, build, market and run distinctive online programs, “The increased acceptance of digital delivery — in online, hybrid and blended formats — has created a huge opportunity to work with universities to create strategies that move education online in a high-quality, brand-enhancing way.”[iii]

According to Grand View Research, a business consulting firm, the worldwide ed tech market is expected to reach a valuation of $285.2 billion by 2027. The firm’s analysts recognised market trends were swelling leading into 2019, when it reached a total of $76.4 billion, but no one could anticipate the colossal leap it made in 2020.[iv]

“MasterClass, Course Hero, Varsity Tutors, Skillshare — the whole sector saw these really big jumps on the list into the top 50,”

Lisa Snell, director of K-12 policy partnerships at education philanthropic nonprofit Stand Together said.

“I think it’s telling that actual consumer spending is supporting the trend that online education is the future.”

As a school with a pioneering online campus, GBSB Global has a tremendous amount of experience and insight on the creation of online programs. When many institutions struggled to pivot, GBSB Global continued to grow and expand its programming and that is why we felt compelled to establish a master’s in digital education management. It is an honour to help other educational companies build their online courses professionally and provide educators with the skills needed to not only navigate the changing times, but to be prepared for any volatility that may cause further disruptions in education in the future.

What has been the key to success?

Our Master in Digital Education and other online offerings are taught by seasoned professors with real world experience in their area of expertise, incorporating insights and takeaways from their own challenges that help students navigate their careers with more ease. These are not only academics but successful professionals that take a novel approach to teaching and the techniques used to engage with students.

It was not enough to just go digital giving professors a new platform to speak on but institutions have come to realise, to be effective, they must be digital. Using AI and online chat functions that allow students to stay connected 24/7, students have an adaptive learning experience. Students work on a single platform when it is convenient for them, utilising many of the digital tools they will employ in their own careers during their studies. Lastly, placing value on a collaborative learning environment where students work in small groups on projects enriches students’ learning experience. With peers from around the globe, students not only learn from their professors but from online discussions involving the entire class bringing regional differences to light as an instrument for additional learning.

Drawing students from France, Ghana, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Paraguay, Poland, Russia, Thailand, and the United States, our master’s in digital education students are the most senior and experienced students at the school. The average age of program participants is 34 years old in comparison to other masters whose median age is 24. This is a testament that the demand for EdTech is here to stay. Teachers and educators across the globe are realising to traverse these turbulent times and stay in line with trends, earning a degree in digital education is the clear path paving the way forward. Experienced educators are gravitating to this degree to offer more flexibility and strength in their teaching competencies. Our goal is not only to teach but to inspire students to design and implement online courses themselves. EdTech has become a business and as such, we want to support students’ entrepreneurial pursuits.

If you are a professional in academics and feel compelled to expand your digital aptitude to meet the changing landscape in education or want to upgrade your institution’s programs to offer a modern virtual ecosystem, investing in a MSc in Digital Education could be just the right decision. Join the program and study in the company of industry professionals from around the world.


[i] Lederman, Doug. (2021, September 16). Detailing Last Fall’s Online Enrolment Surge. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/09/16/new-data-offer-sense-how-covid-expanded-online-learning

 

[ii] Roman, John, (2020, June 9), About 60% of universities reported online learning provisions in their strategic planning pre-COVID-19. Multirank. https://www.umultirank.org/press-media/press-releases/about-60-percent-of-universities-reported-online-learning-provisions-in-their-strategic-planning-pre-covid-19/

[iii] Roethler,Eva, (2021, August 26), 5 Key Insights From Inside the Booming Edtech Industry, Built in Chi, https://www.builtinchicago.org/2021/08/26/5-key-insights-inside-booming-edtech-industry

 

[iv] Paykamian, Brandon, (2021, March 29), What’s Driving Growth in the Ed Tech Market? Government Technology, https://www.govtech.com/education/k-12/whats-driving-growth-in-the-ed-tech-market.html

 

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