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Student expectations are changing higher education

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Nanodegrees, micro-credentials and blended learning are all terms and methodologies gaining traction in the higher education sector. According to industry commentators they are just some of the many ways that universities and educational institutions are adapting to the changing expectations of students.

Rapid changes in higher education are being driven by new student expectations, the constantly evolving employment market, changing job roles, the fast pace of technology and increasing course fees. All of these factors are driving both current and future students to demand a greater lifetime return on their education investment, transportable credentials and more personalised learning flexibility.

As a result, the academic landscape is changing irreparably. The traditional model of learning on campus is evolving to meet the needs of students who want to learn where, and how, it suits them. Busy lifestyles, changing career trajectories, workplace automation and the desire to retire later are leading to more prospective students favouring online learning.  According to a recent University of Queensland (UQ) Discussion Paper – 42% of prospective students prefer the majority of their degree to be delivered online. (EYGL, 2018)

The trend towards life long learning is also driving demand for courses that employees can pursue to enhance their career advancement, learn new skills as technology changes or to reskill as they stay in the workforce for longer. Universities are seeing a future where students may come and go over a 20 year period, with the challenge being able to offer courses and delivery methods that will meet their needs.

To do this successfully, and to compete with emerging providers, higher education institutions will need to offer more diverse ways to study and more personalised options. One innovative example is UQ’s Virtual Exchange Program, which allows UQ students to gain credit through online enrolment in courses offered by seven leading international universities which they have partnered with.

Other options higher education institutions are looking at include breaking degrees into small modules, to offer nanodegrees in specific disciplines for employees wanting an accredited degree to bolster their capabilities in an increasingly competitive world.

This article is based on facts and issues raised in - The Higher Education Landscape: Trends and Implications – a UQ Discussion Paper prepared by Associate Professor Kelly Matthews, Ms Carmen Garratt and Professor Doune Macdonald in May 2018.

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