As zoom university comes to an end for the graduating class of 2021, we ask ourselves, is online learning here to stay? The trends say it is... sort of.
Lackluster Investment into Learning Technology
Prior to Covid-19 schools barely invested in online learning with only 5% of their total budget being put towards IT. This applies to the big name universities that have more than 10,000 students in attendance with smaller colleges not investing anything into learning technology. Now after a full year of social distancing shutdowns, colleges have had to rely fully on digital learning and technology to keep classes going and tuition funds flowing.
A New Financial Option
While CPI has increased 236% since 1980, college tuition alone has grown 1200% and that's not even including housing which is an enormous expense for students to pay for. A large reason for this is the branding that top universities have build and the luxury premium that students are willing to get into debt for. The fact that over half of all students are in debt and the total debt sum is now $1.6 Trillion shows how flawed the system currently is. However, thanks to a rise in online learning programs and boot camps there is an alternative to traditional schooling.
Income-Share Agreement Financing
With more and more online learning programs coming to market, the incentive to go to a university are starting to dwindle with some online schools giving students the option to take zero risk in taking their classes. Instead of being put into debt, students have two choices
1. They can choose to pay the upfront cost of programs designed to teach them skills relevant to the specific job they want, or
2. They can pay zero dollars upfront and only have to share a portion (10-15% of their salary typically) if they successfully get hired in a relevant job in a relevant industry that their classes were geared towards.
This option is called an income share agreement and it's been growing in popularity in recent years. Instead of students taking the risk to pay for schooling, the online schools take on the risk that they will provide excellent training that will yield results in the form of getting hired. This incentive makes e-learning companies put their best foot forward when it comes to providing students with a comprehensive and effective learning environment
Future of E-Learning
So with online schools providing students with an alternative, and a large influx of investment into IT, we are going to see a hybrid model of online/ in person learning programs at colleges. Universities are being challenged to prove they're worth $70,000 a year over taking online classes for specialized skills that only get paid if you get hired. It's hard to see universities lowering their tuition or matching this kind of financing structure, but we can expect to see higher quality classes and more online class integrations in the next decades. Combining online classes with in-person classes can allow colleges to scale more students, while still allowing in person learning that is so important for people looking for experiences. If universities don't adapt and prove their value, then prestige may not be enough to keep applications pouring in and tuitions flying higher. There are alternatives now and it's important that applicants consider more than has been in the past generations.
News [00:00:01] Schools are pivoting to online learning, which could benefit companies teaching in the cloud instead of the classroom. It is one love is how do you use electrical current every day or circuits in your everyday life? From Stanford University to local public schools, doors are being shut due to coronavirus,
Bill Gates [00:00:19] even as the U.S. is spending more resources on education. We spend by far more than any any country in the world. And yet our results are quite a bit worse than almost all the other rich countries and even some middle income countries.
Adrian Grobelny [00:00:34] Students, educators and government leaders are challenging traditional learning models, especially as the Zoome University becomes the new norm.
News [00:00:43] It's it's been a tumultuous year for education across all sectors. Higher education, K-12 education, nursery education. Every level has been dramatically affected and it still is very much in flux right now. And we are seeing still a very strong preference for hybrid, if you like, remote education, remote learning, that's not going to change anytime soon.
Adrian Grobelny [00:01:07] Covid-19 exacerbated that change, highlighting that less than five percent of college budgets are dedicated to IT spending.
News [00:01:15] It's very likely still that there will be institutions and certain faculty and instructors who will choose to continue some of the large lectures remotely so that they can really help their students digitally online, making sure that they get the best material they can. You'll see, I think, more younger pupils, younger students going online,
Adrian Grobelny [00:01:37] whether you're considering an online degree or seeking a traditional one, make sure you stick around to learn about your options and why a university might not be the best Arawa for you going forward.
Elon Musk [00:01:49] There's no need even to have a college degree. If somebody graduated from a great university, that maybe that may be an indication that they will be capable of great things, but it's not necessarily the case.
Jed Tabernero [00:02:08] Welcome to THC, where we unpack the ever changing technology economy.
Adrian Grobelny [00:02:14] Hangout with Jed, Shikher, and Adrian as we tackle the industries of tomorrow.
Shikher Bhandary [00:02:20] This is things have changed.
Jed Tabernero [00:02:29] I mean, all of us didn't have Zoome University technically, like, would you guys have a completely online experience and be willing to pay the same amount of money as you did before?
Adrian Grobelny [00:02:38] Definitely not. I mean, the whole college is just a once in a lifetime experience where you live off campus, you move out of your parents house, you are socializing, you're trying to juggle and balance. You know, it's like the triangle to sleep, good GPA or social life.
Jed Tabernero [00:02:55] Something that is really special about having an in experience is that social aspect. That's something that Zoome University really can't serve right now as it stands with current technology. Right. But some models are adjusting to capture that social need. I actually just listen to a podcast yesterday where they're talking about how they need to invest in community based online programs, having an entire group of of people that are doing the same thing as you, and then using that community to communicate and do things together and shit the
Adrian Grobelny [00:03:35] way the way you say it makes it sound really good. Are these just happy hour Zoom's that you're just talking about communities?
Jed Tabernero [00:03:42] This is literally like you will have a shared learning.
Shikher Bhandary [00:03:45] We just jump on a call and start taking shots.
Jed Tabernero [00:03:47] No. Well, you could. You could. But the point is that you go online, you can study and then people can just tap in and be like, oh, shit, hey, you're studying to like, what are you on? Like, all this stuff, which is definitely just no
Shikher Bhandary [00:03:58] one is saying, hey, what do you study? Do I want
Jed Tabernero [00:04:01] to get on that? That's what you think? That's what you think. The kids these days, they're good.
Adrian Grobelny [00:04:06] So good. So they're making ways to get more distracted while you're trying to get worked up, people can just pinga notify you like, hey, what are you studying?
Jed Tabernero [00:04:14] There's many ways this could turn into the new social norm for universities. It's never going to be the same as before, but it's something it's something that can replace a little bit of that social need.
Shikher Bhandary [00:04:26] Yeah, but I think there's a good line of thought where there are different types of universities with different prestige levels. The ones that have the high prestige levels of Harvard's Stanford's Broccolis, whatever the demand for those, will never go away. Just because of the prestige now there would need to do something about the soaring education costs, but people who want to get into those schools just to say that they're from those schools and
Adrian Grobelny [00:04:58] really quick with with that prestige, they have great branding. And you guys should listen to our branding episode that we had recently and why that's important and how these colleges are using their brand to basically maintain a solid pipeline of students for each year, charge a premium with
Shikher Bhandary [00:05:14] with regards to branding. Right. Yesterday, I was at my friend's graduation party in New York City and there's a rooftop and the Empire State Building is blue because they're graduating from Columbia. That's the brand. That's the experience now with this is the high end of the market. So this seems to be OK regardless. It's going to keep chugging along. But what happens to the middle and the lower tier where you're talking about community colleges and and lower, I guess, schools out of the top 20 across the world? Right. That's where you don't get a steady stream of students. You used to before. But now with universities going online, capturing those students and giving them the same value as a college experience is going to be hard. So we might see a lot of like, you know, we talk about inequality a lot. And this could be one of those as well, where lower tuition schools are not available because they're not offering courses or what Stanford canceled their volleyball team or something for a year. So now all those athletes who are supposed to jump in were not able to. Right. So you miss out, even though that is Stanford. Imagine the ramifications for smaller schools and less endowed schools.
Jed Tabernero [00:06:34] Right. And, you know, that's kind of what we're getting at today, is that what is the education industry today? It's it's a luxury good, bro. Some of these educational institutions are just so inexpensive that it's inaccessible to some people. So it's kind of interesting to see, you know, during 20, 20, a lot of the institutions had issues with budgets because when students started deferring going to school, well, they didn't have to freakin pay. So a lot of them lost income throughout the pandemic because things had restructured. People didn't want to go to Zoom University for the entire year.
Shikher Bhandary [00:07:10] By the way, on that note, this current year is the hardest year to get into grad school, get into any any school. There was so many people that deferred almost 60 percent of the class last year, deferred to this year. So you have 60 percent less capacity in these schools. That's ridiculous. So it's gotten superhigh to.
Jed Tabernero [00:07:30] Yeah. And, you know, if you think about it like or not, all universities were as prepared as the really well endowed universities who had the resources to say, oh, we're going online, let's put everything online. Some universities didn't invest in online digital learning until covid pandemic. It's very hard to get started up on that shit to create a course. It's very, very difficult. So the universities weren't prepared for that, obviously died off or they had to maintain some sort of budget that didn't allow them to do to give the same value as they were before to the students that were attending that school. So it just really highlights the need to invest in digital education when things like this happen, especially with the tools that kids have today. Like, that's so weird. Like that stat that we mentioned in the intro, less than five percent of the budget of universities is being spent on it. Like, that's kind of crazy, right? To think that we're living in this digital world. I guess the value of coming in to school in person is still there. But the fact that they invest less than five percent means they're probably not putting that much importance to it. This event had forced them to do that. So I'm glad that it's going towards that direction.
Adrian Grobelny [00:08:44] Yeah, and now now we have all age groups currently that are in school have been forced and put in a position where they had to learn how to learn online as well. So, you know, you have preschoolers, you have kindergartners, first graders that were basically doing some calls. And now they're going to see that as normal. And, you know, expect that from universities now. Now, I think, you know, as people start to apply to college, they're going to not just look at the amenities and all the benefits they have on campus, but they're also going to look at how well built as their online platform and their online classes.
Jed Tabernero [00:09:18] Some of us have had complete classes that are just online. I mean, you two, right? You've taken an online class, right, for your university's Columbia had one. Berkeley had a shit down. One of the largest classes in Berkeley is called CS61-A right. It's a structure is interpretations of computer science in my one class of 60. When I when I applied in one one semester, there were twenty six hundred students for that one class 2600. In one semester, so we couldn't all meet in the biggest classroom in in Berkeley, right. We had to have three days of orientation to make us fit in that. And not even all of them attended some people that had completely online. So there was this need for the faculty to figure out how am I going to teach all these kids, like 20, 600 kids trying to learn this topic? Right. Obviously, high churn rates. A lot of people didn't end up staying. But you know what? Our final was in the gym and that had to happen twice, like in the gym, dude, this massive gym to just service all the students. So it highlighted the need for some, you know, online or a hybrid component of this class so that you could teach the students just as well as you would do in person. And they made solutions for that. So that's not right. We're just going to have this hybrid model going forward. But I think on the onset of universities having trouble with budgets, they're going to start leaning more towards this hybrid learning regardless of class size, having the option to go online, regardless of having two thousand kids in there or 20.
Shikher Bhandary [00:10:53] Yeah, with a hybrid approach, hybrid being both physical and digital based on what courses and the demand for it is. So all parties are more or less happy because now the colleges can take more students in because they can teach more through the online course. The students have the flexibility to take those courses any time they want, and that could result in improved student retention. So this could be a good solution to keep everyone happy. As Adrian pointed out, the genie is out of the bottle now. People know how to load online. So would they want all their courses to be online? Probably not. Definitely not. But they'll probably want at least one or two, which is still a significant shift from what we were a couple of years ago.
Adrian Grobelny [00:11:39] And I wanted to also touch on the financial structure of universities. You know, it's we've talked about in the past a lot, college tuition, debt, how exponential it's grown. I think it's last I checked, it was one point five trillion dollars. And the fact that. As a business or an entity, you have the option to to file bankruptcy and have all of your debt forgiven, the only debt that is not forgiven is student debt. And tuition since 1980 has grown 100 percent. If you were to compare that to CPI, Consumer Price Index. So basically, in a way to figure out how much has the value of the dollar decreased and how much have goods and products increased. It's only grown risen two hundred thirty six percent, which is nowhere near 100 percent. So that just highlights how
Jed Tabernero [00:12:41] how are they trying to it, you know, how are they justifying that? They're charging that much more for a university.
Adrian Grobelny [00:12:48] It's it's like you mentioned
Jed Tabernero [00:12:49] earlier, not getting more expensive. Like it's fucking premium, bro.
Adrian Grobelny [00:12:53] It's the luxury good. Yeah, it it's the the emotional attachment people have to getting that acceptance letter to going on campus, living on campus for four years, needing lifelong friends, you know, sitting out on the grass by your library and like any iconic building on campus. And it's that emotional attachment people get from experience in college.
Jed Tabernero [00:13:16] And then my wife in college,
Shikher Bhandary [00:13:18] they talk about the hundred grand that they owe. They do bang. Right. That's OK.
Adrian Grobelny [00:13:23] That's the last thing you mention.
Jed Tabernero [00:13:25] Here's another thing, right. It's different per generation. Right? Because if you think about how much college was during our parents days, it was nothing. That's not for us to imagine right now because universities now just are charging out the ass like private universities are charging seventy eighty thousand dollars a year. And that's not even sometimes that doesn't even include housing, like, come on, dude, that's so much money. And at the same time, like that's forget about just university prices. Think about the real estate prices where these universities are located. They're typically at a premium out of the area that they're serving. So, like, how can you justify all of this increase? And then people like, oh, look, you got to work like the the boomers are saying, you've got to just work hard, keep your head down, blah, blah, blah. We can't work hard. We're two hundred ten thousand dollars in debt. Right.
Shikher Bhandary [00:14:14] Stop spending on Starbucks and avocados. Right. That's that's the
Adrian Grobelny [00:14:17] joke. No, I mean in terms of real estate as as a as an investment, it makes more sense to build student housing, that it makes sense to have a long term rental and campuses. You just make more money because there's more demand for it. And students, you know, are willing to convince their parents who are willing to pay for expensive housing to get them through university because they think that's the best option. So. You know, with all this debt, with all this, all these students that are struggling to pay their debt for 20, 30 years, basically, you know, not not growing their net worth at all, they're only being pushed back, being held back. They're not able to, you know, create savings for themselves in their lives. It makes us question, you know, is university the best option or are we going to see more people realize that, hey, I don't want to get into debt or if universities are not willing to, you know, to compress their fees or find ways to cut costs and integrate more online learning to make it more affordable, maybe I should be doing coding bootcamps or maybe I should explore other options.
Jed Tabernero [00:15:25] Right. So let's say you're looking at universities. You're like, fuck, I don't want to be in a shit ton of debt. And universities haven't pivoted completely to a cheaper model where students can actually afford it without having to have debt for 20, 30 years. You go into alternative learning options, right? I'm sure you guys have seen it. And maybe some of you have already taken these classes before, classes from Udacity, classes from Coursera, you know, a coding boot camp that you were trying to do so that you could become a software engineer and make 100k year plus. You know, there's this entire world sprouting on this online education engine. Right. EdTech has seen a ridiculous boom in twenty twenty. This is a completely new world in which tech companies like large companies are starting to trust some bootcamps and they're working with these boot camps to be able to produce such candidates. Right. Like Udacity has partnerships with EHI companies, with small companies, self-driving companies. They have a self-driving program right now. You can take off the bat while just taking a couple of math classes and getting into that program like that's that's fantastic.
Adrian Grobelny [00:16:31] Financing is really important to think about. You know, do you want to get put on that debt or would you be open to looking and considering other financing models? There's this new thing. It's been around for a little bit, but we're seeing it more and more with these online programs called and Come Share Agreement. Let's say, for example, a boot camp is fifteen thousand dollars upfront. You pay it whether you get a job or not. You pay that money. That's your risk that you're taking on to get those skills and hopefully find a job that will help you make up that money and start a good career with an income share agreement rather than putting that money up front. The companies and bootcamps, they're taking on the risk of covering all the expenses, not taking any any money from you. And after you complete the program for six months, let's say they have a contract set up with you where you basically share a portion of your income, assuming and only if you land a job in that industry that's applicable to the skills and the program that you were attending, you share a part of your income. So let's say 10, 15 percent of your salary up until some point where you cover that fifteen thousand dollars that the program costs or however they want to structure it. And then after that, you know, you're working and continuing on with your career
Jed Tabernero [00:17:54] to actually get a job without paying a dime until that program does its job. Wow. That sounds dope.
Shikher Bhandary [00:18:05] Yeah, and it's why you haven't heard of it before, because, I mean, the whole if you can think of the big, big universities as just. To basically hedge funds, they have so much so much money, Howard has a 50 billion dollar hedge fund like endowments, and they put it in the market, they do stuff with it. So it's like all of that is your tuition, all of that up front that goes into this big pile of money that's just generating whatever. Right. So will they move to that? The big premium schools? I'm not sure.
Jed Tabernero [00:18:38] How are you charging that much money if you have 50 billion dollars? Are you kidding me? Dude, that could change lives. They could literally make Harvard free for really low income students and let more of them in.
Adrian Grobelny [00:18:53] Yeah, yeah. That's that's that's hard.
Shikher Bhandary [00:18:56] But if everyone's in. You know, Harvard is in Harvard, you know, that's Allwood Point.
Jed Tabernero [00:19:01] But you know what Chris Dutton mentions in the call that that's coming after this is that companies are starting to focus more on the actual raw ability of the candidates rather than the educational background rather than GPS. And that puts less importance on the universities to some degree. Again, Harvard's going to be Harvard. Berkeley is going to be Berkeley is going to be Columbia. Like it's going to be hard to replace that. But because they're moving to this different view of where, hey, you know, this person's skill might be more important than his degree. Well, that's going to change the way people look at universities as the only standard to let people into their company, right. If somebody wants to get into, let's say, computer science, they don't need to go get a degree anymore because a lot of companies are are lacking the supply of of coders. Right. So what are they doing? They're turning to these boot camps which are spreading out out of everywhere. Right. To fill that gap. And then when universities start giving those six degrees, it may be cheaper once they find out that boot camps are a good alternative for companies.
Adrian Grobelny [00:20:09] You know, there are more alternatives coming out. Definitely. You need to do your research and look into is this my best choice to take on university, take on that debt, or are there alternative options where I can learn the same skills that I need, get very specialized in an area and not take on that risk of having to finance it and have the company take on the risk instead. And they have to hold themselves accountable and they're incentivized to do a great job of teaching you the skills that you need because they depend on it to receive an income from you to receive a fee.
Jed Tabernero [00:20:46] Our conversation with Chris Dunn is going to highlight the areas in which we need to improve in order to move into this online university landscape and his suggestions for what could be the standard of online education. I'm curious to find out what what the future is going to look like of the new world where these tools are now available, right. You're creating basically the next world where we're going to have a lot of online learning, whether it be on boarding, whether it be in classes, whether it be like upskilling. Right. So much opportunities to learn online. I'm just I wanted to get your input on on what the world is going to look like going forward. You're one of the people who is kind of building what that's going to look like. So you would have kind of an idea of like, all right, there is going to be a bunch of companies who are going to do maybe ninety five percent of their, you know, their training online now, regardless of whether there's covid or not. Right. So post covid, we're going to go back to the office for sure. People are still you know, we still got the biggest tech companies renting out spaces and expanding their the real estate. But what's it going to look like for universities? What's it going to look like for the workplace? Like is e-learning going to be what's going to happen to universities? Like, let's focus on that real quick.
Chris Dutton [00:22:07] Yeah, it's a big question and I have the exact answer there.
Jed Tabernero [00:22:13] It's very, very complex.
Chris Dutton [00:22:16] I, I think we can all agree that e-learning has certainly shined a light on some of the weaknesses of our current educational model. And I don't believe that e-learning is likely ever going to completely replace traditional institutional learning. I don't think it's the A versus B or A or B kind of outcome that a lot of people frame it as I don't think they're mutually exclusive things. I see a world where there is still some form of traditional two or four year institutional degree programs, but there's much more flexibility for people who are looking to learn in different ways and for someone to choose an online path to either replace or supplement their educational. Process, if you will. I see a world where that becomes a more common and a more respected option, that the trends that that I'm seeing now or that I hope to continue to see in the future is in order for that to happen, you have to have really high quality online learning sources, specifically for specialized skills like that's really where online learning shines, is for specialized skills. And then at the same time, companies have to continue to prioritize proven skills over degrees and things like that applicant's project portfolio or their performance in a technical interview. The more companies start to prioritize proven skills and the less they care about DPAs or degrees, the more of a role online learning could play in the educational process. But it's not that simple, right? Because like we talked about before, right now, the current form of e-learning really is like the Wild West, and that the challenge is like, how do you create standards for quality and how do you create an accreditation process for the online learning space similar to what exists in the physical institutions space, so that you have a a recognized and consistent benchmark to realize like, OK, these are the e-learning providers that are logit that meet these quality thresholds and these are the ones that aren't. And until something like that exists, I think we're always going to be having this question of is an online learning path jet or does this course completion certificate carry any weight, yes or no. And it's going to take some time to get there. But I think if that's ultimately what will need to happen for the next big evolution of education to take place,
Jed Tabernero [00:25:10] I really hope it's not just US news. I really hope that's not the standard. I just read a book and I keep telling them about this. But the weapons of mass destruction book where she goes over basically like the fact that US news has used this weapons of mass destruction, which is an algorithm basically that that ranks certain schools. Right. And it was very unfair to certain respects, but they would use how much the kids would make after. Right. So separate inputs like that. Right. Well, if you're from Harvard and your parents, the hedge fund guy, you're going to come out of Harvard getting paid. Rack's on the dollar, right? When you get off and you're like, oh, that's a great school because he was privileged like Calabro. There's a lot more of that. But, yeah, I really hope it's not going to look like something like frickin US news.
Shikher Bhandary [00:25:57] Yeah, it's it's interesting. So like you mentioned this so kind of like blended learning where you have both in-person and an online method of learning, but it's got to have a certain level of trust and benchmark that this relates to an actual degree. So that's that's interesting.
Chris Dutton [00:26:23] Well, and another topic that we hadn't touched on yet, but that's a very important one in this this space. Is that similar to how people tend to put too much focus on topics like AI and machine learning and these newsworthy topics? And they they they also kind of focus too much on technical skills and less on the intangible softer skills that make a good analyst great. And those are the skills like communication, like domain expertize, strategic thinking, problem solving. Without those skills, if you only focus on the technical skills, you're going to fall short. So part of this boot camp model is really trying to hit those skills equally hard and then also offer a lot of career prep guidance, resume writing, interview prep, career placement, things like that. And one very interesting thing about how a lot of companies are producing boot camps these days is you can price it a thousand different ways. But one of the more common pricing models these days is either an income sharing agreement where you pay nothing for the boot camp and says you pay a fraction of your future salary if you land an appropriate job, or the one that I kind of like a little bit more is deferred tuition, where, again, you don't pay anything up front. You pay a little bit more than you would have, but only once you land the job. And going back to this idea of aligning incentives, what better way to align incentives with your students and put your money where your mouth is than to say, we're going to give you this three or four month intensive boot camp and you're not going to pay anything unless it does the job and it earns you that job. That's the whole reason you signed up for this thing to kind of ensure quality without necessarily saying, like we have this accreditation or this badge, that means we're legit. It's another way to prove that we're legit is to say we're not going to charge you a dime until our course is done its job.
Shikher Bhandary [00:28:27] Hey, thanks so much for listening to our show this week. You could subscribe to us. And if you're feeling generous, well, you could even leave us a review. Trust me, it goes a long, long way. You could also follow THC active, underscore POG on Twitter and LinkedIn. This is things have changed.