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.