Reimagining higher education - How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning - Deloitte

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Reimagining higher education - How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning - Deloitte
higher education
How colleges, universities, businesses,
and governments can prepare for
a new age of lifelong learning

A GovLab report
Reimagining higher education

About the authors
            Linsey Sledge
            Linsey Sledge is a GovLab fellow and consultant in the Federal Strategy and Operations practice of
            Deloitte Consulting LLP. Within GovLab, her research focuses on the future landscape of higher
            education and what it means for higher education institutions, businesses, and governments.
            Additionally, she is researching the potential of federal innovation grants and the interactions of
            federal agencies with local regions. Her experience at Deloitte includes strategy development, busi-
            ness and operating model redesigns, advanced facilitation design and delivery, and virtual collabo-
            ration. You can reach her by email at or Twitter at @linseyasledge.

            Tiffany Dovey Fishman
            Tiffany Dovey Fishman is a manager with Deloitte Services LP where she is responsible for research
            and thought leadership for Deloitte’s public sector industry practice. Her research focuses on how
            emerging issues in technology, business, and society will impact organizations. She has written
            extensively on a wide range of public policy and management issues and her work has appeared in a
            number of publications, including Public CIO, Governing, and EducationWeek. Fishman also man-
            ages GovLab, a think tank in Deloitte’s Federal practice that focuses on developing innovative yet
            practical ways that governments can transform the way they deliver their services and prepare for
            the challenges ahead. She can be reached by email at or on Twitter at
How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning


 Introduction | 2

 The emerging higher education landscape | 4

 Retrofitting colleges and universities for the digital age | 13

 Talent acquisition and development in an era of lifelong learning | 20

 Government’s role in digital-age education | 23

 Looking ahead | 30

 Endnotes | 31

Reimagining higher education


            A      S Laura arrived at her parents’ house, she
                   found them lighting the grill and setting
            out chairs for the afternoon’s festivities. Soon,
                                                                    Her “courses” carried no credit hours;
                                                                instead, she advanced at her own pace, allow-
                                                                ing her to balance her studies with her need
            guests would arrive for a party in honor of         to earn a living. When she applied for a job,
            Laura’s new job, an entry-level position with a     the recruiter checked her credentials against
            large architectural firm.                           an online scoring system that allowed him to
                Once, she might have had a graduation           compare a broad range of educational pro-
            party. But it’s 2025, and unlike her parents,       grams on content and rigor. With this tool,
            Laura hadn’t walked across a stage to mark          he could see how her credentials stacked up
            the end of her formal education. Instead, she       against those of other candidates who had fol-
            earned a series of credentials by mastering         lowed different educational pathways.
            skills that qualified her for her chosen career.        She didn’t incur massive debt; instead, she
                If Laura’s transition from student to           took each step in her education as she could
            employed professional was different from her        afford to. And there was no formal commence-
            parents’, so were many other aspects of her         ment ceremony to mark her departure from
            academic experience. In high school, she didn’t     academia because lifelong learning has become
            pore over college websites, check rankings,         a permanent fixture of professional life. Laura
            tour campuses, and consider various majors          will continue her studies as she advances in
            before compiling a list of schools and look-        her career.
            ing into financial aid. Instead, she researched
            careers that would make good use of her math        An industry in disruption
            skills and her strong sense of design. Once
                                                                    Laura’s scenario, and others like it, may
            she decided on architecture, her guidance
                                                                arrive in response to the current crisis in
            counselor led her to digital tools that helped
                                                                American higher education. The cost of tuition
            her explore various educational pathways she
                                                                continues to skyrocket, putting the dream of
            could take to land the job she wanted.
                                                                higher education out of the reach of many
                In two years, Laura developed foundational
                                                                and saddling others with decades of debt,
            skills in critical thinking, communications, and
                                                                even as the connection between the subjects
            ethics, among other areas, and sharpened her
                                                                that schools teach and the competencies
            quantitative skills, earning her a competency-
                                                                that employers need grows ever less certain.
            based degree. She then studied indepen-
                                                                Colleges and universities face two large, related
            dently through massive open online courses
                                                                challenges—how to make an education more
            (MOOCs), participated in a 12-week immer-
                                                                affordable and how to increase the returns
            sive boot camp, completed a university archi-
                                                                students realize on their investment. No one
            tectural certificate, and worked as an intern for
                                                                wants to watch another generation struggle to
            a design firm. She did all this while attending
                                                                pay off tens of thousands of dollars in college
            frequent networking meet-ups to explore and
                                                                loans on barista-level wages.
            pursue full-time job opportunities and spend-
                                                                    Just as iTunes®, Netflix, the Kindle, and
            ing most of her free time in a design studio
                                                                other innovations have disrupted the music
            where she interacted with peers and mentors.
                                                                and media industries, new developments are

How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning

shaking higher education to its core. In much         education with advances in technology and
the same way these technologies and busi-             new models of learning to effectively adapt
ness models changed the way we interact with          higher education for the digital age we live
and consume everything from books and                 in. In today’s hypercompetitive world, accel-
television to movies and other media, so, too,        erating learning is the new dominant driver
with education.                                       of success.3
    Science and technology have spawned new               According to John Seely Brown, co-author
models for teaching and learning that will            of A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the
fundamentally alter the student experience            Imagination for a World of Constant Change,
in the years ahead. Education innovators are          the business of universities in an era of expo-
using technology and analytics to transform           nential change must shift from simply transfer-
every facet of the college experience, from           ring knowledge to students to providing them
helping students make more informed educa-            with access to the latest knowledge via digital
tional investments to reducing the geographic         platforms, developing their skill sets through
and financial barriers to learning. Take Georgia      mentorship, and then immersing them in
Institute of Technology’s online master’s degree      situations that encourage them to probe and
in computer science, for example. With a price        push the boundaries of current knowledge
tag of less than $7,000, students have the flex-      and practice.4
ibility to set their own pace and engage with             Wide-ranging and thought-provoking
personal coaches and project peers as they            conversations with higher education industry
progress through the program.1                        experts, educational technology startups, alter-
    Moreover, the exponential rate at which           native education providers, college, university,
new knowledge is created today is drawing             and business leaders, and education policy-
a new breed of alternative education provid-          makers led to intriguing insights on what all of
ers into higher education. These providers are        these innovations could mean for the future of
developing lower-cost, lightweight, on-demand         higher education. Collectively, these insights
learning solutions to help close the growing          provide a glimpse into the changing landscape
gap between the skills employers seek and             of higher education in America, which is
the skills students possess upon graduation.2         detailed in the first part of this report. The sec-
HackReactor, one such provider, specializes           ond half of this report examines how colleges,
in providing students with computer science           universities, businesses, and governments
skills in just three months. Another, General         can adapt to this changing landscape and the
Assembly, offers both in-person and online            broader shift underway to a new era of lifelong
courses in everything from business funda-            learning. Making sense of this fast-changing
mentals to web development.                           landscape is essential; we all have a stake in
    The question facing colleges and universi-        making higher education more accessible,
ties is how to marry the best of a liberal arts       affordable, and relevant.

Reimagining higher education

              The emerging higher
              education landscape

             F    RACTURE lines can be seen everywhere
                  in America’s higher education system,
              from skyrocketing tuition costs and mounting
                                                                              The emerging higher education landscape
                                                                          is one that is befitting of the digital era and of
                                                                          today’s tech-savvy students. It’s one that uses
              student debt to a significant mismatch between              the cloud, social networks, mobile computing,
              the skills employers seek and those students                and big data to create digital learning ecosys-
              possess upon graduation (see figure 1).5 These              tems that serve entrepreneurial learners, allow-
              pressures, coupled with the recognition that                ing them to design their own educational path
              the status quo is unsustainable, are, in turn,              based on the goals they want to achieve. It may
              fueling innovation across the higher educa-                 or may not involve four years of study. Rather,
              tion ecosystem. While it’s still early days, we’re          students set their own pace, progressing not
              beginning to see the emerging outlines of a                 through semesters but as they master various
              new landscape for higher education.                         competencies. And similar to electronic health

Figure 1. Signs of stress in higher education

                                                               Without major changes
                      $30K                                      to the current cost
                                                                    trajectory ...

        The price tag for a
       traditional four-year
        residential degree                                                             ... The College Board
      program averages just                                                          estimates that average                         Tuition
     over $30,000 per year                                                            annual tuition costs
                                                                                           will rise to a
                                                                                           per year by
                                                                                                                      price index

     About 60 percent of

    Americans have only some
     or no higher education

                        $                   The class of 2013 graduated                 Since 1985, college tuition has risen by
                        $                       with an average of                      538 percent compared to a consumer
                                              $35,200                                   price index increase of just 121 percent
                  $     $

                  $     $

              $   $     $

              $   $     $
                                                  in student debt
         $    $   $     $

         $    $   $     $

     $   $    $   $     $

     $   $    $   $     $

     $   $    $   $     $

                                                                           More than half of bachelor's degree holders under
     National student debt has surpassed                                   the age of 25 are unemployed or underemployed, the
             $1,000,000,000,000                                                    highest share in more than a decade

                                                                                     Graphic: Deloitte University Press |

How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning

records, the credentials they earn follow them
throughout their professional lives, reflecting
                                                      Today the nontraditional
the total sum of their education, from tradi-
tional degrees earned to alternative badges and
                                                      student is the new norm.
corporate training completed.
   In this section, we examine the ways in
                                                      At last count, they accounted
which the landscape for higher education is
beginning to evolve.
                                                      for nearly 70 percent of
                                                      all US undergraduates.
Rethinking the college
decision-making process                               used his skills in developing compelling narra-
     Up to now, college rankings, campus visits,      tives to land a job as a game designer at Zynga.
marketing materials, and advice from fam-                 Moreover, MOOCs and other shorter-
ily, friends, and guidance counselors have            term immersive programs provide a medium
served as the main sources of information to          through which students can begin exploring
guide students’ college search. Now, thanks to        possible areas of interest before committing
technology, it’s possible for students to employ      to an educational pathway. With a growing
a more data-driven approach to the college            number of low- or no-cost options available,
decision-making process.                              students no longer need to delay career explo-
                                                      ration until college.
The role of big data in                                   Others like, an online coun-
the college search                                    seling service, allow students to do more
   As Jeffrey Selingo, author of College              sophisticated matching based on their natural
Unbound: The Future of Higher Education               aptitudes, lifestyle preferences, financial situa-
and What It Means for Students, notes, “Until         tion, areas of interest, and career aspirations to
recently, data science was largely absent from        find the school that best fits their needs.
the high-stakes decisions made in higher
education. Think about it: We have used this          Grounding investment
technology for years to help us with mundane          decisions in financial reality
choices like picking our next movie from                  Students should be able to make informed
Netflix, but not to help a student select the         decisions about educational finances—what
right college.”6                                      they can afford, the debt they could be shoul-
   Today, because of organizations such as            dering, and above all, the returns they can
LinkedIn, which provides free access to its           expect from their investment.
members’ aggregated education and career                  But, as Adam Phillabaum, an educational
data, we can map the career pathways of               technology innovator, observes, “Too often,
hundreds of millions of professionals—data            students are making education decisions in
that students can use to make more informed           a financial vacuum.”9 And it’s often hard for
college decisions.7 Students can see the varied       students to connect their choices with the
paths today’s professionals took to succeed in        financial implications down the road.
their chosen fields. For example, students can            This problem has spurred entrepreneurs
see that engineering graduates from Carnegie          to develop tools, using open government data
Mellon University most commonly work at               and analytics, which can help students better
Google, IBM, and Microsoft.8 They are also            understand everything from the amount of aid
able to explore the less linear paths students        they can obtain to their likely financial circum-
take today, like the musical theater major who        stances after graduation.

Reimagining higher education

“     The way we learn should be our most personalized
      experience because no two people process information

      the same way.
– George Siemens, associate director of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute

               College Abacus, for example, helps students      and analytics are shedding new light on factors
            assess financial aid packages across more than      such as graduation rates, student debt, and
            4,000 schools.10 Using College Abacus’s net         post-graduation salaries, enabling students
            price calculator, students create a cost estimate   to analyze the costs and benefits of different
            based on their unique academic and financial        educational paths far more effectively.
            information, allowing them to select schools
            within their budgets.                               A new model of “just
               Other companies are applying crowd-
            sourcing approaches to student aid offers, to
                                                                right” education
            help students negotiate stronger aid pack-              Anyone plucked from a century ago and
            ages. One such tool, How’s My Offer, allows         set down in a typical lecture hall today would
            students to anonymously share and compare           immediately know they were on a college cam-
            their college offer letters, akin to platforms      pus. Students might be taking notes on laptops
            such as GlassDoor that allow employees to           rather than paper, and the blackboard may
            gauge whether their compensation packages           have been replaced by a whiteboard or a digital
            are competitive.11 Another, FindTomorrow,           “smartboard,” but they’d have no doubt they
            uses government and private sector data on          were in a classroom.
            salary and careers to shed new light on the             This lecture-based model for learning has
            link between educational choices and career         characterized higher education since its incep-
            outcomes.12 This type of information helps          tion. But, with better technology and a much
            students make dollars-and-cents connections         deeper understanding of how students learn,
            between the decisions they face (school, major,     educators are beginning to make strides in
            loans) and future outcomes (such as monthly         personalizing learning by combining the best
            student loan payments, earnings over time, and      of traditional teaching with digital technol-
            job satisfaction).                                  ogy, using analytics to track student success,
               Yet another firm, PayScale, uses salary data     and focusing on competencies rather than
            from alumni and the total cost of attendance to     credit hours. According to George Siemens,
            develop its college return on investment (ROI)      associate director of the Technology Enhanced
            report which ranks colleges and universities        Knowledge Research Institute, “The way we
            based on their net return to students over a        learn should be our most personalized experi-
            20-year period.13                                   ence because no two people process informa-
               These innovations are only beginning,            tion the same way.”14
            but already huge strides have been made in
            analyzing, visualizing, and disseminating data      “Made for me” education
            in ways that allow students to make much               The Center for Digital Education reports
            smarter decisions about their higher educa-         that blended education models improve
            tion investments. Social networks, big data,        comprehension and test scores for 84 percent

How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning

of students.15 These models blend elements of                                   and then spend class time solving problems,
“brick-and-mortar” in-person instruction with                                   maximizing the time students spend with pro-
asynchronous, self-paced online learning.                                       fessors.16 This partnership has extended into
    Stanford University, for instance, in part-                                 the medical school, allowing Stanford medi-
nership with the online learning platform                                       cal students to watch core curriculum videos
Khan Academy, piloted a blended learning                                        online, and freeing up class time for students to
“flipped classroom” biochemistry course.                                        practice that curriculum alongside their peers
Students watch video lectures online at home

Figure 2. Higher education in the 20th century vs. the 21st century

                    Laura’s mom                                                                             Laura

                                                            College decision-making process              Do you enjoy
                     Name: ______________
                     Address: _________
                                                                                                         participating in class?
                     DOB: ______ SSN: _____
                     High School: _________
                     Town: _______________

      100             Essay #1: _________
                                                                                                                  Yes              No


                                  _________  __

                                                        Reputation-driven        Big data-driven

   College rankings, campus visits, marketing materials, and                     Huge strides in analyzing, visualizing, and disseminating
 advice from family, friends, and guidance counselors served                     data allow students to employ a far more data-driven
       as the main sources of information to guide students’                     approach to their college search. Social networks, big
                                             college search.                     data, and analytics shed new light on factors (e.g. student
                                                                                 debt, post-graduation salaries, etc.), enabling students to
                                                                                 analyze the costs and benefits of different educational
                                                                                 paths far more effectively.

                                                                                                                                        COMMUNICATION   CRITICAL &          DIGITAL FLUENCY
                                                                                                                                        SKILLS          CREATIVE

                                                                                                                                        QUANTITATIVE    SCIENCE, SOCIETY,   BUSINESS
                                                                                                                                        SKILLS          & CULTURE           ESSENTIALS

                                                                                                                                        PERSONAL        ETHICS & SOCIAL     TEAMWORK AND
                                                                                                                                        EFFECTIVENESS   RESPONSIBILITY      COLLABORATION

                                                                    Student experience

                                                           One size fits all     “Just right” education

    The business of colleges and universities was to transfer                    Students receive access to the latest knowledge via digital
                                    knowledge to students.                       platforms, develop their skill sets through mentorship, and
                                                                                 learn to probe and push the boundaries of current
                                                                                 knowledge and practice through immersive experiences.


                                                  Four-year college degree       “Stackable credentials”
  A bachelor’s degree used to provide enough basic training                      Lifelong learning is a permanent fixture of professional life.
                                           to last a career.                     Educational records follow students to accurately capture
                                                                                 the total sum of their education credentials–both
                                                                                 traditional degrees and other certifications.
                                                                                               Graphic: Deloitte University Press |

Reimagining higher education

                and professors and to explore their passion                             performance data to faculty, they are able to
                areas early in their schooling.17                                       identify students who need additional assis-
                    Predictive analytics—commonly used in                               tance to succeed and can target interventions
                the private sector to inform decisions about                            to ensure at-risk students stay on track.18 At
                consumer behavior—offers higher education                               Purdue University, students enrolled in Course
                institutions a more effective way to calculate                          Signals classes have a 21 percent higher gradu-
                and track student progress. Software platforms                          ation rate than those enrolled in courses that
                such as Course Signals, for example, can serve                          don’t use the software.19
                as an early warning system for both students                                The Department of Education has found
                and faculty. Students receive notifications                             the traditional lecture hall to be less effective
                about how they are performing in a course                               than personalized learning models.20 Yet today,
                as they progress through it. By providing this                          only 12 percent of higher education courses

Figure 3. Illustrative learning planner dashboard

    Learning Planner                                                                                       YOU HAVE 2 NEW ALERTS:

                                                                                          You have 1 assignment due tomorrow >
                                                                           You have 1 upcoming meeting: Mentor/mentee coffee >


                     KEY AREA
                                             CRITICAL AND                BUSINESS               QUANTITATIVE              COMMUNICATION
                                           CREATIVE THINKING            ESSENTIALS                 SKILLS                    SKILLS

                                         Can generate a variety        Can define and        Can distinguish fact             Can convey
                                            of approaches              use marketing            from opinion                information by
              COMPETENCY                     to addressing            terminology and                                       creating charts
                                               a problem                  concepts                                            and graphs

               % COMPLETE                           45%                    68%                       25%                          70%

                                              Conduct web                Create a                 Analyze an                   Develop a
                                                research               marketing plan            advertisement                  budget

    KEY COMPETENCY SNAPSHOT UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES                                                         ASSIGNMENTS
     Click to view more information:                           TUESDAY, 10:30 A.M.                          Next assignment due:
                                                                  Meet the Chief Marketing                  Tuesday, 12:30 P.M.
     SKILLS            CREATIVE
                                                                  Officer of Fast Company                   Submit online

                                                               TUESDAY, 1:00 P.M.                          CAREERS OF INTEREST
                                                                  Marketing study group –
     QUANTITATIVE      SCIENCE, SOCIETY,     BUSINESS                                                       Click to see all skill sets:
     SKILLS            & CULTURE             ESSENTIALS
                                                                  Analyze an advertisement
                                                                                                            SOCIAL MARKETING
                                                               WEDNESDAY, 5:00 P.M.
                                                                                                            DIGITAL MARKETING
                                                                  Marketing Madness Career Fair
     PERSONAL          ETHICS & SOCIAL       TEAMWORK AND                                                   PRODUCT MARKETING
                                                                                                            DIGITAL STRATEGIST
                                                                  Lunch N’ Learn with faculty
                                                                                                            WEB METRICS AND ANALYTICS
                                                               THURSDAY, 2:00 P.M.

Source: Adapted from College for America’s competency-based curriculum.
                                                                                                Graphic: Deloitte University Press |

How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning

take advantage of blended learning, and even                      hours did you complete?), competency-based
fewer take advantage of predictive analytics.21                   degree programs focus on whether students are
Even so, personalized options are gaining                         actually mastering the material. Selingo points
momentum and, given their proven benefits,                        out that the idea behind this is simple, “[D]
are certain to become increasingly common on                      egrees should be based on how much students
college campuses.                                                 know, not how much time they spend in a
Serving the nontraditional majority                                   Competency-based degrees reward prior
     In the recent past, the traditional college                  experience and measure learning through
experience involved a four-year degree, earned                    demonstrated proficiency—therefore students
while attending classes full-time, and living on                  are able to progress through “courses” at their
campus, complete with student activities. And                     own pace, shortening or lengthening the
it’s still a reality for some, of course.                         time necessary to complete a degree. College
     Today, however, the nontraditional stu-                      for America, University of Wisconsin, and
dent is the new norm. At last count, they                         Western Governors University (WGU) are
accounted for nearly 70 percent of all US                         using technology to scale competency-based
undergraduates.22 They come from a variety of                     education to more students.
backgrounds and situations that do not lend                           College for America students, for instance,
themselves to the old model of higher educa-                      can earn an associate’s degree in as little as
tion; they have varying levels of education and                   100 days for $2,500 or a bachelor’s degree in
experience, likely cannot afford four years to                    just two years for $10,000.24 Students com-
complete a degree, need to work part- or full-                    plete a customized academic plan aligned to
time, and often must juggle family and other                      skills defined by employers. The University of
responsibilities while completing their studies.                  Wisconsin, the first major public university
     For these students, competency-based                         offering a competency-based program, allows
models are emerging as an attractive alter-                       working adults with some college experience
native to the traditional credit hour model.                      to finish their degrees through online courses
Rather than using “butts in seats” as the yard-                   and competency testing for $2,250 per three-
stick for measuring success (How many credit                      month term.25

Figure 4. The emerging world of alternative education
The exponential rate at which new knowledge is created today is drawing a new breed of alternative education providers into higher education.
These providers are developing lower-cost, lightweight, on-demand learning solutions to help close the growing skills gap. These alternative
education providers fall into two broad categories: MOOCs and immersives.

MOOCs                                                                                                                         Immersives
Known for providing open access to online                                                     Immersives are characterized by short, intensive
learning, MOOCs come in many different forms.                                              learning experiences that allow students to quickly
                                                                                                                     acquire in-demand skills.
Some, like edX and Coursera, seek to provide
the online equivalent of a university experience                                           HackReactor, HackBright, DevBootcamp, and
with everything from expert-curated lectures                                                   General Assembly, collectively referred to as
and quizzes to peer-reviewed assessments.                                                 coding bootcamps, provide in-person lectures, peer
Udemy offers a similar model, but anyone is                                                     learning, hands-on projects, and networking
welcome to curate content, not just university                                            opportunities in anywhere between three weeks to
professors.                                                                              three months. Many have partnered with businesses
                                                                                                     who recruit students post “graduation.”
Others, like Khan Academy and,
provide access to hundreds of short video                                                 General Assembly is expanding this learning model
courses for on-the-go learning. All MOOCs                                                 far beyond coding by providing a range of learning
provide an opportunity for anyone to engage in                                           opportunities that students can complete in-person,
online learning that’s available at low- or                                                  online, part-time, or full-time on everything from
no-cost.                                                                                        business fundamentals and product design to
                                                                                                   mobile development and digital marketing.

                                                                                        Graphic: Deloitte University Press |

Reimagining higher education

                To date, one of the most successful exam-           attractive substitute for a traditional four-
            ples of competency-based education is WGU,              year degree.
            which spent the better part of the last decade              MOOC provider edX, for instance, has
            refining its competency-based program.26                created the xSeries, a MOOC curriculum
            The 100 percent online, accredited institu-             comprised of multiple courses that, taken
            tion surpasses national averages for one-year           together, are equivalent to traditional “brick-
            retention rates (79 percent at WGU, 73 percent          and-mortar” courses. The series, which costs
            nationally), graduate satisfaction (80 percent          approximately $100 per course, will provide
            at WGU, 67 percent nationally), and post-               students with a certificate for each individual
            graduation employment (89 percent at WGU,               course and a separate certificate for completing
            84 percent nationally).27 At a price tag of under       the entire series. According to Chris Terman,
            $6,000 a year, the university has grown to serve        a senior lecturer in electrical engineering and
            over 40,000 students and has been recognized            computer science at MIT, the courses for the
            by Fast Company as one of the world’s most              computer science series can give students a
            innovative companies.28                                 solid foundation in fundamentals, which gives
                                                                    them a strong jump start on future studies or
            The emergence of alternative                            prepare them for a summer internship.29
            education providers                                         Other online learning platforms such as
                Today, alternative education providers     organize their video libraries into
            primarily serve college degree holders—both             “tangible skill buckets.”’s self-paced
            recent graduates seeking a bridge to employ-            video lessons are available via subscription
            ment and those further along in their careers           24/7 on computers, tablets, or mobile devices,
            looking to gain new skills without the com-             and provide a range of skills from graphic
            mitment of going back to school (see figure 4).         design and web development to business ana-
            But, as alternative education options proliferate       lytics and 3D printing.
            and gain status, they could become a first stop             Furthermore, a wave of new in-person,
            for students seeking to further explore their           non-accredited educational options have
            interests and to test different career options          increased tenfold in the past year to meet the
            before committing to a six-figure college               increasing demand for certain skills.30 While
            education, serving as a new gap-year option.            the market for these immersive programs is
            For others, they may become an increasingly             still in its infancy, it is expected to bring in $59

  Returning to the case of Laura. Laura represents a new breed of students who have made the most of the
  changing landscape for higher education. Before pursuing higher education, she worked out that math and
  design were her strongest skills, which helped narrow her focus to certain career paths which she further explored
  before ultimately landing on architecture as her chosen profession. She collapsed the time to acquire core skills by
  completing a self-paced competency-based degree program before investing in a three-month immersive course
  to rapidly develop hard skills. At the same time she began to grow a network of peers, mentors, and employers.
  The university certificate provided an opportunity for her to further develop specific areas of expertise, while
  continuing to grow her network. All the while, she participated in internships and other hands-on opportunities
  to further refine her skills and gain professional experience before landing her first job. Laura’s is just one of many
  possible scenarios in which entrepreneurial students make higher education work for them by pursuing educational
  paths custom-tailored to their career interests and objectives, schedule, and budget. This by no means spells the
  end of higher education institutions, but rather takes into account a dynamic and burgeoning higher education
  marketplace that will, in effect, enable entrepreneurial students like Laura to design their own education.

How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning

million in tuition fees and “graduate” nearly               part-time in-person and autonomous online
6,000 students in the United States this year.31            courses on everything from data analysis to
    One example, HackReactor, focuses on                    user experience design, making them useful
computer programming, placing a dozen                       for employees seeking to refresh their skills
students at a time in an immersive training                 and advance their careers.33 General Assembly
environment for three months. Located in San                has campuses in nine cities globally and plans
Francisco, HackReactor boasts a 99 percent                  on “graduating” 40,000 students by 2015.34
job placement rating, with “graduates” going                    While MOOCs and immersives are still in
to companies such as Google and Facebook                    their infancy and are undergoing optimization
with average salaries of $105,000.32 General                for a new delivery channel and to keep pace
Assembly, another alternative education pro-                with continuously evolving content, they repre-
vider, teaches immersive programming courses                sent early attempts to tackle both the financial
similar to HackReactor’s, but also provides                 and geographic barriers to learning.

Figure 5. A day in the life of the entrepreneurial learner

                                                                                    LEARNING DASHBOARD

                                                                        Learning Planner                                                            YOU HAVE 2 NEW ALERTS:
    After viewing online lectures from
    home in the morning, you receive an
                                                    !                   OVERALL STATUS: ON TRACK
                                                                        CAREER FOCUS: MARKETING
                                                                                                                                        You have 1 assignment due tomorrow >
                                                                                                                         You have 1 upcoming meeting: Mentor/mentee coffee >

                                                                         COMPETENCY DASHBOARD

    alert from your learning dashboard
    that you have a meeting with your                                           KEY AREA
                                                                                             CRITICAL AND
                                                                                           CREATIVE THINKING

    advisor and an interview this                                            COMPETENCY
                                                                                           Can generate a variety
                                                                                              of approaches
                                                                                               to addressing
                                                                                                                     Can define and
                                                                                                                     use marketing
                                                                                                                    terminology and
                                                                                                                                       Can distinguish fact
                                                                                                                                          from opinion
                                                                                                                                                                 Can convey
                                                                                                                                                               information by
                                                                                                                                                               creating charts

    afternoon.                                                               % COMPLETE
                                                                                                 a problem


                                                                                                                         68%                  25%
                                                                                                                                                                 and graphs


                                                                                               Conduct web            Create a            Analyze an             Develop a
                                                                         NEXT ASSIGNMENT
                                                                                                 research           marketing plan       advertisement            budget

                                                                        KEY COMPTENCY SNAPSHOT               UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES                 ASSIGNMENTS

                                                                             2             You head to the local campus to
                                                                                              meet with your advisor about
                                                                                             your progress in your courses,
                                                                                            followed by a coaching session
    3   During your interview, the recruiter checks your
        credentials against an online scoring system that
                                                                                                         with your mentor.
        allows him to compare a broad range of
        educational programs on content and rigor. With
        this tool, he sees how your credentials stack up
        against those of other candidates who have
        followed different educational pathways.

                                                            4   After your interview, you head to class to review
                                                                  the content you watched online this morning.
                                                                  Class time is spent discussing the material and
                                                                      solving problems alongside your professor.

                      5   After class you head over to a co-working space on
                          campus where you get peer feedback on an
                          advertisement you are working on for your internship.

                                                                        Graphic: Deloitte University Press |

Reimagining higher education

            Lifelong learning with                            Education Group, is an online career skills
                                                              and learning platform that connects students
           “stackable” credentials                            to nearly 15,000 courses provided by leading
                App developers, data scientists, and user-    technology companies and education provid-
            experience designers represent just a few of      ers.35 By helping students identify clear career
            the now essential professions that didn’t exist   paths and the knowledge and skills required by
            a short time ago. Given the pace of change, the   employers along different paths, students can
            emergence of entirely new categories of jobs      enroll in the right courses to better position
            will likely become more common. To keep           themselves for job opportunities.
            pace with the ever-quicker cycle of creative          Another firm, Degreed, assigns scores
            destruction, lifelong learning will become a      to the full range of educational opportuni-
            permanent part of our professional lives. This,   ties available, from MOOCs and immersives
            in turn, is prompting innovators to develop       to college degrees and corporate training.36
            new credentialing infrastructure to support       Degreed scores and validates both traditional
            lifelong learning.                                and alternative education options to provide
                                                              a credit score-like assessment of everything
            The rise of on-demand learning                    a student’s ever learned. This score, in turn,
                Given the dynamism of the higher educa-       allows employers to make quick apples-to-
            tion market, it can be difficult to navigate      apples comparisons of educational achieve-
            the evolving landscape and determine which        ment across different domains.
            options best meet a potential employer’s needs.       Parchment is overhauling the outdated
            As alternative models proliferate, businesses     process of requesting and mailing tran-
            will need ways to compare the relative mer-       scripts by creating an online exchange that
            its of various credentials. How do the skills     connects students and employers with
            acquired from a two-year technical program        transcript information.37
            really stack up against those provided by a           These and other emerging educational tech-
            bachelor’s degree from a state university? How    nology (ed tech) solutions provide new ways
            do you compare a certificate from an edX com-     for businesses to easily assess the rigor of a
            puter science MOOC with a 12-week immer-          candidate’s educational track record, no longer
            sive program from General Assembly?               relying on the four-year degree as the sole stan-
                New services such as Balloon, Degreed,        dard of quality. In the same way that electronic
            and Parchment are all trying to fill this void    medical records can follow us, regardless of
            by making clear connections between skills,       where we receive treatment, our educational
            courses, and jobs for students and employers.     records should follow us to accurately capture
                Acting as an online marketplace of alterna-   the total sum of our credentials.
            tive education options, Balloon, from Apollo

How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning

 Retrofitting colleges and
 universities for the digital age

S     INCE 1985, the cost of college tuition has
      risen by 538 percent. The consumer price
 index, by contrast, increased just 121 percent
                                                                       college, but only 57 percent actually enrolled in
                                                                       their top-choice school, primarily due to cost.41
                                                                           The federal government, too, has increased
 over the same time period.38 The price tag for a                      its focus on college affordability. With the
 traditional four-year residential degree pro-                         recent introduction of the College Scorecard,
 gram now averages just over $30,000 per year                          a ratings system that evaluates affordability,
 and, barring major changes to the current cost                        access, and student outcomes, colleges and
 trajectory, could rise to a staggering $62,000 a                      universities are subject to greater transpar-
 year by 2025.39                                                       ency. These ratings may eventually be linked to
     The rising cost of college is, in turn, put-                      federal student aid, providing an incentive for
 ting downward pressure on enrollments.                                colleges and universities to address the chal-
 Across the country, college enrollments have                          lenges of cost and to improve outcomes.
 dropped from 20.2 million in 2012 to 19.9                                 Moreover, today’s students place a pre-
 million in 2013.40 Higher costs are not only                          mium on job-related reasons to go to college,
 placing higher education out of the reach of                          more so than previous generations. Eighty-six
 more Americans, they also play a major role                           percent of incoming freshmen say that getting
 in determining where college-bound stu-                               a better job is a very important motivator in
 dents ultimately enroll. According to the 2013                        their decision to go to college.42 Seventy-three
 American Freshman Survey, 76 percent of                               percent cite making more money as another
 students were admitted to their first-choice                          very important factor.43 While the basic task of

 Figure 6. Trends of reasons in deciding to go to college, 1976–2013 (% indicating “very important”)

                90                                                                                                                     86.3%
% of students

                80                                                                                                                     73.3%
                65                                                                                                                     69.6%
                50       53.6%
                      1976                          1985                   1994                       2003                               2013

                             To be able to get a better job   To be able to make more money         To gain a general education and
                                                                                                    appreciation of ideas
 Source: 2013 CIRP Freshman Survey.
                                                                                               Graphic: Deloitte University Press |

Reimagining higher education

“     Already traditional universities are showing the strains
      of a broken business model, reflecting demand and
      pricing pressures previously unheard of in higher

– Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School

            higher education is far broader than just career       For colleges to succeed in this new era,
            preparation, it’s notable that student values      they will have to find ways to connect their
            have changed over time (see figure 6).             students with the people and institutions on
                As Harvard Business School professor           the front lines of new knowledge and to instill
            Clayton Christensen, the father of disruptive      in students an ability to learn how to learn,
            innovation, observes, “Already traditional         unlearn, and relearn. With many courses
            universities are showing the strains of a broken   now widely available through low- or no-cost
            business model, reflecting demand and pric-        online platforms, the unique value proposition
            ing pressures previously unheard of in higher      universities can offer students in the digital age
            education.”44                                      will consist of entrée into a dynamic ecosystem
                America has more than 4,500 colleges and       providing access to the latest knowledge and
            universities.45 According to Selingo, a few hun-   fostering relationships with other students,
            dred of these colleges, “[H]ave the status and     faculty, and employers, as well as other players
            money to remain resistant to the forces bearing    that could include venture capitalists, nonprof-
            down on higher education right now, but the        its and foundations, and R&D organizations.
            colleges and universities that the vast majority       There are strong arguments that universi-
            of Americans attend will need to change if they    ties need to become more focused in what they
            want to survive and thrive.”46                     offer, more connected to a broader ecosys-
                As Lisa Davis, Georgetown University’s         tem, and more open to experimenting with
            CIO, puts it, “Higher education is ground zero     new models of learning that improve student
            for disruption.”47                                 learning outcomes.
                This doesn’t mean abandoning the liberal
            arts. But, as more studies show that a signifi-    Finding a niche in the
            cant percentage of students are failing to learn
            how to think critically and reason analyti-
                                                               provider marketplace
            cally, among other higher-level skills students       Rather than trying to be all things to all
            are supposed to acquire through a liberal          people, some universities are beginning to
            arts education, improving learning outcomes        carve out unique niches in the market for
            and connecting these higher-level competen-        higher education, shedding unnecessary costs
            cies back to real-world applications will be       and better differentiating themselves from
            critical. According to a Collegiate Learning       their peers.49
            Assessment, 36 percent of students do not             By focusing on tackling some of today’s
            demonstrate any significant improvement in         most challenging environmental issues, for
            learning over four years of college, primarily     instance, The Energy and Resources Institute
            due to limited academic rigor.48                   (TERI) University has won the acclaim of both

How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning

industry executives and academics. Its cur-           to redesign their business models to align with
riculum allows students to apply classroom            the particular market they are serving.
knowledge to real-world settings through
partnerships with leading research institutions       Cultivating a broader
and other universities.50
    Georgia Institute of Technology, by con-
                                                      educational ecosystem
trast, has focused on providing the lowest-cost           Eighty percent of all Americans believe that
options in fields undergoing a rapid growth in        the typical college education is not worth its
demand. MOOC provider Udacity, in collabo-            cost.52 This belief stems in part from the grow-
ration with AT&T, is powering Georgia Tech’s          ing disconnect between the courses offered
first accredited online master’s program in           by higher education institutions and the skills
computer science with a price tag of $7,000.51        students need to succeed in the labor market.
    Finding a niche doesn’t necessarily entail        As Dennis Yang, president and chief operat-
deserting the liberal arts or cutting dozens          ing officer of Udemy, points out, “Universities
of programs. Instead, it allows universities to       weren’t designed to change curricula and
clearly articulate their unique value proposi-        introduce new classes at the pace required by
tion for students. For example, a university          changing industry requirements.”53 Moreover,
could define itself as an international policy        he notes, “[T]he fact that we now live in a
school. It could still provide all the essen-         world in which half of today’s jobs didn’t exist
tials of a liberal arts education, with degrees       25 years ago” makes it clear that universities,
in everything from journalism to business.            by themselves, simply cannot fully prepare
Its differentiator would be an international          students for jobs that don’t yet exist.54
policy emphasis in all courses and services,              To close the skills gap, higher education
giving it a central role within the broader           institutions will need to work more closely
international affairs community that allows it        with industry to promote job-skill alignment,
to connect students with employers and other          combining labor market data with industry
leading institutions.                                 input to define the skills likely to be needed for
    In a globally competitive industry—one            tomorrow’s jobs.55
adding new alternatives on a daily basis—a                Take the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)
niche focus allows students to better under-          PowerPathways initiative, for example, which
stand the unique value of their education that        is part of the Aspen Institute’s Skills for
sets them apart from their peers and gives            America’s Future initiative. PowerPathway is a
them access to the relevant knowledge flows in        public-private partnership of PG&E, California
their chosen field. Once a niche is identified,       community colleges and universities, local
colleges and universities can work backward           workforce investment boards, community

“     Universities weren’t designed to change curricula and
      introduce new classes at the pace required by changing

      industry requirements.
– Dennis Yang, president and chief operating officer of Udemy

Reimagining higher education

                                                                   The University System of Georgia, depart-
            training organizations, military installations,
                                                               ing from all-or-nothing credentialing schemes,
            unions, and industry employers that develops
                                                               offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in communica-
            industry-informed career pathways, training,
                                                               tions with intermediary markers of achieve-
            and curriculum for jobs in California’s energy
                                                               ment that is targeted for students who may not
            and utilities industries.56
                                                               be able to complete a four-year degree. The
                The Clemson University International
                                                               program allows students to earn a certificate
            Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR)
                                                               after one year, an associate’s degree in two
            in Greenville, South Carolina, is another
                                                               years, and a bachelor’s degree upon comple-
            initiative to help bridge the gap between
                                                               tion. By staging credentials, students are
            academia and industry. The center is home
                                                               encouraged to progress, but should they opt
            to the country’s only graduate department of
                                                               to pause their education, they have employer
            automotive engineering, where students and
                                                               marketability and can easily return to complete
            university researchers are connected with work
                                                               their degree down the road.59
            performed by automotive companies. Over 90
                                                                   A newcomer to higher education, Minerva
            percent of CU-ICAR graduates are employed
                                                               is reinventing the college experience through
            in the automotive industry.57
                                                               its global immersion undergraduate degree
                                                               program. According its founder Ben Nelson,
            New models for learning                            “[Minerva] want[s] to rethink everything, and
                Next Generation Learning Challenges            bring together the world’s best curriculum, the
            (NGLC), in partnership with philanthro-            best students, the best professors, at the lowest
            pies such as The Bill and Melinda Gates            possible price.”60 The for-profit startup, accred-
            Foundation and education associations such         ited through the Keck Graduate Institute, aims
            as EDUCAUSE, is promoting more flexible            to provide students with a world-class global
            and personalized learning models. The grants       education experience for less than half the cost
            it provides reward colleges and universities for   of an Ivy League education. Students com-
            testing these models. NLGC has tested a range      plete introductory courses through MOOCs
            of models and found that no one is best, but       and more advanced coursework through live,
            rather that multiple models allow students to      online video seminars, with professors using
            self-select the one that best meets their needs.   advanced software that tracks student learn-
            Southern New Hampshire University, for             ing.61 Since online learning can take place
            instance, used this grant funding to create the    anywhere, students are able to traverse the
            aforementioned College for America, which          globe with their cohort of peers and immerse
            offers an online competency-based degree at        themselves in different cultural and business
            a low cost that can be completed in as little as   contexts over the course of their four years in
            a year.                                            the program.
                Still other ongoing experiments across the         Also emerging are partnerships that help
            country test everything from dynamic tuition       students graduate with a clear career path.
            pricing to new paths for obtaining credentials.    Thirteen universities have partnered with
                In California, a new law allows Long Beach     Koru, a startup focused on reinventing the
            University to pilot dynamic pricing per credit,    internship experience by connecting uni-
            which increases the cost per credit for high-      versities with leading employers to provide
            demand courses.58 Dynamic pricing helps            students with immersive learning experiences
            universities balance supply and demand for         that emphasize skills development, coaching,
            different courses, in effect giving them a means   and mentorship.62
            of increasing funding for popular degrees and,
            in turn, access to them.

How colleges, universities, businesses, and governments can prepare for a new age of lifelong learning

How to get there                                             better time to redefine themselves and the way
                                                             in which they do business. Given the chang-
                                                             ing landscape of higher education, success-
Define a value proposition
                                                             ful colleges and universities will redevelop
   A first step for institutions of higher educa-
                                                             their business models based on what they can
tion is to go beyond accreditation criteria and
                                                             uniquely provide to students, and deliver that
do an honest assessment of the value they
                                                             value in ways that decrease price premiums.64
provide to students. Given today’s hyper-trans-
                                                             For institutions of higher education this means
parent marketplace, higher education institu-
                                                             making strategic choices about who to serve,
tions can be assured that if they don’t perform
                                                             what to provide, how to provide it, who to
a candid assessment of the outcomes they
                                                             partner with, and how much to charge (see fig-
provide, others will, as the Atlantic recently
                                                             ure 7). The outcome of these strategic choices
did in a review of the “least valuable” colleges
                                                             will lead to greater recognition—from students
and majors based on PayScale data for schools
                                                             and donors to employers—of the distinct value
that returned a net loss to students over a
                                                             the college is able to provide.
20-year period.63
                                                                 Just as TERI University and others are
   Institutions that do not clearly articulate
                                                             creating successful niches focused on value to
and deliver value to students will likely, in
                                                             students—through career focus, low cost, and
time, be displaced by newcomers who do. For
                                                             personalization—so too must others carve out
colleges and universities, there’s never been a
                                                             their own spaces.

Figure 7. Strategic choices for colleges

To successfully adapt to the forces bearing down on the market for higher education, colleges and universities should make the
following strategic choices which will inform how their business model needs to change.

 Customer           Who do we           In the automotive world, some automakers are focused on providing a luxury good to a
 segment(s)         want to serve?      sub-segment of the market willing to pay a premium for an electric car. Others, on the
                                        other hand, provide a broad spectrum of options ranging from luxury vehicles to basic
                                        entry-level cars without all the bells and whistles, each of which caters to a different
                                        customer segment. Colleges and universities, too, may decide to continue to serve the
                                        mass market for a liberal arts education, or, as TERI University has done, focus on a
                                        particular niche of the market (in their case, sustainability).

 Product(s) or      What products       By clearly defining products and services provided to students, colleges can better articulate
 service(s)         and services        their unique value as competition across the higher education industry continues to
                    do we provide       increase.
                    to students?

 Channel(s)         How do we           Colleges can tailor their products and services to provide customized learning models,
                    provide products    integrating components of just-right education, for the targeted student segment.
                    and services        Education could be delivered in-person, online, or a hybrid of both.
                    to students?

 Partnership(s)     Who do we           With defined products and services, colleges can seek partnerships to support student
                    need to partner     success. These partnerships could be with employers, ed tech companies, or even
                    with to deliver     alternative education providers.
                    products and
                    services to

 Pricing            How much            In light of skyrocketing tuition, both revenue and cost considerations are important in
                    are students        determining the price points of products and services while maintaining healthy growth for
                    willing to pay?     the college.

Reimagining higher education

            Track student outcomes                               and personal income, than the two preceding
                Until recently, most yardsticks for measur-      generations had at the same age.65As recent
            ing success in higher education have been            graduate Emily Koss explained, “I am part of
            output-focused—the number of credit hours            the first generation since the Depression to
            completed, the percentage of students who            have higher levels of poverty and unemploy-
            graduate in four years, and so on. As open           ment than the previous generation at the same
            government data is combined with private sec-        age. More than a quarter of us still live with
            tor career and salary data, the focus is shifting    our parents, and only 30 percent think of our
            to student outcomes (student debt ratios, job        current jobs as careers. And yet, we are the
            placements, career preparedness, and satisfac-       best-educated generation in American his-
            tion ratings).                                       tory.”66 As a result, many recent graduates look
                While many colleges and universities have        back on their college days with frustration.
            perfected the art and science of the admissions      Despite their newly minted degrees, nearly 40
            process, they have not applied the same analyt-      percent of them are working in jobs that don’t
            ical rigor to the business of educating students,    require a degree, while shouldering an average
            or to tracking their success after graduation.       of $35,200 in debt.67
            Yet the benefits of effective student outcome            By shifting the focus from outputs to
            tracking can be significant. By measuring            outcomes, and applying the analytical rigor of
            learning on a day-to-day basis, professors can       the admissions process to the entire student
            adapt their lessons in real time, to adjust to the   lifecycle—from the time students step foot
            pace at which students are actually progress-        on campus through their post-graduation
            ing, rather than waiting for midterms to judge       careers—universities can better position
            how they’re doing. This is especially important      students for success after college. One way to
            for at-risk students who, without support, may       do this is by comparing traditional success
            flunk courses or drop out before completing          measures (think number and quantity) with
            their degree.                                        emerging success measures (think degree and
                And monitoring student progress through-         quality)—many of which are also tracked by
            out college can help faculty and staff better        major, not just for the college as a whole (see
            position students for career success. If a stu-      figure 8).68 This doesn’t mean doing away with
            dent excels in economics but struggles in the        traditional success measures (like student-
            biology courses needed for his or her major,         teacher ratios and attrition rates, for example),
            for instance, it could be cause for a career         but rather supplementing them with additional
            discussion. If, with LinkedIn’s higher education     measures such as the likelihood of students to
            tool, university staff see that recent graduates     recommend a course or university to others.
            are completing skills-focused certificate pro-
            grams shortly after leaving college, the school      Experiment with new solutions
            could consider integrating similar courses into          With a flurry of new educational technolo-
            its curriculum, to ensure that future gradu-         gies and models under development, col-
            ates are competitive. Such interventions will        leges and universities are ideally positioned
            help to create a sense of shared accountability      to experiment with and adopt solutions that
            for outcomes on the part of both students            facilitate better student-focused outcomes.
            and institutions.                                        Georgetown University’s Designing the
                An outcome focus will benefit colleges and       Future(s) of the University initiative seeks to
            universities over the long run. According to a       answer the question: What would a university
            recent Pew survey, the Millennial generation         with liberal arts education values at its center
            (defined by Pew as Americans aged 18 to 33)          that’s appropriate for the world of 2030 and
            has higher levels of student loan debt, poverty,     beyond look like?69 Through a “co-design” pro-
            and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth         cess, students, alumni, faculty members, and

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