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Lehigh to Launch Professional Certificate Programs on edX

The new partnership with global online learning platform will create new pathways for those who want to advance their education and careers.

Emerging technologies are disrupting higher education in profound ways: video streaming is now seamless and tools like Zoom have eliminated important barriers to remote instruction; education apps on mobile devices allow individuals to learn on demand even when they have only a few minutes of free time.

As a result, increasingly learning does not have to happen in traditional physical classrooms for 75-minute sessions, educators say. Data shows the number of users learning from massive open online courses (MOOCs) has increased from 300,000 to 220 million from 2011 to 2021. Individuals can choose any topic, learn it at their own pace, and take it from anywhere—if they have an internet connection and are not looking to earn credits for a degree.

These changes are increasing students’ expectations for flexibility, cost-effectiveness and self-pacing, and allow higher education to impact more people than ever before, says Oliver Yao, interim deputy provost for graduate education at Lehigh. Working professionals with families who are unable to spend two to three years to pursue a graduate degree can hone their skills using pieces of scattered free time at their own pace every week.

To keep up with the shift in market trend and to expand Lehigh’s educational portfolio, Lehigh has joined the partner network of edX, a 2U, Inc. company (Nasdaq: TWOU), and plans to offer online, noncredit professional certificate programs for adult learners worldwide.

“Lehigh is expanding its online strategy to help achieve our mission of advancing learning through the integration of teaching, research and service to others,” Lehigh Provost Nathan Urban says. “This new partnership with edX enables us to grow our online presence at scale and bring the academic rigor, entrepreneurial mindset and collaborative opportunities that Lehigh is known for to learners around the world.”

While the partnership allows Lehigh to offer programs in any area, the first program will be a MicroBachelors program with a business analytics focus. The program will not only offer learners skills to complement their undergraduate majors, but also prepare them to pursue a master’s degree in business analytics at Lehigh in the future.

“Imagine a resident in California who’d like to take a course on data analytics from Lehigh but does not want to move to Bethlehem,” Yao says. “Imagine doctoral students who would like to complement their critical thinking and research skills with out-of-the-field skills such as Python or R programming. They will soon be able to take courses from Lehigh on edX.”

Lehigh is expanding its online strategy to help achieve our mission of advancing learning through the integration of teaching, research and service to others.

Lehigh Provost Nathan Urban

Statistics have shown that online education is the area of the fastest growth in education. According to EAB (Education Technology, Services, and Research), about 45% of all certificates are noncredit, and at least 1.4 million certificates have been conferred annually each year since 1973. Sixty-six million Americans ages 18 to 64 hold one-plus certificates from outside of higher education as of 2019.

The partnership is expected to bring important value to Lehigh’s employees, students and alumni. For current Lehigh students, the offers of professional certificates can help them learn out-of-the-field skills. Prospective students can take some of the courses to fulfill key program prerequisites for graduate degree programs, and Lehigh’s employees will be able to choose a topic to upskill at their convenience. Alumni also have the opportunity to be lifelong learners in the Lehigh community.

The partnership between Lehigh and edX is not accidental, Urban says. For decades, Lehigh has been a higher education innovation leader and pioneer in providing online education with academic rigor and much-needed flexibility. edX is a leading online education platform with 48 million learners worldwide. edX also brings expertise in online program management and marketing, allowing Lehigh to concentrate on program and course innovation and development. By joining edX, Lehigh is joining a company of more than 230 colleges, universities, and corporations including edX founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Over time, Lehigh expects to offer a basket of noncredit certificate programs in various areas through edX. Each college at Lehigh may choose to offer certificate programs through this partnership. Offering such a program on edX platform makes the program accessible not only by Lehigh’s current students but also by millions of learners worldwide potentially.

The partnership is overseen by the Office of the Deputy Provost for Graduate Education, and the development of the programs is supported by Lehigh’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL), Library and Technology Services, and the Office of Distance Education.

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