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.”