As observed in an article published earlier this week in The Chronicle of Education, “Back when colleges first started experimenting with teaching online, pundits mused that competition for college students would one day be global. A student would be able to sit down at a computer and take a course literally from anywhere.” While this once seemed crazy, we’re now living in that era. Global competition for higher education has arrived. Of course, the globalization of training has already been here for some time, since of course, companies large and small now oversee the training of workers around the globe. But what are the implications of living in a world where education and training are no longer local but global?Online Education–The Next Generation

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Jeff Young interviewed Simon Nelson—a media executive who once oversaw digital experiments at the BBC and now works in higher education—to find out. Highlights from the interview offer insight into where education and training are moving next and what it means to engage in education and training in a world where boundaries and borders continue to collapse.

MOOCs are Here to Stay but Won’t Kill Traditional Education and Training

Nelson maintains that MOOCs and the online-learning world have now converged. Moving forward, MOOCs may not be the newest thing, but they are here to stay. This means that the economics of online learning will also continue to shift (yes, there will be more affordable and free courses that people can take to gain new knowledges and skills). But as Nelson notes, “Those early predictions of the death of universities, the whole swathes of universities going out of business in a few short years, not only were they wrong, they were pretty unhelpful because they’re so far fetched.” One can expect the same to hold true in the training sector.

But what about the hype around MOOCs? Are they over? According to Nelson, they are here to stay but yes, some of the hype has subsided. As he told The Chronicle:

I think universities are using MOOCs in a whole range of much more strategic ways. To teach their own students, to create pathways into their core programs, to work in different ways with employers and transform the way they offer training and development services to them…I think MOOCs are only going to grow, but what’s going to happen is their credibility and their value is going to significantly increase. I think some of the value of MOOCs has been slightly less clear. But actually, you’re going to see so much more in terms of valuable qualifications associated with these things over the next few years.

Lifelong Learning is on the Rise

As Nelson observes, many MOOC developers continue to focus on the 18- 25-year old market but he suggests this is grossly misleading: “Hold on a minute, guys, since when did learning need to stop at 25, and who has the world’s greatest educators often within physical walls to yourselves? If you can just actually get a digital mind-set into the organization and say, listen, we understand that currently this is a tiny percentage of what you’re going to achieve in analog, but look at other industries where people were faced with that same dilemma.” What’s the take away? Learning beyond college will become increasingly normalized in the coming years and this is good news for the training and development sector. The more people expect to continue to learning, the less resistance they will be to training in general.

Online education. What is the next generation of learning going to look like?

Convergence and Collaboration

Perhaps, the great take away from The Chronicle’s interview with Nelson is his predictions for what is bound to happen next. As he notes, when he joined the BBC years ago, he was actually working with five national radio stations—when the BBC went digital, these national radio stations, which were totally separate units, where forced to start working together, but “They weren’t used to working together because in an analog world, they just kinda didn’t have to.” Today, Nelson is working with 60 different universities and trying to encourage them to think in a more “joined-up way that they don’t each individually have to design a new user experience specifically for their course or their subject area.” The real goal, says Nelson, is to ensure that moving forward there’s less duplication and more sharing and collaboration between educators and institutions. Just as radio and television stations share programs, course sharing and the sharing of templates for certain types of courses and training experience will ideally gain ground in the future.