Our Top Takeaways from ASU+GSV 2023

Last month, education startup founders, edtech CEOs, investors, policymakers, foundations and higher ed administrators from over 130 countries descended on San Diego for the ASU+GSV Summit, arguably one of the education sector’s most important annual events. The summit connects leading minds focused on transforming society and business around learning and work, and BrandEd was excited to participate and hear about the latest trends shaping our industry.

Our big takeaway? With the increasing affordability of online education and mainstream adoption of new technology such as AI, the future of learning is going to be more accessible, flexible, and diverse than ever before, allowing learners to more easily pursue their interests and passions, acquire new types of skills and credentials while advancing their careers and personal growth.

Here are some of the high-level trends from this year’s summit.

1. Employers have an important role to play in education

This isn’t news to BrandEd: we know that today’s students are savvy consumers looking for educational experiences that offer critical knowledge and skills for personal and professional growth, but that they are equally interested in career discovery and job placement. We might refer to this joining of academia and employment as the Learning + Working Model. From corporate partnerships with universities to programs aligned with career trends and new platforms providing remote work opportunities, many students have come to expect integrative learning and working experiences as a part of their educational investment. The good news is that more and more institutions are offering it. But how is it done? One way is to build platforms that directly connect educators and employers so that both parties can work together to develop curriculum that truly prepares students for the workforce—curriculum that is focused on skills development and is definable, trainable and employable. The most promising education businesses and entrepreneurs of tomorrow will be the ones that can find a way to bring academics and employers together at the table to design programs and products that power the Learning + Working Model. This is fast becoming a mandate for education providers to remain relevant by showing real ROI in the job market.

2. Thinking beyond the “Accreditation Industrial Complex”

Why does an undergraduate education require a four-year degree? Why are universities essentially 120-credit-hour delivery systems? With today’s students more and more focused on career outcomes, younger generations—especially international students–are starting to move away from pursuing one credential for the rest of their lives and instead are stacking experiences and credentials for lifelong learning. As barriers to education such as time, accessibility and cost continue to rise, fortunately we’re seeing new models emerge that diversify how students learn. Yet so much is in place to sustain the status quo, so it’s incumbent on innovators to take risks and try new things—something we are always striving to do at BrandEd. Here are a few examples of models that other institutions are experimenting with:

      • Micro-credentials: Taking credit hours from different institutions all over the world and stacking them, or combining micro-credentials to create something reflective of a traditional 4-year college degree.
      • Branch Campuses: Setting up satellite or branch campuses in key feeder markets or emerging markets where growth is anticipated to meet students where they are on the ground in their home countries.
      • 2+2 Model: Inviting students to complete a 2-year foundational degree online or locally in their home country, followed by 2-years on-site at the institution to complete the degree.
      • Virtual Work or Internships: Allowing students who must remain in their home countries to virtually access competitive internships and work opportunities.
      • Accrediting Aggregators: Joining an accredited institutional aggregator as a member organization to more easily create new courses, maintain regulatory standards, issue degrees and more.

3. From Web3 to AI – new tech will continue to revolutionize education

Metaverse campus experiences. Blockchain credentialing. AR/VR workforce training. AI-powered student assessment. These technologies were on display and in discussion across the Summit and gave us a lot to think about, not only in terms of how these tools will change learning experiences and skills development, but how they will create entirely new disciplines and jobs that don’t yet exist. A conversation with Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI–the developers of ChatGPT– brought home that what we see today is just the beginning. For BrandEd, it makes us wonder what new educational opportunities and challenges will arise in the coming years as these technologies continue to develop and shape the landscape of learning and work. One thing is for sure: it will be important for educators and employers alike to stay informed and adapt to these changes in order to prepare students and workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

4. Solutions that scale in emerging markets

According to Google for Education, over the next 30 years 80% of the world’s demand for education is expected to be in Asia (including India) and Africa. The core challenge for any company looking to enter these emerging markets are access, quality, and relevance. One reason why internationalization or expansion ideas often don’t scale is because businesses try to deliver products or solutions themselves, when in reality there is almost always a need for local market expertise. Time and time again it has been proven that success in new and emerging markets comes by working with people on the continent or in-country who understand cultural norms and who have the networks to help deliver solutions at scale. Accordingly, institutions are creating custom programs or thinking about how to repackage content and adjust price points to cater to different consumer needs and spending habits in these markets, while adopting new technology and creating strategic partnerships on the ground. By taking a thoughtful and strategic approach to global expansion, we can ensure that we are providing high-quality education that is both accessible and relevant to learners around the world.

The ASU+GSV summit provided a valuable opportunity for BrandEd to gain insights into innovative strategies and emerging technologies that are transforming the way we learn and work. As we move forward, we must remain open to change and be willing to adapt and be responsive to these trends in order to stay relevant and meet the evolving needs of our learners. With our world-class brands, unique academic approach and incredible team, we have an exciting opportunity to create new kinds of educational experiences that empower individuals to pursue their goals and passions and achieve their full potential.

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