There is no shortage of news relating to all things academic. Whether this news is about the rise of online education or the fall of MOOCs, the industry is constantly in flux. And so it should be. After all, students are changing every day and programmes must change with them.
According to a recent article in The Financial Times, top schools need to do more than change, they need to shift their focus if they hope to succeed. "The main selling points for the top schools in the FT's full-time global MBA rankings are virtually all the same. All the schools can find 'evidence' to support their claims of being better than the others. All are competing in the same, highly limited, space," writes journalist Chris Bones. "What is striking about all of these schools, however, is how they fail to talk about their customers and instead focus on the features, advantages and benefits of buying their education."
As far as I am concerned, it is time to put the students back into the fold. And that means understanding their needs. So who are they? Predominantly they are Generation F. Otherwise known as Generation Facebook, they have grown up in the social networking age. While they are technologically savvier than any to come before them, they are also faced with a bleak era of unemployment, tight competition, and a career that will span at least ten years longer than in generations before. It is no surprise that the arguments for why one should get an expensive education are wearing thin for this generation. Students are far less likely to be able to pay off their student debt with the fabulous job they get upon graduating. In fact, they are more likely not to have a job at all.
"Opportunities for young people in many nations are somewhere between LOL and nonexistent. Globally, the unemployment rate is 4.5% - but for workers under 24, it's 12.5%," writes Umair Haque in his article 'The Great Leap Generation F Needs to Make.' "Crunch the numbers a different way and you get the same maddening result: 40% of the world's unemployed are under the age of 25."
With a technologically savvy, financially challenged, and out-of-the-box-thinking generation like this one, the subject of online learning should be a hot topic. In an era where tuition fees have sky-rocketed and protests against them have proved futile, students want an affordable, accessible education. It is this generation that schools need to reinvent for and remarket to. It is this generation that will redefine how they want to get educated, and who will educate them.
This means that sophisticated technological platforms and high-quality, low-cost teaching support will become vital for success. In response to this, London School of Marketing is the first institution in the UK to set up Local Access Points (LAPs) around the world that will act as a 'shop front' for our courses and educational services. They also have the added and not insubstantial benefit of offering a viable option to international students who are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain a visa to travel to the UK to study. Instead, through LAPS, the education comes to them.
In essence, our solution has been to go global for less. While our programmes at London School of Marketing tend to be comparatively affordable given our low-overhead partnership with associated schools and universities, we are able to keep costs down even lower due to our investment in LAPs.
While online learning may be hogging the headlines, LAPs are about much more than that. First of all, they offer a physical presence and a local touch. Second, the tools are complex, particularly when compared to those in a traditional classroom-based environment. And finally, they provide employable skills that encourage collaboration, rather than simply tailoring education to suit individuals. In short, they combine the best of the offline and online worlds, custom-made for a Facebook generation.