ACBC Education Symposium 2022 Panel Summary

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This article is a summary of the ACBC Education Symposium 2022 panel: “Edu-Technology: A Future With Students at the Centre. Here.” covering the key points shared by David Linke, CEO, EduGrowth, Vivian Fan, Managing Director, Golden Education Group, and Simon Gordon, Chief Commercial Officer, Accredify.

The panel explored how the education ecosystem can put students at the centre of their digital education experience.

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A summary of David Linke’s (CEO, EduGrowth) presentation


David shared that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the education ecosystem transitioning to an online environment at an unprecedented rate. This was an emergency response. What the education ecosystem has established today in terms of our students’ digital learning experience should not be the bar that we aim for, but rather, the foundations upon which the future of education should be built on.

Today, there are 1.4 billion potential learners that can be impacted. Since it will not be possible to provide education for this entire segment in physical environments, we should begin thinking about how online education delivery models can be improved to both cater to these learners, and to capture this opportunity.

Competitive Advantage

Here are reasons that make Australia well-positioned to provide education services to these learners in a digital environment:

  • Australia is one of the founders of distance education. For many decades, the country has been teaching students remotely, and this capability can be transferred to a digital environment.
  • Australia has a robust and growing EdTech ecosystem
    • Currently, there are 600 Australian EdTech companies
    • Collectively, they employ 13,000 people
  • EdTech will be key in leveraging the opportunity of digital learning
    • Excluding the pandemic response, in June 2020 alone, Australian EdTech companies impacted 47 million learners around the world
    • Australia’s international education ecosystem graduated 3 million students over 10 years
    • Comparatively, Australian’s EdTech companies have impacted 47 million international learners in just 1 month
    • These companies have generated 2.2 billion dollars of revenue, of which 600 million is generated offshore – indicating growing opportunity in the EdTech space

Competition & Cooperation

Often, traditional education providers view EdTech companies as competitors. However, education providers and EdTech firms in Australia are, more often than not, complementary entities.

In Australia, 71% of Australian EdTech companies operate with a B2B model, with the aim to improve learning outcomes for students within existing institutions. This is in comparison to EdTech companies operating in Australia’s near neighbours, where they mostly operate with a B2C model, i.e. with the intention of displacing traditional education providers.

When it comes to improving the digital experience for learners, the answer lies in cooperation between education providers and EdTech companies, as EdTech companies can assist education providers with the digital transformation needed to deliver high-quality education to students across the globe.

Education providers cannot avoid digital transformation. If we look at the big trends across both the domestic and international education space (e.g. micro-credentials, evidence for learning, learning analytics, etc), these all have technical components that require support from EdTech companies.

Hence, the opportunity around digital education needs to be re-thought. Rather than a marginal business, this should be seen as a volume business. Partner EdTech companies and education providers are growing the existing pie, rather than competing.

Vivian Fan, Managing Director, Golden Education Group

Vivian opened her panel with a simple question: “what do we know about student-centred education?”

Student-centred education is a customised learning experience that:

  1. allows education providers to reduce costs, and
  2. learners to receive effective education

Cost efficiency

As an illustration of the magnitude of resources required by education institutions to provide their services, Vivian shared that the Golden Education Group receives 5,000 student enquiries a day.

However, with the use of AI, 40% of such enquiries are resolved by automation. As the organisation has accumulated over 5 million student questions over the past 13 years, they are able to programme their AI solution to meet the needs of their students accurately.

This way, not only do students receive prompt replies to their enquiries, but the institution also reduces the resources needed, and costs associated with, responding to student enquiries.

In China, there are over 10 million university students taking post-graduate exams. This is the result of “credential inflation”, where it is necessary to have a post-graduate degree to be deemed employable. This phenomenon is also perpetuating “credential inflation”.

Universities in China are only able to cater to 20% of these students, resulting in the educational needs of the remaining 80% being left unmet. This statistic does not account for young professionals who want to upskill but are unable to enrol in post-graduate studies, meaning the Chinese market for education is likely much bigger than 8 million learners.

This presents a large opportunity for overseas education providers, who can reach these learners through digital delivery methods. Digital education is key to providing student-centred education and is becoming increasingly sought after by Chinese learners – in a survey conducted by Golden Education Group, it was found that 50% of students preferred hybrid learning modes, and 30% preferred online learning.

There are three main benefits of digital education that Chinese learners value:

  1. Greater flexibility

Chinese learners value the flexibility offered by digital education, as they can plan their learning around their schedules. This way, they can work towards attaining an internationally recognised degree, while still being able to attend to family commitments.

  1. Internships and job opportunities

Virtual internships and remote work arrangements are valued by Chinese learners, as this means they have more options to find work even beyond physical environments.

  1. Lower cost of online education

Online education is generally less costly than traditional education.

Simon Gordon, Chief Commercial Officer, Accredify

Simon shared that in 2019, the Singapore government introduced a skills and education “passport”, which is essentially a digital wallet for students’ skills, qualifications, and licenses. Over the past 3 years, it has been observed that a digital education passport has an immensely positive impact on the digital learning experience for students, including significantly improving learner mobility. There have also been considerable benefits enjoyed by education providers, and the government, from the adoption of a digital education passport.

This education passport has enhanced ecosystems beyond the Singaporean education vertical. Industry-specific education passports have also proven helpful. Organisations in industries facing skill shortages have built on top of Singapore’s national education passport to create industry-specific education passports so as to funnel talent into their industry.

Simon then explored how verifiable certificates and qualifications, coupled with a digital skills and education passport, has not only put students in charge of their own education, but also improved the education ecosystem across institutions and the government.

How do e-certificates and education passports improve the education ecosystem?

Increasingly, education providers are moving away from issuing paper certificates and credentials, to issuing verifiable e-certificates to students. These verifiable e-certificates, such as Accredified documents, look exactly the same as traditional paper certificates, and can be printed as well. One of the key benefits of verifiable e-certificates, though, is its digital nature. They can be stored in a digital education passport, which is an application that can reside fully online, or on digital devices – such as your phone.

Students are then able to share their education records, directly from their education passports, with their employers and other stakeholders, who can instantly verify these records. This verification process can be done through an online verifier portal, or even with just a simple QR code scan.

Benefits from the perspective of students

Singaporean students enjoy the benefits of easy access and secure sharing of their credentials with education passports. We are seeing students sharing verifiable qualifications directly from their education passports onto their CV and even social platforms, like LinkedIn. Such qualifications have also been used in processing student visas – another case in point for improved learner mobility.

In addition, education passports put data ownership back in the hands of students. Students have the right to control information over their own educational journey and should be empowered to decide whom they want to share this data with, and when. Students should also be able to control their data after they have shared it, so it does not exist somewhere else forever. With education passports, like Accredify Passport, students are given full control over their own education data.

Benefits from the perspective of education providers

As e-certificates are digital documents that are instantly verifiable and easily accessed by students, education providers can reduce their resources spent on cumbersome credential management administration (e.g. verifications, issuing and re-issuing, archival, printing, mailing). These cost savings are substantial – Accredify’s education provider partners have reported reducing man-hours spent on credential management by up to 50%.

One major consideration of top education institutions in Singapore is whether the institution’s brand can be preserved with verifiable e-certificates. Being a digital solution, the use of verifiable e-certificates and education passports is fully customisable and can be designed such that an institution’s look and feel is presented across all touchpoints, i.e. the e-certificate, the student’s education passport, and so on. Accredify’s education solution, for example, has been carefully designed to ensure the brands of our partners are preserved; there is no compromise between branding and digitising the credential management process.

From the perspective of governments

Public sector entities stand to benefit from the adoption of education passports in two main ways:

  1. Greater trust

Since education records are instantly verifiable, there is more trust in industry verticals across international and national arenas. Local students are empowered with greater mobility in cross-border environments, while enjoying a better digital learning experience.

  1. Data-driven policy planning

In addition, since the use of education passports creates a large volume of extremely granular data, governments can leverage this information to accurately identify skills and competencies gaps within a population, and plan policies to plug these gaps to serve their national economic development targets.

For example, governments would be able to use this data to provide skills matching e-services to citizens, where the e-service can identify gaps in a student’s skills and competencies that may be preventing the individual from moving into a desired career or role. The e-service can, thereafter, recommend existing training programmes to plug those gaps and help the individual secure their desired role.

There is also potential for other macroanalyses, such as utilising such data to run analyses on national job markets to determine how well skills and competencies are being matched to jobs that are available within the economy.

Latest developments in education passports

Education passports are gaining traction in the education ecosystem – but their full potential has yet to be explored. Currently, we’re already seeing the development of advanced education passport features, many of which are aimed at further empowering learners to take charge of their education journey by providing actionable insights.

One example of such advanced features is Accredify Pathways. This is a feature that is built on top of Accredify Passport, with inputs that are crowd-sourced from different education providers. Pathways allow students to identify career roles they are interested in, and to map the skills and competencies that they currently have, and those that are required for the desired role, against a national education framework. If there are any gaps, Pathways will recommend relevant courses provided by Accredify’s partners, which the students can take to plug those gaps and move closer to meeting their desired role’s eligibility criteria.

Analytics can also be built into education passports to provide key information, such as salary data and job boards, to create a complete and holistic digital learning experience for students on one single app.

Education passports will become increasingly prevalent in the years to come, as it becomes the new standard for education credential sharing and verification. Aside from improving the digital experience for learners, education passports present immense potential for education providers to improve operational efficiency, and for governments to plan effective policies. With time, digital education passports will very quickly move into other domains of identification, such as health and travel records, and form an individual’s digital identity in the near Web3 future.

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Key takeaways

From the sharing of these three esteemed speakers, it is clear that digital education is the key to student-centred education. Digital education will enable institutions to cater to the enormous unmet demand for education from international learners. The opportunity is a win-win for all stakeholders involved.

  • International learners value the benefits that come with digital delivery of education, such as learner flexibility, greater opportunities, and lower education costs.
  • Education providers in Australia are also well-resourced to begin their digital transformation, with the prevalence of complementary EdTech firms.
  • Lastly, education providers can complete the digital learner experience by putting their students in charge of their education journey with a digital education passport, where students have true ownership over their data, can enjoy greater learner mobility, and are empowered to chart their career paths with clarity.

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