Online education hits new highs but NZ tech skills development caught between old ways.

As Coursera prepares for its IPO, the EdTech industry is watching closely one of the “most anticipated events” in online learning.

Founded by Stanford University computer science professors a decade ago, its 77M global learners access online courses and degrees from top universities, has boomed during the pandemic.

Coursera’s public debut could be thought of as an industry trend indicator in a industry that saw huge growth during the COVID pandemic. Industry pundits note the company’s low learner acquisition cost of under $US2k per learner.

EdX which offers free Harvard-MIT computer science courses, has grown to 35M users. Another, Udemy claims the “largest global marketplace for teaching and learning online” . Udacity is another notable provider.

This is very significant in New Zealand where the tech industry is suffering from a lack of tech skills. The New Zealand Tech Alliance report describes “system wide challenges requiring urgent national attention — a lack of coordinated effort, dramatic skills challenges driving a heavy reliance on immigration and under investment in developing the existing workforce.

NZ Digital Skills Hui 2019

The success of the digital technology sector is critical for New Zealand’s future. It is one of the fastest growing parts of the New Zealand economy, generating billions of dollars in exports and creating thousands of jobs each year.”

As Paul Mathews, CEO of the NZ Institute of Information Technology Professionals points out, there is a culture problem: “team leaders, HR folks, CIOs and others shrug off calls for more professional development for their people”.

Many of these skills can be obtained online in micro credential form. Udacity, for example has recently launched a cybersecurity school to address the growing need for skilled cybersecurity professionals.

The greatest challenge to NZ Tech is how to recognise these credentials, together with developing a methodology for recognition of prior learning skills which employers can understand and recognise — and focus attracting talent from tech-disadvantaged communities.

source: Young Enterprise Foundation