How has COVID-19 fundamentally changed education both on and offline? We spoke to Alex Mann, Head of Digital Marketing at Lambda School, to find out.
Lambda School is an online education experience that nurtures students’ hidden potential by adopting a different paradigm. In as little as nine months, Lambda students can earn a four-year college degree in the most in-demand fields without paying a dollar of tuition upfront. “We punch up at universities,” explains Alex Mann, Head of Digital Marketing at Lambda. “We’re online, and you can do it from anywhere — you’ll also get a better education because Lambda is designed to be online.”
The advantages of remote learning, which many Lambda graduates can attest to, take on new significance in light of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has placed enormous pressure on brick-and-mortar universities, and students are already feeling the squeeze within the first few weeks of the new semester. This week, Mann weighs in on the state of education during COVID-19, and how Lambda School’s model can power the “new normal.”
Education in the Age of COVID-19
Over 870 million students across 51 countries, comprising about half of the world’s student population, are unable to return to school due to coronavirus concerns and social distancing mandates. Without students purchasing supplies in the bookstore, parents sending donations, and multi-million dollar sports programs bringing in revenue, universities are losing money fast. Some institutions are coping with $100 million in losses from the spring and bracing for an even bigger financial hit in the fall.
What’s more, the transition to online learning has been rocky. Some students prefer the flexibility of online classes, but just as many feel that their traditional university’s hasty attempts at digital curricula leave a lot to be desired. For Mann, these questions are foundational. “Do universities have the capacity to support students in an online learning environment?” He asks. “Universities have to reconfigure themselves because online learning is not the same as having a lecturer or going to office hours once a week with your TA.”
There’s also the issue of tuition. “The student debt crisis is exploding in this country,” Mann notes. “Education options are roadblocked by the inability of universities to actually provide a legitimate alternative to in-school education.” Not many students are willing to spend upwards of $40,000 on an educational experience that feels like a fraction of what they would be getting on campus.
How Learning Trends Have Changed
Prospective students aren’t just rethinking college matriculation; they’re also looking for new ways to learn. According to an Art and Science Group survey of over 500 high school seniors, 17 percent said they’re likely going to take a gap year until the pandemic is over — or attend a part-time program instead of attending college full-time in the fall. For adult learners, 11 percent of those surveyed by the Strada Education Network canceled their education plans altogether and are looking for courses related to in-demand jobs instead. Given these statistics, it’s no surprise that online education experiences are seeing explosive growth.
E-learning, once considered a temporary solution to keep students on track until in-person classes resumed, is now perceived as a smart and legitimate path to career advancement. Since the pandemic began, the e-learning industry has seen a surge of interest across a wide range of groups — high school seniors, current college students saddled with debt, parents who don’t want to send their kids back to school, and people who just want to learn.
To respond to increasing demand, Lambda now offers coursework in data science and full-stack web development, two of the most in-demand fields that are likely to land Lambda graduates a high-paying job after graduation. “People realize there’s such a huge demand for employees with data literacy. To step into any sort of management role, there needs to be an understanding of data — how to read it, how to understand it, how to present it. Data science is the future of business decision-making,” Mann observes.
The “New Normal”
Online education is not only becoming part of the “new normal” of education during COVID-19; it’s also inaugurating a paradigm shift. Large universities that are government-funded or draw money from sports programs tend to prioritize institutional reputation and solvency. The Lambda School is a model for a more professionally-oriented program that stands or falls on the success and satisfaction of its students. As such, student outcomes are its number one priority.
Lambda believes that the institution should work hard to uplift the student, not the other way around. More people are realizing that to push through this pandemic and prepare for what’s to come, they must develop skills that will see an immediate return on investment. They’re also seeking schools that understand that.
According to Mann, Lambda’s commitment to prioritizing potential over profit is giving students the tools they need to succeed. “We not only train you in web development or data science, we also help you leverage your new skills to get a job,” he explains. “We’ll try and put you in your potential dream job. Whatever industry it is that you’re targeting, we will try and find a place for you.”