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What have we learned from 2021?

We spoke to some of RMIT Online’s leaders to find out what they’ve learned over the last 12 months, and what the next 12 might have in store.

RMIT Online
RMIT Online

So that was the year 2021. It was an interesting, if sometimes challenging experience. 2021 was a year of upheaval and change, heartbreak and disruption, innovation and isolation. But there are always learning opportunities, and if you look hard enough, sometimes the most challenging experiences can be the most instructive. As the saying goes, "Every cloud has a silver lining" and we at RMIT Online see them everywhere.

We certainly saw a lot of growth in the local start-up ecosystem, with Australian entrepreneurs carving out billions in funding and tech skills booming around the country. It was a shining light in a difficult time for many businesses. 

“The rise of local unicorns and the rapid transition to remote-first employment mean that people with tech skills in regional areas as well as major cities are increasingly being headhunted by the Afterpays and Atlassians of the world,”

says RMIT Online CEO, Helen Souness. So, in order to find what other silver linings might be on the horizon, we sat down with four of RMIT Online’s leaders to find out what they’ve learned over the last 12 months, and what the next 12 might have in store. 

Helen Souness | CEO RMIT Online

 

How has education changed in the last 12 months?

 

Online education has gone mainstream during Covid – for businesses training their staff and all of us working from home and online for so long as individuals. When information can be transferred in engaging multi-media, and we can connect with each other in chat boards and VC, it almost seems strange to think we ever went to the inconvenience of flying across the country for training, doesn’t it?

  

What challenges do you see ahead for businesses in 2022?

 

Clearly the skills crisis has deepened, with closed borders and now the Great Resignation as tech and digital people leave their roles for sparkling new and higher paid opportunities. We estimated with Deloitte this year we needed 156,000 more digital and tech people in the economy in the next few years. I suspect we will need even more, now that more businesses are online and working in hybrid ways

 

What are you excited about next year?

 

I am incredibly excited by predictive analytics helping our businesses become more efficient and deliver ever better user experiences. Augmented by AI, analytics will have ever greater impacts on our businesses and government.

"We’ll probably see more blended and fully online learning offerings in the coming years, and more students being successful in these modes"
-Claire Hopkins, Chief Student Experience Officer

 

Claire Hopkins | Chief Student Experience Officer

 

How has education changed in the last 12 months?

 

Online learning was finally accepted into the fold by the popular kids! The pandemic has allowed a much bigger population to experience what online learning is like, and it’s really helped legitimise the mode. I think that could have taken another 10 years, so it’s accelerated acceptance and learner skills in navigating online learning. And it’s not just higher education, it’s K-12, which sets them up really well to be successful online learners when they reach higher education. That means we’ll probably see more blended and fully online learning offerings in the coming years, and more students being successful in these modes. 

 

What are you excited about next year?

 

I start talking really fast and passionately about the power of analytics and adaptive learning! Students studying online leave a behavioural digital footprint that helps us create personalised responses to their context, whether they’re struggling with something and need additional resources or support, or to reinforce great learning behaviours that will help them achieve their study goals. So I’m super excited about analytics that help us predict outcomes early enough for us to intervene, as well as analytics that inform an adaptive learning response for students. It’s a really exciting space and will be exploding over the next couple of years.

"The combination of closed borders and accelerated digitisation across the economy means that we find ourselves in a skills crisis many times worse than we’ve experienced in the past"
- Kade Brown, Strategy and Enterprise Director

 

Kade Brown | Strategy and Enterprise Director

 

How has education changed in the last 12 months?

 

In early 2020, the entire world of education went online, with mixed success. For many students the experience wasn’t great, particularly if their course was originally designed for a physical classroom and was hurriedly shifted to an online mode. The awesome news is that many universities have climbed up the learning curve in terms of what a great ‘designed for online’ student experience looks like. They’re designing courses in the way online learners need them – not with recorded lectures and online exams but with dynamic, activity-based modules, rich media content and 24/7 discussion boards.

 

What about the world of business?

 

The rapid pace of tech change and continuous digital transformation were creating skills challenges for Australian companies long before the pandemic arrived. But now things are even more complex. I read a McKinsey study from last year which found the pandemic had accelerated the digitisation of business operations by about four years. So, this has amplified the huge demand for digital skills in our economy. At the same time, our ability to bring those skills in from other countries has been switched off. The combination of closed borders and accelerated digitisation across the economy means that we find ourselves in a skills crisis many times worse than we’ve experienced in the past.

 

What challenges do you see ahead for 2022?

 

We keep hearing about ‘the Great Resignation’ in the United States, and how the balance of bargaining power has swung away from employers and towards employees. I think everybody is holding their breath to see if that plays out here in 2022, but already there’s evidence that Australian employers are working harder to keep the talent they’ve already got. The CEO of one of our incredible industry partners recently encouraged me to re-think the Great Resignation as more of a ‘Great Realisation’. That is, in response to the pandemic, employees have re-assessed their priorities – they want more balance and flexibility in their lives, and they want to find more of a sense of purpose in the work they do.

 

What are you excited about next year?

 

I’m excited about federal and state governments playing a more active role in driving the digital and tech skills we really need into the labour market. We’ve seen the Victorian government put $64m into their Digital Skills and Jobs Program, which will see 5000 Victorians re-skill into new digital roles with funded training and internships. The Commonwealth government is providing funding to universities who offer micro-credentials in key discipline areas, acknowledging that shorter forms of learning are often what lifelong learners need to reskill whilst already engaged in the world of work.

"It’s a complex discussion, but if we get it right, micro-credentials could be the solution that solves the age-old problem of how we can all have meaningful, transferable and work-ready representation of our lifelong learning"
- Julian Stevenson, Product & Workforce Development Director

 

Julian Stevenson | Product & Workforce Development Director

 

How has education changed in the last 12 months?

 

Disruption has continued in 2021, and this has allowed online learning to further establish itself as an equal, if not better way of learning to the traditional face to face and blended modes.  This has prevented a mass swing back to face to face, and has given education providers time to improve and evolve their approaches to online education.  From primary school teachers who transition seamlessly from online to classroom learning, to universities who have spent 12 months optimising and improving their systems. In the last 12 months, online education has evolved from a forced intrusion on every aspect of education, that may have been short-lived, to being established, improved and very much here to stay.  

 

What challenges do you see ahead for 2022?

 

The demand and need for upskilling and education in the workplace has never been greater – shortage of talent due to border closures; employees re-assessing their career options; the continued and accelerated disruption to industry. Not to mention the huge increase in salaries in the last 12 months in the digital sector. These are all real challenges affecting employers and industry right now that will continue into the year ahead and beyond. Retaining and re-training employees through an effective and robust workforce development strategy will be the key foundation to solving these challenges. 

 

What are you excited about next year?

 

I’m excited about the potential of micro-credentials in 2022.  RMIT Online has been delivering micro-credentials for over four years, but with other education providers, industry and government now deep in dialogue, the opportunity for Australia to establish a standardised, industry-relevant qualification framework for short courses, backed by government and the university sector, feels like a gamechanger. It’s a complex discussion, but if we get it right, micro-credentials could be the solution that solves the age-old problem of how we can all have meaningful, transferable and work-ready representation of our lifelong learning.

 

For more information on upskilling opportunities for your business, check out check out how RMIT Online is working to transform businesses. Or browse all of our short courses here.