The Top 4 Current Education Trends and How to Stay Ahead

Education is a field that's always evolving, and both institutions and businesses need to keep up with the latest trends to prosper. In 2023, there have been several high-profile trends that are changing the way we approach education. Though most of these trends have been developing for some time, 2023 feels like the year where the issues they present have come to a head—and all are coming into even sharper focus as we move further into the year.

Educational institutions especially find themselves having to meet the growing needs of students and the job market. This requires a willingness to embrace new approaches. Fortunately, Learning Management Systems (LMS) can assist these institutions in adapting to the latest trends more effectively and efficiently.

In this article, we'll examine the top four trends in education and discuss how institutions can confront these challenges.

1) Significant Changes in Enrollment

As a direct result of the high cost of education and the evolving demands of the job market, students now prioritize practical skills that apply to their chosen fields. Among high school graduates only 43% are pursuing a traditional four-year program with 37% of these learners evaluating professional certifications, or a mix of 2-year and professional certification programs (NCES Data, 2020). These learners are joining the majority of adult learners to create increasing demand for shorter and more specialized courses focused on career readiness or advancement.

According to a recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse, degree-seeking undergraduate enrollment in the US has experienced a slow decrease since 2019. Even factoring in world events, it’s notable that alternative undergraduate programs such as certificates, diplomas, teacher preparation, and special non-credential programs have been experiencing a slow but steady increase, growing 4.8% from spring 2022 to 2023.

Consequently, institutions are exploring innovative approaches to grow enrollment, attract students, and generate revenue, including investing in further education and offering skills-based certification programs as alternatives to traditional degrees, which can be expensive and leave them with serious debt.

YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN READING | ‘4 In-Demand Skills for the Future and What Learning Institutions Need to Do to Prepare

2) Tough Competition Among Institutions

The shift in learner demands has created opportunities for new competitors to enter the market. Industry-focused certifications (AWS, Google, Cisco, etc.) in concert with skills-focused programs being delivered by learning platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, and various code academies offer increasingly valuable credentials directly to the learner. With the demands of students and the job market rapidly growing, it’s no wonder universities are now facing more and more pressure to reassess their curriculum and adapt their approaches to keep up.

62% of university leaders who participated in a study of nearly 500 participants expressed deep concerns regarding the intense competition among educational institutions. The competition isn’t new and was already on the rise before 2019, but the pandemic intensified it, especially with the adoption of online learning by most students.

The increasing popularity of short-term education programs is another emerging challenge for universities. Many students, both young and old, are actively searching for quick and flexible learning options where they can learn practical skills to enter the labor market. Arizona State University's online program is a great example of this having grown to over 60,000 learners thanks to its focus on meeting the needs of today’s learners.

Institutions must feel a sense of urgency to review what they’re doing to grow their online programs. If universities want to thrive in this dynamic and ever-changing landscape, they must be prepared to cater to learner demands, whether through traditional on-campus learning or online platforms. There are three key factors institutions must consider to not fall behind in the ongoing competition: industry hiring trends, learner preferences, and delivery methods for their educational content. The institutions that are slow to react will potentially struggle in the future.

READ MORE | ‘5 Reasons Why Combining EdTech and Digital Learning Create a Competitive Advantage for Higher Ed

3) Collaboration Between Local Businesses and Institutions

Partnerships between educational institutions and local businesses are becoming more prevalent, fostering a range of advantages for both entities involved. Businesses can tailor future workers' skills and knowledge to their particular needs, while universities can ensure that their courses remain relevant to the labor market and help their students get employment after graduation.

According to a study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, employers believe that a college education should provide both scope and depth of learning and prepare future employees to think for themselves, adapt to problems, and have the technical knowledge required for their new roles. Collaborations between local businesses and colleges can help to bridge the gap and give students the necessary skills and experience they need to excel.

An example of this kind of partnership is the cooperation between North Carolina Community Colleges and major employers in their region. By partnering with local industry, they’ve been able to establish courses and programs that better adapt to the needs of those companies. This ensures that students are equipped with the abilities and knowledge that employers are seeking, boosting their career prospects and building a stronger local economy.

4) AI for Education

I know I’m tempted to tune out a bit due to the absolute flood of new AI-based applications we’re seeing every week. However, within all the noise there is true promise there for providers who are able to integrate this new technology to improve teaching and learning.

While most institutions are evaluating their policies around artificial intelligence – either how to effectively use AI to enhance teaching and learning, or how to adapt to its impact on academic integrity – there are early adopters exploring taking meaningful first steps. There are multiple AI solutions capable of assisting educators in personalizing learning, identifying areas where students require more attention, or providing real-time feedback to improve students' knowledge of the topics.

Providers need to engage and keep track of innovations in this space. While AI won’t take anyone’s job, providers who’ve mastered the use of AI will enjoy enhanced efficiency, and learner outcomes, and perhaps have time to get back to their families a bit earlier.

MORE ON AI | “Artificial Intelligence and Learning Management: The Impact of AI On eLearning Programs

To remain relevant, the education sector must always adapt to changing trends. Institutions can most effectively respond to the changes described above by incorporating a Learning Management System (LMS) that both allows students to access education flexibly while enabling institutions to align courses with career-oriented demands.

An LMS facilitates diverse delivery channels, including online and on-campus, promoting institutional flexibility. Adopting an LMS addresses many of the challenges associated with online learning, such as content delivery and student engagement, ensuring institutions remain competitive and relevant.

Is your institution or company looking to adapt to these educational trends and ensure that learners are prepared for future challenges? Open LMS can help! Contact us today to learn how we can ensure your institution continues to thrive.
Brad Koch
About the author

Brad Koch

VP of Industry Management and Partnerships

Brad boasts over 30 years in educational support. Starting as an Associate Publisher at Pearson, he crafted books and software in support of technical certifications. His journey continued into online learning with product leadership roles at ANGEL Learning, Blackboard, and Instructure Canvas. Currently spearheading Industry Management and Partner initiatives at Open LMS, Brad is a seasoned observer of online learning's swift evolution. Grateful for his front-row involvement, he collaborates with institutions dedicated to refining the online teaching and learning experience.

Discover our solutions