The digital turn for future higher education

The_digital_turn_for_future_higher_education___Ulf-Daniel_EhlersToday I keynoted at the 28th EURASHE annual conference. I was asked to talk about the challenges of digital higher education in Europe and had the plan to bring in digitalization and the 4 grand challenges for higher eduction as I see it.

The conference was wonderful and the presentation well received. Thank you for the comments and tweets! I was asked to share the presentation which I would like to do here:

[slideshare id=94456700&doc=2018-04-eurashe-tallin-keynote-u-ehlers-180420102015]

One passage which was discussed during coffeefbreaks is about the certification issue and the dwindelling power of academy certificates. Because it can be. noted since some time that the  predictive power of academic certifications for job success is eroding. It has never been outstanding but for a long time it was felt to be an important – at least hygienic – factor for job applications to have an academic or a good academic certificate. This starts to erode recently. Following an internal Ernst & Young UK study demonstrating that degrees had no correlation to job performance, degrees will henceforth be disregarded in that firm’s hiring process (Atlanta 2015). Google is America’s most outspoken company on this issue with its Senior Vice-President of People Operations stating that grades in degree programs are “worthless as a criterion for hiring” (source?). More and more alternative credentials start to come into focus and develop value. Different pathways from the traditional higher education system emerge and become increasingly relevant for employers. These different pathways are often credentials earned in post-secondary education or professional training after initial academic graduation. The Lumina Foundation has built a platform called the “Credential Engine” used to count all credentials of value in the labour market (not just degrees). The Foundation wants to ensure that by 2025 60% of adults have postsecondary credentials. Similar to that, the UK government has announced a $200M+ investment in new postsecondary institutions with the aim to offer 15 distinct pathways tailored to the needs of regional industries and employers, and develop credentials different from the traditional academic ones.


Although alternative forms of credentialing are only just emerging, the tools, platforms and concepts associated with it are already starting to develop fast. For the area of technology, for example, a platform called “GitHub” has become the standard platform for showcasing code to potential employers. In finance, students are using “EquitySim” to demonstrate trading and portfolio management skills to investment banks. Across a wide range of dynamic sectors of the economy, students are uploading papers, presentations and problem sets to “Portfolium” to demonstrate capabilities. And skill passports on “Viridis”, or digital credentials from “Credly” are allowing employers to find exactly the competencies they’re seeking.


In addition “LinkedIn” is currently building a competency marketplace that has potential to influence higher education stronger than any prior digital technology: By assembling profiles of people and their learning experiences on the one hand side and of jobs on the other hand – and then matching one to the other on the basis of competencies, the “LinkedIn” competency marketplace has the potential to become a network of education and human capital development. On this note, it becomes important to thoroughly debate the question of ownership of competency metadata. “LinkedIn” is already providing tools like e.g. the “Field of Study Explorer” and the “University Finder” to recommend programs and universities to its audience. It also allows students to automatically add competencies to their profiles from select online training providers and universities. In 2014, “LinkedIn” spent $120M+ on “, a company that focusses on developing algorithms for parsing competencies from job descriptions and resumes, and matching them. And finally, now “LinkedIn” has announced to spend $1.5B+ to acquire the online training company “” and to take this strategy further. In comparison: So far, “Uber” has not launched its own fleet of self-driving taxis. And “Airbnb” hasn’t built its own hostels. But by acquiring “”, “LinkedIn” has signalled ambitions beyond owning the marketplace.



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