Investing in the future of education

By Lelde Smits. Published at May 14, 2020, in Features

OpenLearning Limited (ASX:OLL) Co-Founder & Group CEO Adam Brimo speaks with The Capital Network’s Executive Director Lelde Smits and discusses the higher education and professional development industries, outlining how they are evolving.

While the higher education and professional development industries have traditionally been viewed as conservative and resistant to change, Adam details how OpenLearning is providing new options through leveraging technology and providing new skills to students for upskilling throughout their careers for ‘lifelong learning’.

You can read the full transcript below:

Lelde Smits (LS): Hello, I'm Lelde Smits for The Capital Network, and joining me here at OpenLearning Limited’s (ASX:OLL) headquarters in Sydney is its Group CEO Adam Brimo. Adam, welcome.

Adam Brimo (AB): Thank you. Nice to be here.

LS: Now, Adam, you're operating, OpenLearning is operating in the higher education and professional development sectors, can you tell us where the greatest opportunity lies in this market?

AB: Higher education and professional development really comprises all of the universities in Australia – all of the private higher education providers, a number of colleges and industry associations.

And then you also have a large amount of corporate and professional training companies. So, in total there's about sixteen thousand organisations in this sector in Australia. But a lot of the work that we do is probably concentrated, at least in the early stages, in the universities and private higher education providers.

LS: These sectors are generally seen as pretty stagnant, conservative, slow to adopt change. Where do you see the opportunities in providing them with the new option for a new century of technology?

AB: The challenge that all of the institutions are facing is that the society in general in the workforce requires a whole new set of skills, and they require different skills at different stages of their life. So, whereas previously people may have studied at a university for a few years after high school, then worked for ten to twenty years, then gone back to do a master's degree. Or they may have started off at TAFE or a vocational college, and then, you know, work for ten to twenty years.

Now people are actually looking at lifelong learning. We're looking at upskilling throughout their career. So rather than doing multiple degrees, someone might do an undergraduate degree and then take a short course once a year for the next ten to twenty years of their life and develop new skills. Now, what this means is that all of these education providers have to come up with new and different offerings that meet the needs of the workforce when those needs arise. And it's hard to predict what those needs might be. So, institutions are now trying to come up with programs that teach some of the fundamental thinking skills – critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem solving – and then match that with more of the technical skills like data analytics, cyber security.

And that's really where the challenge and the opportunities exist for a lot of these institutions, and restructuring their offering so they can deliver shorter courses throughout somebody's life, rather than longer degrees that they may take once in their life.

LS: We're certainly always hearing about the changing nature of work and upskilling, and you mentioned lifelong learning.

Can you tell us how this offering works or how it would look like from a student's perspective? So, if you know, as many of us do, we need to upskill – when you go to a higher education or professional development service that's utilising OpenLearning – how is the student experience going to be different?

AB: A traditional online learning experience is usually one where students are watching a video, reading documents, looking at PowerPoint slides, and then there's probably a quiz to see if they remembered what they just read. What OpenLearning does is it transforms that experience into something which is much more interactive and much more engaging.

On OpenLearning, students are actually engaging with the community, they're working on projects together, solving problems, getting to know people, and it's through that collaboration interaction that they can develop much better critical thinking and analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.

What we do is we work with education providers like these universities and colleges and industry associations to transform their content from that traditional passive style of learning into one which is much more active and engaging, so that students develop the skills that society needs in the future.

LS: Excellent. Well, Adam, thank you for the insights today on OpenLearning and the industry overall.

AB: Thank you very much.

Where to invest $1,000 right now

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