Your questions from the webinar “Edtech and online learning in international education” answered

Do you think that the rapid change and poor experience for students who were forced online due to COVID-19 has fundamentally undermined the credibility of online learning?

It is true that not all students have had a good experience with the programmes that had to be brought online rapidly. However on the flipside, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly increased the awareness of edtech and online learning and all it has to offer to our whole industry: educators, agents, students. Although there have undoubtedly been issues brought about by the rapid shift, this does not mean that the online learning sector will not be successful in the medium to long term.

Do we need some new post-pandemic matchmaking platforms for international student recruitment?

Although no new platforms are needed in our opinion, we do feel there should be more awareness among agencies and institutions about the various matchmaking options that already exist, whether offline or online. It is ICEF’s role and ambition to continue to inform the community about all these options, through our webinars, podcasts, virtual events and in-person events.

Do you believe that some cultures or countries have a better ‘fit’ with online learning than others?

Cultural differences should indeed be taken into consideration when considering online learning, however the ‘fit’ with online, offline or blended programmes in the end depends on the ambitions, needs and desired outcomes of the individual student.

Will the number of the students in education increase due to online learning channels, or will online learning cannibalise students from face-to-face learning environments?

The expectation is that both online and on-campus programmes will continue to grow in terms of number of students enrolled, leading to an overall increase in student numbers. In addition, more and more students will be involved in blended and hybrid programmes, combining the added value of both types of formats.

Do you think that online education will prove more effective for professional and mature students as opposed to younger students?

Whether online, offline or blended, programmes exist in all types and formats, allowing the student to choose the solution that best fits their ambitions and profile. Younger students are often digital natives and more comfortable interacting with technology in every aspect of their day-to-day lives.

What downsides are there to online learning, aside from the obvious lack of a physical campus?

Every solution comes with advantages and disadvantages. Although we cannot list them all here, it is important for the agency and the students involved to make a proper assessment of what they need and want from a study programme. Based on that assessment, students can then be matched against the programme that has the most advantages for them. What is considered a disadvantage for one student may be considered to be an advantage for another.

How do you overcome language barriers, cultural differences, and time-zones in an online learning environment?

Although there may indeed be a time-zone barrier in online cooperation, each group of time-zones still covers a broad range of countries and different cultures. Programmes are set-up in such a format that language barriers are either taken into consideration, or in certain cases, used in a language learning setting.

Are students likely to contact MOOC platforms or universities directly, bypassing education agents?

Just like with offline programmes, prospective students can find all the information for online programmes online. The role and advantage of the agency is their ability to identify the right programmes, create transparency, match students’ ambitions with the appropriate courses, support students with advice and related services, and understand the requirements to be accepted at an offline or online institution etc.

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