At the Forefront for 30 Years
September 30, 2020
Nearly 30 years ago, I was researching and writing my master’s thesis for my Master’s in Public Administration on electronic benefits transfer (EBT). At the time social services benefits were delivered through old-fashioned paper. Food stamps were actual coupons that you tore out of a booklet and gave to the merchant. Long before the word Internet or the words World Wide Web were on anyone's minds, it was clear that technology would provide a better way of providing services.
Fast forward 10 years, and Petit World Consulting was leading the way with recruiting international students in non-traditional markets in places like Central Asia, East Africa and other less well-known sending destinations. In those early days, our institutions could be guaranteed a welcome reception as we were one of a tiny handful of institutions that visited. On the services side we created and deployed an early electronic International Student Record Management and document generation system. Long before SEVIS, or even CIPRIS, (for those of you who remember those initials) we were using technology to streamline the work of international education.
As International Education began to boom as an industry in the last decade and a half, we were serving in leadership roles in community colleges and major research institutions. While the numbers of students were exploding after 2005, and the dollar signs were filling institutional ledgers, we were doubling down on relationships, building connections and deepening engagement as central themes in our practice.
In 2020 we are delivering workshops and trainings and as well as technical support for virtual events from our office. Working with clients and partners globally, our work to foster connection and deepen engagement is no longer only higher education institution based. The need for internationalization and intercultural communication training and skills in non-profits, major companies and governmental organizations has opened new outlets for our services.
So, what comes next for international education? Virtual experiences offer tremendous potential if they are constructed around engagement and not merely as a cheaper way to provide “badges” to students with little thought to the quality of the content. It is hard to imagine that online education will completely supplant traditional in-person teaching.
If we were to go out on a limb, the dominant mode of education is likely stay a combination of traditional modes of education informed by market demand and employment needs delivered flexibly through micro-units. The 16-week semester, 15 credit hours, 8 semester college degree is already being stretched in new directions and the emergence of credentialing and experiential learning will only accelerate these changes.
One thing that seems clear from the post-Covid world is that snow days as we knew them are likely to be things of the past in a world when we can access education anytime anywhere. [email protected]