- MOOC provider Coursera on Thursday announced it is partnering with 15 universities to launch a suite of healthcare content on its online learning platform. The new content includes 100 courses, 30 specializations and two public health master's degrees that are meant to meet the growing demand for healthcare workers.
- The partner colleges comprise a diverse range of public and private institutions, including Columbia University, Emory University, Northeastern University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Colorado system.
- The courses are designed to supplement healthcare workers' knowledge and to help others forge a career in the industry, Coursera said in the announcement. The two master's degrees are in partnership with the University of Michigan and Imperial College London.
The new healthcare education vertical intends to address twin problems: an aging U.S. population requiring more healthcare and a lack of workers to provide it.
Healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the U.S., with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that some 2.3 million jobs will be created through 2026. Yet in many states there won't be enough workers to meet that increase in demand, according to a recent report from Mercer.
"Few other industries are racing the clock to find an agile, future-ready workforce like today's healthcare administrators," wrote Matthew Stevenson, the report's author.
Other online education providers have been expanding their footprint in healthcare as well. In December, Gand Canyon Education bought Orbis Education Services, which offers online pre-licensure programs in occupational therapy, nursing and other areas, for $362.5 million.
Some lawmakers are pushing for more higher education funding and policy changes to bridge the gap between job market needs and available workers.
For instance, the Texas Legislature approved a bill in 2017 that allows the state's community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in high-need fields such as nursing. And in November, Maine voters approved a $49 million bond measure to update and build new facilities within the University of Maine System, including some to support its nursing program, and to explore launching online programs in the field. Both states face nursing shortfalls in the thousands.
Intensified labor shortages may be ahead for lower-skilled healthcare positions such as home health aides, according to Mercer.
Healthcare isn't alone. Cybersecurity and manufacturing are among a host of fields experiencing skills gaps. In response, more colleges have been trying to better align their program offerings with workforce needs, but higher education can be slow to adapt to an ever-changing job market.
To address these concerns, some have been advocating for the 60-year curriculum, a concept that emphasizes lifelong learning opportunities to help workers quickly learn new skills as their jobs change. Proponents of the idea say new educational models, such as short-term programs in which students can earn badges or credentials, are essential for workers to thrive in the future economy.
Job market shifts have also led to more industry involvement in higher education and credentialing.
For instance, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have all recently teamed up with colleges to develop curriculum. Additionally, Google developed a five-course IT certification program through Coursera, which saw more than 1,200 completions within its first five months and can be rolled into credit at more than two dozen colleges and universities.