Short courses diverging to a broader range of subjects
Data from Studyportals shows student interest in short courses diverging to a broader range of subdisciplines beyond business-related studies. Not only has overall demand for short courses grown, but sub-disciplines for short courses have also diversified.
This trend seems to have emerged hand in hand with the rising demand for online courses and executive programmes — all of which may be indicative of a broader widening of access to education for non-traditional students. COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a catalyst for many of these changes by opening the possibilities of distance learning and accelerating the transformation.
Going beyond business-related subdisciplines
While interest for short courses used to mainly focus on Business & Management programmes, students are now increasingly attracted to other sub-disciplines too. These include sub-disciplines under humanities and environmental studies: “Previously the online short course world seemed very focused on the career-oriented programmes, such as business and computer sciences, and now a lot of other subjects have been grown.” says Laurens Vehmeijer, Senior Consultant at Studyportals.
More specifically, more and more students are interested in taking short courses in education and teaching, including children and adult education, coaching education, and general teaching.
There also seems to be an emphasis on studies related to human wellbeing, including mental health, pharmaceuticals and physical care. This may have been a response to the health crisis which emerged during the pandemic, where issues of wellbeing became increasingly prevalent.
Sub-disciplines related to information management also grew in popularity. In particular, media and journalism saw the highest surge in interest in 2021.
“It’s interesting to see the more societal, environmental and mental wellbeing programmes increasing a lot”, Laurens says.
He adds: “Given the supply for these programmes also grew immensely, I hypothesize this is demand following an increase in supply. This somewhat conflicts with the findings I see on degree level – where there is a strong push for the more employable disciplines.”
A shift in focus towards societal and environmental studies
Another notable trend is the shift in orientation from the personal level to subjects concerning wider societal and environmental matters including soil sciences, agribusiness, forestry, animal sciences, environmental economy & policy.
Heightened interest in agriculture may be explained by the rising importance of revolutionising food systems for the upcoming decades, coupled with the increasing levels of health consciousness.
In light of the current global trends influencing food security and agricultural systems, the field is under unique pressure to innovate. Countries such as Vietnam, for example, have begun taking steps toward enhancing their agriculture sector by using IoT technologies to improve productivity and efficiency.
Finland is also amongst the countries which have created a range of innovations in agriculture to tackle a variety of present-day environmental challenges.
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