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The Future of College After COVID-19 – The Role of Online Education at Universities

Before the coronavirus pandemic, only about 1 in 5 college students even took an online class. The vast majority opted for in-person, face-to-face traditional classes instead. But with COVID-19 lockdowns in place, colleges and universities scrambled to make the switch. Students found themselves participating in universities online. Faculty struggled to create virtual lesson plans and examinations. Fortunately, most succeeded and allowed students to finish out their semesters. But many wonder if these universities will forever be transformed.

The pandemic has caused many to reconsider higher education and its value. In the past, universities provided many benefits in addition to a good education that made it worthwhile. But now, the future of college is less certain. Will students’ experiences with universities online affect how they view a college education? Will faculty take the experience and pursue even greater use of technologies in their courses? Without question, virtual education poses a threat to traditional educational models. But just how much of a threat remains to be seen.

“[This semester] has the potential to raise expectations of using these online resources to complement what we were doing before, in an evolutionary way, not a revolutionary way.” – Eric Fredericksen, Associate Vice President, Online Learning, University of Rochester

Positive Lessons Learned in Attending Universities Online

From a student’s point of view, attending universities online definitely offers some advantages. Online courses naturally allow students to learn from the comforts of their home or any location for that matter. But at the same time, most provide continual education that enables students to work ahead if they choose. However, online education has the potential to reduce costs substantially. While this may not have been the case during lockdowns, it certainly may be moving forward. This is quite relevant given the amount of debt many students accumulate during the college years.

A female student studying on her iPad
It’s clear the bulk of the college experience is going to be spent online.

Over the last 40 years, college tuition has increased about 1400 percent. At the same time, higher education no longer ensures students will be able to attain a position in their educational field. As a result, many students and parents alike are questioning the real value of a college education. If attending universities online could reduce these costs substantially, this could be a game-changer. And at the same time, online curricula could also expand access to better universities. These are some clear benefits that change the way the future of college looks.

“I think the genie is out of the bottle. I think we’re having an open, honest conversation. I think it’s revealing some very ugly things. College is no longer a source of joy and upward mobility. It’s a source of anxiety and debt for American households.” – Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing, NYU Stern School of Business.

Attending Universities Online Also Has Its Downsides

While better access and lower costs sound appealing, recent experiences in attending universities have not all been great.  According to recent surveys, three-quarters of students describes the quality of the education while attending universities online as poor. Similarly, two-thirds believed online courses were less effective than in-person classes. Naturally, this may not reflect an accurate portrayal of these courses. The urgency with which colleges had to scramble to change their platforms likely affected these experiences. But this does raise questions about online education and the future of college.

Quality of education is important, but colleges have traditionally offered more than simply an education. Specifically, many students value their experiences at college as much as they do their education. The friendships made during these years often last a lifetime. Likewise, students are able to tests boundaries in many ways in a relatively safe and protected environment. These have important implications for students in how they mature socially and otherwise. Placing a value on these additional aspects of university life is difficult. However, it is clear that attending universities online cannot provide similar experiences.

“What we are talking about when we talk about online education is using digital technologies to transform the learning experience.” – Vijay Govindarajan, Professor, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business

Investing in the Online Future of College

For many businesses, the online potential for universities in the future is quite attractive. Without a doubt, the educational system is a massive institution. Technological disruptions in such a sector could have profound benefits for an innovative tech firm. Many such “ed-tech” companies are already trying to make such an impact. For example, Cengage has seen a 55 percent increase in online textbook subscriptions since the pandemic. One Class is making an impact as an online exam-prep provider. And companies like Coursera have continued to add university partners to their massive open online courses (MOOC). Some even expect major tech giants like Google and Apple to get in on the action.

For universities, the pandemic has opened their eyes to a number of possibilities. From one perspective, colleges that fail to maintain adequate enrollment could well face extinction in the near future. With many students questioning the value of college in the aftermath of the pandemic, this is a real threat. But others see potential, especially larger universities with good reputations. By investing in their infrastructure for students attending universities online, these colleges could greatly expand enrollment. Faculty training, instructional design, and other innovations will be key in this regard.

“Administrators and educators are reframing their attitudes. That really is the difference-maker. The pace of adoption of those tools will accelerate.” – John Rogers, Ed-Tech Investor at Rise Fund

The Future of College Online

The online educational landscape is an evolving one, and the specifics are difficult to predict. However, the COVID-19 pandemic looks to be a catalyst that will disrupt a sector in need of disruption. Businesses that are innovative, quality-focused, and combined traditional courses with online opportunities will likely excel in this new environment. And those that can’t or don’t will likely fade away. The pandemic brought issues such as educational value and platforms to the forefront. Students and parents will therefore be looking at colleges with greater discernment than ever before. Online learning may not replace the traditional college experience for many. But a significant percentage will now consider attending universities online as a viable option. In other words, online education is here to stay and will represent an increasing part of the future of college.

Telehealth Gets Furry with Virtual Vet Services Receiving a Boost After COVID-19

With everyone in lockdown to avoid the spread of COVID-19, doctors and nurses turned to telehealth as a healthcare solution. Virtual interactions between patient and provider offered both a safe and efficient way for people to access care. But we aren’t the only ones seeking medical services. Our pets need ongoing care as well. Therefore, it’s not that surprising that pet telehealth has also thrived as a result of the pandemic. And it looks like virtual vet services are here to stay.

When businesses were forced to close their doors, several explored online or virtual options to meet client needs. Veterinarians were no different. Many explored online videoconferencing through Google, Skype, Zoom, and other platform and had great success. And this success has continued even as lockdowns have been lifted. In fact, many veterinarians are now looking to include pet telehealth in their menu of services. And a number of virtual vet services companies are now available from which to choose.

“We want to build healthier relationships between vets and their clients so that both have peace of mind.” – Steven Carter, Co-Founder and CEO of TeleVet

Recent Developments in Virtual Vet Services

With the boost that pet telehealth has seen recently, investors are becoming increasingly bullish on these new technologies. This month, TeleVet announced that it had received an additional $5 million in Series A funding. The 5-year-old, Austin-based company plans to double its number of employees with the additional monies. The focus of its new staff will be on improving customer relations management for veterinarians and their overall work-life balance. With a total of $7.3 million in venture capital already, TeleVet is one of the market leaders in virtual vet services.

A doctor trapped in a laptop and a dog unsure of what he's seeing
The next step in the telehealth revolution is virtual vet services – because Rover needs medical checkups, too!

Mercury Fund and the other 4 investors responsible for TeleVet’s recent good fortune notably sees potential in pet telehealth. And for good reason. Major veterinary chains in New York City have reported growth of virtual vet services by 200 percent a month. Initially, this boom was attributed to COVID-19 and its associated restrictions. But after the lockdowns ended, telehealth visits continued to rise. In fact, some vet offices are reporting that their virtual appointment schedules are at 80 to 90 percent capacity already.

“TeleVet meets a driving need in the veterinary industry, not only for a complete, end-to-end virtual care platform, but for a tool that fundamentally enhances quality of life for veterinarians.” – Blair Garrou, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Mercury Fund

Pet Telehealth Is More Than Pet Videoconferencing

One of the reasons TeleVet is one of the most prominent virtual vet services is its broad range of offerings. Certainly, its app-based platform allows instant messaging and video-phone communications between pet owners and providers. But in addition, TeleVet also offers electronic health records, billing functions, prescription ordering, and examination documentation. These features have attracted a large number of veterinarians to sign up for TeleVet services. In fact, the company now has over 6,500 veterinarians within its pet telehealth network. Its comprehensive platform is what attracts many of these pet providers.

One of the shortcomings that TeleVet still sees involves the ability of veterinarians to develop better customer relationships. This is a notable issue for pet telehealth for a couple of reasons. For one, virtual vet services are not as effective as in-person visits in allowing vets to connect with pets or their owners. And like young pediatric patients, pets are unable to express their complaints verbally to veterinarians. As a result, remote digital interactions pose some challenges. But these are the ones TeleVet hopes to address with its additional funding.

“The patient can’t communicate, can’t speak, which puts certain limitations on primary care with telehealth.” – Kelly Shane, CEO of Destination Pet

Increasing Competition in the Market

While TeleVet is one of the leading virtual vet services, it is not the only one. In fact, several other pet telehealth companies now exist and are competing for market share. Increasingly, these companies are expanding their features to meet evolving needs of veterinarians as well as their clients. The following are some of the more reputable businesses in the pet telehealth industry today:

  • Vet Now – This app-based pet telehealth platform was created by Dr. Apryle Horbal in an effort to alleviate a shortage of veterinarians. Though initially based in Pittsburgh, Horbal has since partnered with several universities as well as the Smithsonian National Zoo. Vet Now offers an extensive integration of software that includes more than virtual vet services that interact with pet owners. It also includes records management, office management, and collaborative care opportunities among veterinarians.
  • Tele Tails – As another app-based platform, Tele Tails also offers veterinarians and pet owners flexibility and mobility. It not only provides live video and messaging feeds between providers and clients. It also facilitates client payments and allows seamless billing and appointment scheduling. Tele Tails overall mission is to improve access to care for pets and their owners while also improving outcomes. As a result, the company has attracted a sizable network of veterinary providers.
  • Anipanion – Based in San Diego, Anipanion offers veterinarians an affordable option for pet telehealth. The app-based platform starts at $99 a month for veterinary providers and includes video calls and chats. These are best utilized for post-op check-ins, routine visits, and emergency triage decisions. And for more comprehensive veterinary practice services, additional options are available.

A True Win-Win Situation

Pet owners are crazy about their pets, which is one reason pet apps have been increasing lately. Pet owners also want to provide their furry loved ones with good care. However, going to the veterinarian is stressful for owner and pet alike. Pet telehealth offers a great solution that can help avoid such stress in many instances. In fact, half of all veterinarian appointments could be handled well through virtual vet services. This shows how companies like TeleVet and others are created a win-win scenario for veterinarians, pets and pet owners alike. And it’s a reason why such companies attracting investor attention in a post-COVID world.

Bold Leader Spotlight: The Innovative Leadership of Elon Musk

On May 30th, SpaceX’s Dragon 2 spaceship successfully launched two astronauts into space, making history on the process. Not only was this manned-launch the first from the U.S. since 2011, but it was also the first achieved by a private company. Certainly, NASA played a tremendous role in the success of the launch. However, the lion’s share of the credit belongs to SpaceX, and more importantly, its innovative leader and CEO, Elon Musk. In fact, it was his vision and his approach to leadership in general that made this remarkable feat a flawless success. It’s been a while since we’ve published a Bold Leader Spotlight story, but Musk’s innovative leadership and historic accomplishment with SpaceX certainly merit it!

Of course, SpaceX is not Musk’s only visionary pursuit. With an innate entrepreneurial passion, this innovative leader has been pursuing countless endeavors since the age of 12. Since that time, he has introduced the world to a collection of his incredible visions for the future. These have included human colonies on Mars, underground high-speed transit, and implantable artificial intelligence devices in the human skull. While these at first seem impossible dreams and delusions, they look to be increasingly probable as the years pass. And it’s all because of the bold and innovative leadership that Musk brings to the table.

“I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy… [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.” – Elon Musk

Championing Innovative Change Through Technology

Bold leadership is routinely characterized in its ability to challenge the status quo and embraced needed change. For Musk, this means taking on some of the most significant issues in our lifetime. Rather than examining what different markets may want, he approaches change from a different perspective. Using a first principles philosophy, his innovative leadership examines underlying key constraints to a problem. And then, he embarks on a journey to test every single possible solution to achieve major breakthroughs. Rather than wait for change to occur, Musk therefore accelerates change for the betterment of all.

The SpaceX rocket Dragon2, ready to go to space
Innovative leadership can be bold leadership – especially if that innovation puts people in space!

In essentially all of Musk’s endeavors, he has sought to apply scientific principles and technology to achieve the impossible. With Tesla, he tackled problems related to battery power and energy storage. With SpaceX, he developed a reusable rocket to dramatically cut costs. And he is pursuing similar strategies for The Boring Company and NeuraLink. If scientific principles suggest a solution should exist, Musk strives to find it. This is a hallmark of his innovative leadership, and a major reason he is disrupting several industries.

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” – Elon Musk

Using Stretch Goals to Catapult Success

Another important attribute of bold leadership is the ability to be driven by results. In this regard, Musk stands atop some of the world’s boldest leaders. In each of his business pursuits, Musk identifies stretch goals for his team to achieve. The achievement of these goals is not beyond reasonable expectations. But they are extreme and demand everyone to push themselves to the limit in order to achieve them. In doing so, Musk not only gets the most out of the talent around him. But he also hits some incredible targets that many believed to be unattainable.

In establishing such lofty goals, Musk has a basic philosophy that supports these actions. He believes that true innovative leadership requires testing extreme situations. In doing so, failures are inevitable, but these failures highlight weaknesses that can be addressed. This has been most apparent in SpaceX operations over the years. Despite dozens of failed launches and some pretty spectacular explosions, SpaceX ultimately excelled. Had it not been for these repeated failures, however, success may have never occurred. This philosophy has always represented a foundational part of Musk’s innovative leadership. (For more on accomplishing great things via stretch goals, check out Ed Kopko’s book “Project Bold Life: The Proven Formula for Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Happiness and Success“.)

“Elon is a master at harnessing and channeling the team to do pretty amazing things that go beyond what the team even thought was possible. If you challenge people to work hard, they achieve more than they think they can. Most leaders don’t want to do that.” – J. B. Straubel, Cofounder and CTO of Tesla Motors

Empowering Passions and a Drive to Be the Best

In achieving major success, bold leaders must empower team members to be their best. By setting stretch goals and allowing failure to guide change, Musk encourages this. But in addition, his innovative leadership also achieves this in other ways. Unlike some other leaders, Musk tends to be tremendously outspoken and often publicizes this extreme visions. In doing so, he attracts attention, which is important when seeking investors. But at the same time, his visions also inspire those affiliated with his efforts. And it helps attract some of the best talent in the world.

Musk has had his share of difficulties that have resulted from some of his bold public statements. This has led to some personal setbacks, and it has led to some turnover in top positions at his companies. But these are sometimes necessary evils for innovative leadership that drives people to be their best. At the end of the day, the question is not whether some missteps were taken. The key issue is whether progress was made. While many may question Musk’s innovative leadership style, few can question the results it provides.

Combining Boldness and Innovation

Musk has already astounded the world with the achievements he has already made. This includes the recent Dragon 2 launch. But in all likelihood, he is just getting started. By exhibiting clear features of bold leadership, he has achieved remarkable success. And by combining bold leadership traits with innovative leadership, these successes have been beyond what many thought were possible. Much can therefore be learned from Musk’s approach to leadership. To attain the some of life’s biggest accomplishments, one has to dream big. And to make these dreams become reality, bold leadership is required. Elon Musk has highlighted both of these key points through the many endeavors he has pursued.