Google Enters Higher Ed in a Big Way – Inside Higher Ed

With lightning speed by higher ed standards, Google has conceived and launched a number of career certificate programs. In just two years, they have gone from concept to credential programs in IT support, data analytics, project management, UX design and Android development.

Google advertises that these certificate programs require 10 hours of study a week and can be completed in six months:

The IT Support, User Experience Design, Project Management and Data Analytics Certificates cost $39 per month by subscription on Coursera. Access to the Google Associate Android Developer Certification training is free and the official exam fee of $149 is paid to Trueability to administer the exam. Google does not generate any revenue from Google Career Certificates and has made need-based financial assistance available.

Kent Walker, senior vice president for global affairs at Google, said as the plan was announced, “In our own hiring, we will now treat these new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles.”

Google has built a consortium of companies that give preferential treatment to the career certificate holders:

The Google Career Certificates Employer Consortium consists of over 150 U.S. companies like Deloitte, Infosys, Snap Inc., Target, Verizon, and of course, Google. These companies span multiple sectors and are committed to considering Google Career Certificate graduates for entry-level jobs. Upon completion of a Google Career Certificate, you will gain access to an exclusive job platform where you can easily apply to opportunities from employers with open jobs.

Further, their success rate in advancing careers, as reported by completers, is impressive: “Eighty-two percent of Google IT Support Professional Certificate completers in the U.S. report a positive career outcome like a new job, enhanced skills, promotion, or raise within 6 months.”

Meanwhile, Google recently announced that it is sharing its certificate programs with all community colleges in the U.S., and the curriculum has been reviewed and recommended for credit by the American Council on Education.

“Today, we’re so excited to announce that all of our Google career certificates will be available for free, to every community college in the United States and to every career and technical high school in the United States,” Lisa Gevelber, founder of Grow with Google, tells CNBC Make It. “One of the other things we actually announced today, which I think is super exciting, is that all of our certificates now have been recommended by the American Council on Education to be recognized as college credit for up to 12 credits, which is the equivalent of four college courses at the bachelor’s degree level.”

While the certificate programs are getting the headlines, Google is continuing to develop new artificial intelligence–powered applications to make higher ed learning more efficient, accessible and personalized. The AI-tutor program has a variety of applications that are being tested by online universities including Walden and Southern New Hampshire University.

Head of Education Steven Butschi described the product as an expansion of Student Success Services, Google’s software suite released last year that includes virtual assistants, analytics, enrollment algorithms and other applications for higher ed. He said the new AI tutor platform collects “competency skills graphs” made by educators, then uses AI to generate learning activities, such as short-answer or multiple-choice questions, which students can access on an app. The platform also includes applications that can chat with students, provide coaching for reading comprehension and writing, and advise them on academic course plans based on their prior knowledge, career goals and interests.

Google is collaborating with LearningMate to integrate artificial intelligence features into Frost, its content management system.

“We see a profound shift in education, with new technologies opening up educational opportunities to more people and communities. AI-powered learning solutions will play a key role in this digital transformation, helping institutions, educators and ed-tech companies empower students to learn and achieve more,” LearningMate co-founder Nachiket Paratkar said in a public statement.

What does this all mean for higher education? Certainly, having Google driving tech change and advancement is a huge plus for us. The shot in the arm we get from its advancements will go a long way to promote digital transformation. Notably, the nonprofit approach and community college sharing of its career certificates is going to have an impact in advancing careers and workforce preparation.

However, along with these positive impacts driven by Google comes a challenge to the rest of higher education to step up and make programs affordable, efficient and relevant. To the prospective student, our old tuition-based semester models may not compare well to $39 a month for six months to gain a credential that 150 major companies are considering the benchmark for entry-level employment.

How is your university responding to the challenge? Are you informing institutional leaders of these changes and ramifications? Are you initiating the discussion of how your university should respond to better serve your students?