Remote Education Realities: Challenges Faced by Students, Academic Institutions – and Employers

Watching COVID-19 infection rates spread around the country – with record infection rates now predominantly in the Southern and Western Tiers – only underscores how hard a decision it is for public officials to resist science and public health experts and reopen their schools later this month. Colleges and universities, both public and private, also are weighing this tough decision.

In the private-sector companies, in the service sector, most workers will remain remote – connected by laptops, wi-fi and Zoom calls. It’s been an adjustment that employers and employees have had to make – some of us willingly in our comfortable home offices, summer houses and outdoor patios, and grateful to still be working.

Yet in the education sector, remote education is not so easy for many students (and educators). At least that’s what a Marketing EDGE student survey – conducted in late spring and released in a report last month – has revealed. It’s one thing for a student to pursue an online education by choice. It’s wholly another scenario when all students are forced into this transition by circumstances.

Remote Education, Not So Easy for Everyone

Marie Adolphe, Senior Vice President – Program Development, Marketing EDGE | Credit: Marketing EDGE

I recently spoke with Marie Adolphe, the study author and senior vice president of program development at Marketing EDGE, about what education – and the workplace – can take from the findings to improve the situation for “remote realities.” [Disclosure: I am an avid contributor to Marketing EDGE, a marketing education non-profit organization. Marketing EDGE also is a client.]

Chet Dalzell (CD): Thank you Marie for undertaking this research – which I have to say made me most curious as to how students handled this forced adjustment, heading home mid-semester from campus and picking up their studies online. In short, how have these young adults handled the situation overall?

Marie Adolphe (MA): The majority of students have managed the situation quite well; but, a significant minority, 23%, have struggled with this mode of learning. These students are in danger of being left behind, and the colleges and universities are looking for ways to support them as many go back online for the fall semester.

CD: What were some of the most cited challenges they have faced? 

MA: As you know, Chet, individuals learn in various ways, and for many students the interactive dynamics of the classroom is not only a preference, it is a necessity. The students we surveyed struggled to focus on their schoolwork due to the increased distractions of their home environment and the general chaos surrounding the pandemic. Students also struggled with the different teaching strategies generally employed online. Some reported increased assignments to make up for the lack of classroom discussions and stated that they felt like they were teaching themselves the material. One reason the results of this research were particularly alarming to those of us at Marketing EDGE is that some of the students struggling are also part of the diverse group of students who are the first in their family to attend college. It is a wake-up call for the marketing industry, especially in light of recent developments that have elevated calls for a more diverse pool of talent in our field. For the last few years, Marketing EDGE has heightened its focus on creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Given these tumultuous times, we’re doubling down on our efforts to work hand-in-hand with industry leaders and academics alike to provide support and resources so all students know there is a vibrant community within the marketing industry who is eager to welcome them into our field.

CD: What aspects of remote education do they appear to have well embraced? (My summer intern made the most of working remotely, but I wonder if it was as rewarding and engaging as it could have been for him.)

MA: Many students who participate in our programs have been making the most of the career related opportunities available this summer. We had more than 800 students participate in our EDGE Summer Series webinars where they learned about personal branding, sports marketing, e-commerce, and leadership. Students have also made the most of virtual internships, micro internships, and other opportunities to connect with brands and marketers. The resiliency that these students are learning will serve them well when in-person internships return and more importantly, as they prepare to take leadership positions later in their career.

CD: Is there any guidance or suggestions you believe educators, educational institutions – and employers with remote work forces – might take away from this study? Is Marketing EDGE planning any additional research or follow-up?

MA: It is important to find ways to connect with students (and employees) and to have them connect with each other. Our best advice to educators and employers is to first seek to understand the experiences of your students and workers by really listening to them. When possible, involve them in finding solutions and try to find consensus on how to move forward. We are all in unchartered waters and unleashing our inner creativity to solve these problems is a must. The solutions we find will not only support those who are struggling, they will help everyone else thrive, too. We will follow up with some of the respondents at the end of the upcoming fall semester to see if their experience of online learning has improved.

Student Struggles From Online Learning Transition

Source: “A Sudden Transition to Online Learning: The Student Perspective,” Marketing EDGE (2020)

The full report may be downloaded here.

Connecting Marketing Generations: Our Opportunity

Lucky is the marketing organization that has the best, brightest and newest marketing professionals—the “Rising Stars”—working alongside its experienced, proven marketing powerhouses. Sound like your company? Well, it could be

Lucky is the marketing organization that has the best, brightest and newest marketing professionals—the “Rising Stars”—working alongside its experienced, proven marketing powerhouses. Sound like your company? Well, it could be.

The speed of marketing is as fast as the speed of data—but are we incorporating all that’s gone before: The marketing maxims and truisms which are as constant as human behavior? We could be.

Are we dedicating all we need to training—both the newest career entrants to the discipline of testing, measurement, analysis and strategy, and—in the other direction—retooling for today’s marketing science and channel proliferation?

While marketing is at a crossroads of the true and the new, whichever generation we identify with, I hope that we are open and eager to learn from others. Call it “bidirectional learning.”

When Denny Hatch shared a perspective recently on the “Newest Generation of Direct Marketers,” I was taken aback by some of the posted comments. I believe folks mean well, but it appears that there might be something of a marketing generation gap opening among us. Is that happening in your company?

A dynamic career requires continuous learning. Today and tomorrow is a sharing, learning economy—for those who want to participate. That’s why I’m intrigued to see the Direct Marketing Association announce a new award—The President’s Award for Professional Development—recognizing a company or marketing department that has demonstrated a commitment to marketing education among professionals during the past 18 months, and can show results and impact for its efforts to train. Nominations are due June 27. Perhaps the winning company will have demonstrated bidirectional learning and the fruits it has borne.

In addition, as Marketing EDGE (a client) comes off its “stellar” Rising Stars event in New York (a top USA trend that night on Twitter!) earlier this month, let’s remember this is our marketing education organization, bringing the best and brightest of students into our field and our companies.


Marketing EDGE Overview from Marketing EDGE on Vimeo.

I’m not resigned to a marketing generation gap. No matter how old or how young, there’s a lot we need to learn from each other—and class is always in session. The opportunity is ours.