Hydro case study: Partnering to create a sustainable future

Case Study5 min read

November 27, 2023

Hydro, a long-term client of edX, is a global aluminum manufacturing company committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship. In May 2023, Hydro launched a comprehensive sustainability initiative with the goal to contribute to a renewable future.

Challenge: Empower employees with the knowledge to drive sustainability

“Driving sustainability by becoming a net-zero company, protecting biodiversity, and reducing our environmental footprint are key strategic ambitions for us,” says Jeanine Lerdahl, Global Lead Learning at Norsk Hydro.

Hydro’s pillars and goals include:

  • Net Zero: Deliver net-zero products to customers and become a net-zero company by 2050 or earlier.
  • Biodiversity: Achieve no net loss of biodiversity in new projects by 2030, and 1:1 rehabilitation of mined areas within two hydrological seasons.
  • Empowerment: Provide 500,000 people, by 2030, with education and skills development for the future economy.

These goals are in conjunction with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 goals that constitute a global vision for addressing development and sustainability challenges. Hydro highlights eight as particularly important, one of which is equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities.

As part of these initiatives, the company sought to enhance its workforce’s knowledge of and skills in sustainability. To do so, they turned to edX to provide a tailored learning solution.

Solution: Offer employees courses and programs in sustainable business practices

The edX sustainability courses Hydro selected and rolled out to all employees included offerings from the SDG Academy, an initiative of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network which creates graduate-level courses on sustainable development for global learners. 

Employees had access to a curated pathway, spanning beginner to advanced capabilities, centered on sustainability. Some of the courses included were:

Additionally, Hydro invited a cohort of its 50 employees across all levels of the organization to participate in the Oxford Leading Sustainable Corporations Programme, from the edX cohort learning portfolio. The six-week course was customized and extended to a 12-week program to give employees more flexibility to complete assignments around their busy workloads. The course aimed to equip participants with the knowledge and tools to formulate sustainable strategies.

This particular program curriculum takes an executive-level perspective on business sustainability; it focuses on teaching leaders to integrate environmental, social, and corporate governance factors into their business practice.

Jeanine Lerdahl expressed her excitement and pride in Hydro partnering with Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and edX, and in having Hydro’s cohort of 50 leaders become the first cohort of employees to participate in the Oxford Leading Sustainable Corporations Programme. “This cohort,” Lerdahl says, “represents a diverse group of individuals from across the entire organization who are eager and engaged in sustainability and their learning journey.”

Impact: Education helps drive positive change

Hydro’s investment in learning and development with edX has helped establish a foundation for a sustainable future within the company. Members of this cohort are now equipped with the necessary capabilities and skills to communicate and implement sustainable business practices and strategies. Upon completion, participants in the Oxford Leading Sustainable Corporations Programme are able to:

  • Implement risk management and facilitate ESG integration into their organization.
  • Formulate effective KPIs to measure their organization’s effect on the environment.
  • Develop a plan to integrate sustainability strategies into corporate governance structures.
  • Access leading climate research from Oxford Saïd to drive positive change.

Mary Johnstone-Louis, Programme Co-Director of the Oxford Leading Sustainable Corporations Programme and senior fellow in management practice, described the cohort’s enthusiasm for the learning initiative.

“Participants from Hydro put forth significant effort during the programme, demonstrating a strong commitment to group and individual learning,” Johnstone-Louis said. “The cohort also showed a clear intention to bring the program’s focus on action to their own work, a true return on this investment in their leadership.”

By prioritizing learning, Hydro is also better positioned to achieve its strategic ambitions within sustainability. The company’s culture for learning continues to evolve and edX is here to support those values as they grow and change. This collaboration between Hydro and edX serves as a powerful example of how education and corporate goals can align to influence positive change and create a lasting impact on society. 

Looking ahead: What’s next for Hydro and edX

Hydro is continuing its partnership with edX with a three-year learner credit deal. This commitment underscores the company’s dedication to ongoing learning and its belief in the power of education to drive sustainable change.

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Employers are seen as the new post-secondary colleges, but can they deliver?

Article10 min read

November 6, 2023

edX surveyed 1,600 executives and professionals about their expectations for learning and development on the job

The arrival of advanced generative AI, and now ChatGPT, has sent a clear message to workers in nearly every sector: The AI revolution is here. Employers are turning to automation to deliver on their business goals, with C-suite executives openly embracing AI as a tool that can enhance productivity and efficiency. But effectively leveraging the power of AI requires a workforce that is skilled in using these tools.

edX’s recently released whitepaper, Navigating the Workplace in the Age of AI, shares insights from a survey of 800 executives and 800 working professionals. The survey finds that, rather than turning to post-secondary institutions to upskill, professionals are expecting their employers to deliver the training they need to meet the future demands of the workplace. 

With this shift in expectations, Learning and Development (L&D) teams will face new challenges and opportunities as they work to bridge the skills gaps that exist for professional learners. How will they achieve this considerable task? This blog reviews findings from the survey, which can offer guidance to organizations managing the learning needs of their employees. 

Who is responsible for learning and development?

The need to upskill is high; C-suite executives surveyed estimated that about half of the skills that exist in the workforce today won’t be relevant in just a few years. Faced with a skills gap, many workers have previously sought out education and training from institutions of higher education. However, the edX survey revealed that this mindset has shifted recently, with more than 80% of employees stating that they now see companies as the new post-secondary colleges

C-suite executives overwhelmingly agree (93%), and are tasking L&D teams with ensuring that employees have the training they need to perform in their current roles and to excel in the next two to five years. But are they succeeding?


That answer depends on who you ask. While about half of executives believe there is a strong culture of learning in their organizations and that employees are given the time to learn, only one in five employees strongly agree. If companies want to position individual contributors for success, business leaders and L&D teams need to work together to provide more opportunities for professional learners.

L&D teams are expected to address a number of critical business needs, including performance, recruitment, and retention

According to the survey, executives believe that L&D programs should be focused on upskilling at scale (53%) and driving employee performance (50%), but about half also see it as an important strategy to keep employees engaged.

And they are right to prioritize L&D for employee engagement. Nearly 60% of employees reported that they are primarily motivated to learn at work because they enjoy challenging themselves. Other popular reasons include improving job performance (55%) and working toward a promotion or raise (46%). 

Employers shouldn’t be fearful that better trained workers might leave for green pastures. Only one in 10 respondents reported upskilling in order to get a job somewhere else, and almost 80% said they were more likely to stay with their company long term if it offered better training and development.

Learning options that are popular with employees include libraries of self-paced content, online cohort learning, and face-to-face sessions. The survey found that employees in the Tech, Advertising, and Engineering sectors particularly value high-quality online learning. 

Offering a range of L&D options can also be an important recruitment strategy. The best and brightest are looking to join employers that are as invested in their continuous learning and development as they are. Results of the survey indicated that Gen Z places a particular importance on professional development when selecting employers, gravitating more toward coaching and apprenticeships. Millennials, meanwhile, prefer online learning, underscoring the need for a variety of scalable learning solutions. 

The challenge of providing high-quality learning at scale

As noted, there is a discrepancy between how employers and employees view the culture of learning at their organizations. Unsurprisingly, the survey found that there is a similar discrepancy regarding the perception of employee satisfaction with L&D offerings. While the C-suite believes that a significant majority (65%) of employees are “very satisfied”, in reality only one in three employees agree. Employees are more likely to be only somewhat satisfied (48%) and one in six are actively dissatisfied.

To boost satisfaction rates, companies need to look closely at their offerings to determine whether they can meet the needs of employers in better ways. The survey revealed that the most commonly offered L&D benefit today is still in-person sessions; half of the business leaders said that they offer this type of training. However, self-paced courses and cohort-based online learning are becoming increasingly popular. Online learning options are more commonly offered in the fields of consulting, finance and tech, while a number of sectors, such as advertising and engineering, remain underserved when it comes to online learning. 

Is online cohort learning the scaling solution for L&D?

To answer this question, it’s important to consider what drives employee satisfaction with learning options. According to the survey, the top three requirements that employees have for L&D trainings are:

  1. The ability to put knowledge to use via practice exercises (27%).
  2. Access to new or regularly updated content (19%).
  3. A variety of teaching methods, with videos, readings, and more (17%).

If employees are expected to invest their time into learning, it needs to be practically relevant and as up to date as possible. These top needs can be met by quality online learning. In fact, satisfaction rates are already highest for online cohort-based courses, with 43% of the respondents saying they are “very satisfied” with this option.

With the array of online learning options available to employers, how can they find the right high-quality offering for their organizations? They must prioritize the needs of their workforces. When helping companies select the best L&D options for them, edX For Business breaks down the aims of L&D into three broad categories:

  • Supporting performance: On-demand microlearning can help with more tactical and task-related upskilling.
  • Building a skill: Longer-form learning that balances practical and theoretical experiences can help employees develop individual skills.
  • Building a capability: Learning from academic experts and industry leaders alongside a network of fellow professionals can offer a richer educational experience that builds the capabilities needed to achieve the most critical business goals.

Employees prioritize learning over saving and, sometimes, job security

It’s undeniable that individuals are very personally motivated to learn. About 70% of employees reported actively learning between 0.5-3 hours a week.

However, the survey also found that more than 60% are using content external to their company’s L&D program to learn. Moreover, in the last 12 months, the majority of employees (57%) and executives (89%) paid for external learning content out of pocket. In fact, executives who overwhelmingly believe their L&D programs are positively impacting employee performance would also rather pay for their own L&D than use their company’s resources.

Workers at every level are acutely aware of the fact that they need to upskill themselves, and that the cost of not doing so is higher than the price tag associated with education and training. About half of employees reported that they are willing to make some kind of sacrifice to access better L&D opportunities, whether it be taking a more stressful job or a job with less time off. It’s clear that employees are personally invested and prepared to go the extra mile. The question remains: Are companies willing to match their efforts and enthusiasm, and empower L&D leaders to make a difference? 

L&D programs might be meeting needs now, but are struggling with future-proofing

There is room for improvement, but employees are generally positive that they are learning from their L&D programs. Approximately 80% of respondents say that they have more or less what they need to succeed in their current roles (although only about a quarter strongly agree). However, only a third of employees are “very confident” they’ll be able to improve their skillsets and advance their career using only their employer’s L&D programs. About the same number feel they lack the skills needed to perform their roles in the future when looking just one or two years ahead. 

A significant portion of the workforce also needs direction. The survey found that about a quarter of employees “don’t know where to get started” when it comes to learning new skills. This is a particularly significant problem when it comes to AI skills. Employees are feeling pressure to adapt to these new tools, but are notably more apprehensive than leadership about embracing them. L&D teams should view this as an opportunity to step in and provide the much-needed clarity on where to start and what skills to prioritize. Leveraging the AI Academy at edX For Business can help teams familiarize themselves with the tools they need and the skills that will be required to transition into new phases of work. 

Bringing it all together: What are the opportunities ahead?

The findings from the survey paint a helpful picture for business and L&D leaders as they consider how to tackle the upskilling challenge. As they plan ahead, leaders must consider:

  1. Executives and employees see L&D as critical to business success, with many invested in lifelong learning.
  2. While employees are personally motivated to learn, they do expect employers to provide all the necessary training to build the skills needed for current and future roles.
  3. The quality of the professional development offered not only impacts performance, but can significantly influence retention, employee engagement, and recruitment efforts.
  4. There is a sizeable gap in perception between leaders and employees as to how well the current L&D programs are working.
  5. Leveraging high-quality online learning can address a number of today’s upskilling challenges, with online cohort learning yielding particularly high engagement and satisfaction rates.

L&D teams are under immense pressure to deliver results. It’s no longer sufficient for L&D to support only employees’ current performance. Professionals are apprehensive whether they have the skills needed for tomorrow’s workforce, so L&D must help them plan for the future and remain relevant in a fast-changing working world. 

Although this presents a considerable challenge, it is also a huge opportunity. Businesses that recognize the importance of L&D for their organizations and invest appropriately in the right types of learning will be better positioned to navigate the obstacles of tomorrow and seize the moment with a workforce that has the right skills to do so.

Research findings are based on a survey conducted by edX and Workplace Intelligence between July 10 and July 24, 2023. In total, 1,600 full-time, U.S.-based employees completed the survey, including 800 C-suite executives and 800 knowledge workers. Respondents were invited to take part in the survey via email and were provided with a small monetary incentive for doing so.

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Tulsa Community College case study: Helping underserved populations achieve greater economic mobility

Case Study3 min read

September 14, 2023


Once renowned as the “Oil Capital of the World,” Tulsa, Oklahoma, has undergone a transformation from its historic petroleum-driven economy into a hub for high-growth, technology-driven sectors. Today, Tulsa is home to major players in the energy, aerospace, manufacturing, and tech industries, as the city strives to honor its past while simultaneously forging a sustainable future.

In its Tulsa Tech Niche study, which seeks out promising opportunities for the city, Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL) has identified data analytics and cybersecurity as two pivotal areas for job creation. The demand for professionals in these fields, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows no signs of slowing down. Information security, for instance, is experiencing rapid growth, with projections indicating a 33 percent increase in demand between 2020 and 2030. 1 Likewise, data analytics positions are anticipated to grow by 31 percent during the same time frame. 2 


As a part of 2U Inc., the parent company of edX’s growing Access Partnership initiative, a collaboration was forged with Tulsa Community College (TCC) and Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL) in 2022. This partnership was established to provide adult learners in the Tulsa area with access to no cost pathways leading to job-relevant skills in data analytics and cybersecurity, ultimately opening doors to transformative career opportunities. The primary aim of this program is to bolster the technical talent pool in the Tulsa region, with a specific emphasis on assisting women, BIPOC individuals, and lower-income professionals in securing more prosperous economic futures.

In the inaugural cohorts of the program, 40 learners from diverse backgrounds, including blue-collar workers, military veterans, women re-entering the workforce, and individuals from the Cherokee Nation, embarked on part-time enrollment in TCC’s online cybersecurity and data science boot camps. Furthermore, an additional 80 seats have already been allocated for each discipline for 2023, bringing the total to 200 seats during the program’s initial launch period.

Tulsa Innovation Labs is committed to making big investments where opportunities for traditionally underserved Tulsans overlap with industries in which Tulsa has a right to win,” said Nicholas Lalla, managing director of Tulsa Innovation Labs. “This initiative is a home run on both counts, and will be a game-changer in how the city leverages its unique competitive advantages to give Tulsans from every background a chance to access a high-paying career in cyber and data analytics.”


The inaugural cohorts celebrated a remarkable graduation rate of 89.7%. After learners have successfully completed their boot camp, learners continue to benefit from the extensive network of support and benefits offered by the program. Graduates gain access to a comprehensive set of career services, a standard feature of edX boot camps. This empowers them to establish direct connections with local employers, increasing their chances of securing new job opportunities.

Additionally, graduates have the option to continue their education journey and have their boot camp experience recognized as credit toward an associate degree at Tulsa Community College (TCC) or one of TCC’s partner institutions, such as Oklahoma State or the University of Tulsa. Moreover, learners have also transitioned into full-time paid assistantship roles, enabling them to gain valuable on-the-job experience before securing permanent positions.

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UK Department for Education case study:  Tackling the UK’s digital skills gap

Case Study3 min read

September 14, 2023


In the current landscape, there is a considerable disparity between the skillsets working adults have and the skills employers need. Despite accelerated digitalization, a clear digital skills gap persists in UK organizations. A study has shown that 82% of UK jobs already require digital skills. 1 More than two third of UK leaders say their organization is facing a digital skill gap and 59% of employees believe developing their digital skills will be important to their employability.2 It is imperative to address and bridge this digital skills gap in the UK, in particular minority communities that often lack of access to technology, training and opportunities. 3


In 2022, 2U Inc., the parent company of edX, formed a partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for Education (DfE) with the goal of funding 1,200 seats in a fully online Skills Bootcamp in front-end web development. This initiative is part of DfE’s Skills for Life program, which is committed to fostering lifelong learning and enhancing skills development. To support this endeavor, the DfE has committed up to £4.8 million for this multiple year endeavor, aimed at equipping UK residents with the essential skills necessary for success at any age or stage of their career journey.

Similar to the partnership edX has built with the DfE, one of our longstanding UK boot camp partners, University of Birmingham, also has received funding from DfE. This funding includes an extra 120 seats specifically allocated for residents of the West Midlands, enabling them to enroll in the University of Birmingham’s Skills Bootcamp focused on front-end web development and user experience (UX), empowering individuals to pursue careers in the tech industry.


As an approved training provider by the Department for Education, edX Skills Bootcamp offers eligible learners the opportunity to enroll in a 16-week online program led by industry experts. This boot camp covers various topics, including instruction in application programming interfaces (APIs), user experience design, and building and deploying modern web applications. The learning experience is enriched through practical activities and immersive projects, facilitating a deep understanding of industry-standard programming practices, including agile development, version control, and technical project management.

Participants in this program receive 24/7 on-demand learning assistance and one-on-one tutoring if they encounter challenges. They also have the opportunity to connect with a dynamic network that includes engaged instructors, Teaching Assistants(TAs), peers, and alumni. Moreover, all boot camp participants gain access to edX’s Career Engagement Network, offering comprehensive career services, including one-on-one coaching, resume templates and reviews, interview preparation resources, workshops, virtual events, and career fairs featuring top employers. The educational and career support provided to learners is in line with Skills for Life’s objectives by not only delivering training but also empowering participants in securing employment and embarking fulfilling careers. 

In partnership with edX, the University of Birmingham has marked significant achievements, with over 200 learners successfully graduating in coding and data analytics by the end of 2022. This achievement has been instrumental in enriching the talent pool within one of the UK’s rapidly expanding technology sectors.

These scholarships have been a major driver for enrollment. People from very different backgrounds can go from learning invaluable skills in these boot camps to being highly employable in a short period of time.”

—Steve Allmark, Head of Postgraduate Recruitment, University of Birmingham

Create your own success story with edX For Impact

Connect with the edX For Impact team to learn more about how to use our programs to meet your goals.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Navigating the Workplace in the Age of AI

White Paper1 min read

September 6, 2023

About the Report:

Across all industries, the rapid development of new technologies is driving the need for employees to learn new skills. One skillset that’s quickly becoming essential is Artificial Intelligence, or AI. 

To help business leaders, HR/L&D executives, and other professionals better understand how AI will impact the world of work, edX partnered with Workplace Intelligence to survey 800 C-Suite executives—including over 500 CEOs—and 800 knowledge workers.

Discover how the C-Suite and other top executives are responding to AI’s rapid growth in this in-depth edX report.

A sample of key findings:

Download the report

Download the white paper for full details—and to learn why a strong focus on AI will help leaders future-proof their businesses and workers advance their careers.

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