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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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

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How Cognizant used boot camps to recruit job-ready employees

Case Study4 min read

July 26, 2022

Today’s global work landscape is full of uncharted territory. In an amazingly short time span, employers have been confronted with rapidly evolving technology, the work-from-home movement, the aptly named “Great Resignation,” and myriad other circumstances.

These unique challenges require creative, tech-focused solutions, and many organizations must rely on consulting companies like Cognizant, one of the world’s leading professional service organizations.

Eric Westphal, leader of global workforce strategy and economic development at Cognizant, says that a forward-thinking, proactive strategy is a key component of his company’s success.

“Through the years,” Westphal says, “we’ve transitioned from a company that helps you run your business more efficiently to a company that guides you toward running your business differently.”

An Inside Job

This method applies not only to Cognizant’s network of global clients but also to its own workforce. While new Cognizant prospects and hires may have the education necessary for a particular role, it’s difficult to mirror the specific knowledge that typically comes from on-the-job experience — meaning critical time is often lost while an employee gets up to speed.

To minimize this lag and target specialized hires, Cognizant partnered with 2U, the parent company of edX, to not only recruit talent from boot camps but also to help future employees develop skills before they’re even hired. This step is crucial in helping to close a technology skills gap currently seen in the workforce nationwide.

“College graduates come out of the gate with great knowledge and problem-solving skills,” says Allen Shaheen, executive vice president of digital engineering at Cognizant, “but they don’t yet have the specific targeted capabilities that allow us to place them on projects and be productive straight away. Our relationship with 2U has helped bridge that gap with higher education.”

Streamlined Approach to Recruitment

As a large Fortune 500 company, Cognizant has a robust hiring and recruiting structure, but it can be difficult to recruit locally for clients in certain regions. The company found that recruiting from regionally recognized boot camps is a smart way to find promising candidates.

For example, a Cognizant team that primarily serves insurance clients may focus recruitment efforts on Hartford, Connecticut, for its vast number of insurance companies based in the area. Cognizant’s relationship with the UConn Coding Boot Camp allows for cost-effective, expedient candidate recruitment.

Cognizant’s top job roles also include full stack development and software developers who understand front- and back-end development and employment of applications. To date, Cognizant has hired nearly 100 boot camp students from our partner institutions.

“We’re hearing from our teams that these individuals bring deep industry experience, as many have been working for a few years and are switching careers,” says Westphal. “Somebody with a finance background is incredibly valuable to our financial services practice as they can better understand those clients’ specific needs and core functions.”

An Impactful Hiring Strategy

In a world where the search for qualified employees is competitive and often frustrating, companies are seeking new ways to adjust their recruiting strategies, raising the bar from simply finding the right employees to finding standout employees with proven abilities and a ready-to-train mindset. 

“The need for qualified IT workers is at an unprecedented level, and our partnership with 2U is providing the skills needed to be successful in an IT career,” says Westphal.

With a view to cultivating the talent needed for today’s technological landscape,  2U and Cognizant have been collaborating on creating multiple pathways – including using the edX platform and content.

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Nelnet case study: mapping a path to employee retention

Case Study6 min read

June 22, 2022

Challenge: Build pathways to spur employee growth and retention

“If we don’t know what jobs will exist in the future, how do we educate our people for them?” 

That’s one of the big questions Allison Gemelke was asking herself in 2020. Gemelke is a senior corporate trainer at Nelnet, one of the largest and most respected student loan servicers in the United States. Like many learning and development (L&D) professionals, she’d witnessed the rapid acceleration of career and skill changes during the pandemic — and recognized the risk it posed to businesses. At the same time, she was struggling to find educational programs that would provide real opportunities for advancement while accommodating employees’ full-time schedules and addressing a variety of educational backgrounds.

To get ahead of the problem, Gemelke and the Nelnet L&D team identified two key challenges: closing the skill gap and retaining talent. First, they would help close skill gaps in critical areas such as cybersecurity, information technology, finance, and compliance. Second, they’d create sustained career pathways that could be tailored to different education and experience levels. 

These initiatives would help Nelnet achieve an even more impactful goal: Expand its culture of continuous learning. The company already had a clearly defined talent-acquisition strategy, a robust onboarding process and a strong sense of community, but Gemelke knew those attributes would go to waste without integrated, organization-wide support.

“It’s like building a house without a blueprint,” Gemelke said. “If I don’t know what I’m building, those resources and tools are just going to sit there.” 

Solution: Offer credit-backed microcredentials programs

With edX for Business, Nelnet was able to bring the blueprint into being and expand their award-winning Nelnet University offerings. 

The MicroBachelors® and MicroMasters® programs from edX for Business offered subject-specific content Nelnet employees needed to transition into new roles. It also gave the L&D team time to focus on the implementation of these programs and to move faster overall — a compelling benefit given how quickly many tech skills evolve and become outdated.

“If we had to develop all that content from scratch, it would have taken much longer,” said Gemelke. “It would significantly hamper our ability to get our associates the skills they need in the right amount of time.”

MicroBachelors and MicroMasters programs are tailored to fast-growing, business-critical fields such as cybersecurity and information technology, incorporating skill areas like leadership and innovation. 

Through the programs, Nelnet employees could build those skills while earning credits and powerful credentials. If they wished, they could even put their credits towards a full degree — whether they were returning to school or starting it for the first time. Nelnet was also drawn to the modular and stackable nature of the programs, which gave Nelnet employees a flexible way to upskill quickly, demonstrate proficiency and keep learning as jobs evolved. It would make the whole company more agile and growth-focused in the long run.

“These programs stood out because they offer the opportunity to enroll in college-level courses and gain real credit and a certificate, without the commitment of a full degree,” Gemelke said. “I brought it to the team and we developed a pilot plan.” 

The L&D team started with a small group of pilot edX programs. Of special interest was the Cybersecurity program. “Globally there is a known shortage of people with cyber skills. We wanted to put into place a process for getting our associates the knowledge and skills to fill this gap. edX made this easy to do.”

Impact: Above-target participation and increased retention

Above-target enrollments: Nelnet’s L&D team set a goal of piloting the MicroBachelors or MicroMasters program with 10 associates. In the end, they enrolled over 30. 

Improved retention: In the early days of the Great Resignation, Nelnet saw increased retention among employees who participated in the edX for Business program. Some employees have even moved into new roles.

Executive-level praise: The programs have drawn attention from a wide array of employees. The executive chairman of Nelnet’s board was so excited about the partnership that he requested an enrollment code for a data science course — a critical reflection of Nelnet’s culture of continuous learning. 

Based on the program’s initial results, Gemelke said the Nelnet L&D team is considering other edX for Business offerings like professional certificate programs that allow employees to learn new skills without seeking a degree.

Results: One year later

  • 65% employee pass rate
  • 114 enrollments across 45 courses
  • 600+ collective hours of learning in the program’s first year

Through the pilot program, Nelnet employees:  

  • Developed their foundational knowledge of business-critical skills.
  • Gained the confidence to tackle new career paths and full degrees.
  • Earned college credit based on their course scores.
  • Felt more connected to the organization, which resulted in higher retention rates.
  • Spent more time advancing their careers.

Nelnet employees took a variety of edX for Business programs, including:

Computer Science Fundamentals NYUxCybersecurity RITx
Introduction to Databases NYUxInstructional Design and Technology USMx
Marketing Essentials DoaneXFinance MITx
Introduction to Information Technology WGUxBusiness Leadership UQx


  • Select high-potential employees with targeted learning goals.
  • Measure pre-learning performance and post-learning performance.
  • Develop a plan to communicate impact and scale opportunities.

Looking ahead

What’s next for Nelnet? Given the success and popularity of the pilot program, Gemelke says her team wants to build more directed pathways for associate career development, tie career development to the core competencies of the organization, and create more opportunities for self-directed learning. They will:

  1. Expand educational offerings: The team wants to embrace credentials like certificates, as well as learner-driven programs that will give younger generations of employees the autonomy to map their careers and realize long-term goals.
  2. Emphasize core competencies: Nelnet plans to use Workday to manage their competency framework. That will enable employees to track certifications and facilitate 4×4 development conversations, which will focus on goal-tracking and accomplishments.
  3. Facilitate internal recruiting: Workday has a “gig” function that allows workers to enter skills and knowledge, which means leaders and recruiters will be able to actively seek out current employees with the skills they need for certain roles. 

Gemelke and her team know they have their work cut out for them. In the midst of technological advancement and a global fight for talent, no one can predict the future — but we can find ways to prepare for it. Gemelke says that process starts with people: Giving them structured development opportunities, helping them uncover new strengths, and inspiring them to map their own career paths. And that’s a story we can all get behind.

Create your own success story with edX For Business

Connect with the edX For Business team to learn more about how to use our programs to retain your employees through upskilling and tap into the hidden potential of your workforce.

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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