At the "What's Working (And Not) in Higher Ed?" panel at the NY EdTech conference, the panelists came from different backgrounds: academia, educational technology companies, educational associations. Nonetheless, all were unified in their affirmation that the overall industry needed to change to reflect the increasing demand that learning outcomes be directly tied to job-related skills.
"You can no longer think about the future of higher education without considering the future of work"
While the value of liberal arts or generalized education programs should still be an important consideration of an institution's pedagogical mission, there was a general consensus in the room – as the heading (a quotation from one of the panelists) indicates – that colleges and universities should shift their focus to ensuring that lifelong learning and career skills are being imparted to students and made easily apparent to prospective employers. More generally, schools must embrace adaptability and have a better understanding of the constituents they seek to serve. Indeed, based on an informal poll, the majority of the audience was of the somewhat pessimistic belief that around 10% of traditional four-year schools in the US would close in the next decade if they are unable to adapt to new market realities.
Unsurprisingly for a conference centering around educational technology, the conversation emphasized the ability of new technologies to address fundamental problems of higher education, such as access and affordability, and to help schools better serve their students in terms of career outcomes. For example, more institutions are supplementing students' majors with credentials and digital badges, which visually represent a student's achievements and skills – such as advanced writing skills or a competency in Java or Adobe – to prospective employers. Similarly, institutions are becoming more aware of the importance and appeal of career planning solutions, as they can provide students with information about how their skills, credentials, and majors align with a desired career, and a better understanding of what the rate of pay is or what the expected market growth of the career will be. With vendors such as Campus Management, Oracle, and Jenzabar entering the space, this is a competitive market – but that offers all the more promise for institutions to find the smartest, best solution that will enable them to produce the most informed graduates and future employees.
2018 Trends to Watch: Higher Education, IT0008-000321 (October 2017)
Joyce Kim, Analyst, Education Technology