Interesting Reads This Week
A few of the things we found interesting this week and why
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This is the first in a new series we are trying out - a weekly post about a few of the things we read this week and found useful. We are including some brief commentary on each piece. In general, the things we recommend to read will relate to some of the larger themes we have been covering in the newsletter: the new federal regulations in the US, the challenges of microcredentials, online and hybrid education and OPMs, etc. But occasionally something will just be interesting and worth sharing.
This week I have three things to recommend.
Wiley report on learning trends
Wiley released a new report, Higher Ed’s Next Chapter, 2023-2024: Four trends reshaping the learning landscape. It is an interesting read, although I found the trends on AI and technology less interesting than the rest of the report.
Like several other reports, Wiley covers the gap between perceptions about students and actual student perceptions about how well college is preparing them for the workplace. But while other surveys contrast the views of administrators and/or employers (for example, Gallup) with those of students, the Wiley study compares students with instructors. Students in the Wiley survey are more positive than in some previous surveys I have seen. I’m not sure if that represents positive news or just a function of sampling or methodology. 46% of students feel their college or university is preparing them well for employment (compared to 64% of faculty).
Wiley also has interesting findings about what students want as a response to addressing the gaps identified above. 82% of students find it important that their educational experience features professional certification exam prep, 81% for real company-led projects, and 77% for soft skills training.
The professional certification finding is interesting and will add fuel to those institutions seeking to offer certifications alongside degrees (in part to give students a running start in getting a job alongside the deeper more fundamental skills that a degree implies). Western Governors University is one institution with such an approach, but there are others.
However, the devil is in the details. I interpret what students are asking for in the Wiley survey mostly as recognized professional certifications such as CompTIA or PMI rather than industry certificates of the type I discussed in a recent post. More institutions offer the latter, but those have more limited usefulness.
The Wiley survey also offers data about what students are looking for in a degree. This is a welcome corrective to some of the explicit or implicit discourse (for example in discussions about Gainful Employment, see below) about the value of a college credential. Too often, lately, it takes the form of a sort of blunt instrumentalism where all that seems to matter is getting a job and how much it pays. While we do not want worthless credentials in financial terms, it is important to remember that students themselves value things other than money. 57% of students value finding a job they enjoy or are passionate about, 46% value working for a company they value or believe in, and 46% value working with coworkers they enjoy.
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