Thursday, May 10, 2018

Completion, but of "What"?

I want to consider other shifts in higher education that I see on the horizon and explore how they may play out in this sector in the future. 

Shift # 3:  From degrees to credentials:  At first glance this shift seems similar to the second shift from grades to skills.  However, I think the nuance here is the length of learning or training.  Degrees denote a time frame of two, four, or more calendar years.  Certificates are generally a year or less than a year.  The term "micro-credential" has emerged and also denotes shorter training or learning segments.  Technology and the information economy is forcing businesses to define skill sets.  A stronger focus on a narrowing set of skills means that previous notions of "well rounded" employees who are exposed to a variety of disciplines and skills may be less desirous or relevant.  As technology expands and changes at a rapid rate, the trend of employers demanding narrow skills sets or multiple skill sets will continue.  Employees will need to return for short term training multiple times in their career.  Whether or not colleges will remain viable in the future will depend upon their ability to offer micro-credentials, on-demand, at times and in flexible learning environments attractive to workers and prospective learners. 

Shift # 4:  From Affordable to Valuable:  Community colleges often market themselves as affordable and assume that affordability is an attract characteristic that will attract and keep students.  I contend that affordability is not a value proposition.  Learners will be looking for value a return on their investment of time and money.  Prospective students are asking whether or not the learning and credentials they obtain give them an opportunity to compete in a growing competitive, global labor force.  Colleges that can align program offerings with existing employer needs will be able to attract students.  Colleges that can be on the cutting edge and anticipate changes in skill needs and prospective employee needs will become even more valuable in the future. 

The ability of colleges to recognize and respond to ever increasing and moving shifts in learning will become a key skill for future leaders in the higher education sector.  I also believe that finding those leaders will become increasingly difficult for institutions of higher education.  Daily I ask myself, how am I getting my college prepared to remain relevant in the ever growing complex learning needs and speed of change facing higher education today.