Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Employers Want from Higher Education 2

What Employers Want from Higher Education 2: public policy that supports better teaching and learning.
There is a rising tide of concern that the post secondary enterprise is becoming too expensive while under-performing its core function: effective teaching and learning at the undergraduate level. All of this in a time when financial resources are declining with no apparent end in sight. While there is great hope in certain academic policy efforts currently in development (the Lumina Degree Qualification Framework being one such example), public policy, especially state policy, needs to change as well. There are several things that state policy makers can do to facilitate a more effective, efficient, and qualitative higher education system in their jurisdictions.
1. Aspiration and attainment. Identify what it is that learners are coming to school to achieve and measure their attainment and satisfaction in achieving that goal. Too often, we don't know what learners want and, within that cycle, too often they don't know what they want or the implications of course and program choices that they make. These two questions, "why are you here?" and "did you get what you came for?", would allow policy makers and stewards of quality far deeper insight into the quality and effectiveness of the different parts of the higher education community in terms of what really matters, student attainment.
2. Make all college courses credit bearing and certificate or degree oriented. Many learners, young and old, come to post secondary education unprepared to do the work at the level required for success. But when we remediate them by taking them out of degree tracks and putting them in non-credit bearing remedial courses we are making two mistakes. First by taking them out of the degree track, we are costing them time and money, making it more likely they will drop out. Second, by remediating a whole course, such as Algebra 1, we are potentially asking them to cover topics they already know and understand instead of focusing in on the specific things that they don't know. By integrating adaptive elements into the regular curriculum, we can assure that learners proceed at their own pace, and that they get the support they need to practice the things they do not understand or cannot perform as those moments arise, a far better pedagogical technique.
3. Determining specifically what we want to buy with our post secondary investments. If institutions have multiple mission components, it is far more difficult for policy makers to hold them accountable. If, for example, we want to buy teaching and learning that leads to certificates and degrees, then we can evaluate effectiveness and attainment within that context. If climbing walls or fancy student centers fall outside of that priority, he institutions will have to either identify other sources of money or pay for those services with user fees. And, correspondingly, if research is critical, other sources of money will be identified to pay for that function as well.
4. Transfer and Articulation. The loss of time, money, and recognized learning in the transfer and articulation process is a blight on student progress and a  driver of the higher costs of higher education as well as longer time to attainment, whether it is a degree or a certificate. Employers want to know what their employees know and are able to do and they want to get a good return on the money they spend to develop their work force professionally and personally. Public policy that requires accurate articulation and transfer within and among institutions of higher education is an important step forward. And asking businesses to require that institutions who do their professional development must count the credit given towards attainment standards - certificates and degrees.

The walls between business and learning are coming down. And the tools are at hand to provide better, more effective and efficient learning at lower costs in a wide variety of settings. There are challenges to realize the potential of these tools, but changing policies in the ways suggested above would incentivize better higher education in a time of lean resources. Importantly, serious business groups, such as The Committee for Economic Development (CED), are looking hard at these issues and preparing recommendations to bring the business community to the table in the months ahead.

1 comment:

  1. The world is changing rapidly, driven by powerful forces such as economics, politics, demographics, religion and technology. We have seen enormous increases in globalization over the past few decades that have transformed how we do business, how we live, and how our governments function. It is difficult to keep our existance well.

    diploma of community services work