Leveraging edtech to graduate with career-ready skills.
GUEST COLUMN | by Becky Fisher
Only a few years ago, we judged colleges and universities solely on their ability to attract talented students. The higher the SAT score and GPA, the higher the college would be ranked. This still rings true in many ways, but the tables are turning. Higher education has been put under the microscope: post-graduate outcomes are becoming the new benchmark; return on investment is the new hot topic; and applicants want to know what type of job they will land once they’ve completed their studies.
From massive open online courses (MOOCs), to bootcamps, to blended learning, education technology has enabled students to gain the skills that employers want in unprecedented ways.
There was a point where a bachelor’s degree was enough to be successful, but in today’s competitive landscape, it’s just the beginning. Employers want to see developed skill sets, including hard skills like using critical tools such as Excel and PowerPoint, marketing, and sales, alongside soft skills like teamwork, communication, and ambition. A bachelor’s degree is no longer enough.
Fortunately, various solutions exist today to better prepare our college students for the workplace and to provide all types of learners with opportunities to be successful. From massive open online courses (MOOCs), to bootcamps, to blended learning, education technology has enabled students to gain the skills that employers want in unprecedented ways.
Perhaps no solution is more synonymous with scalable education than the MOOC. This model attracted media attention in a way that few education technologies have and shook the higher education system enough to force stakeholders all over the world to look inward. Now that the media hype has diminished, it’s become apparent how MOOCs can be best utilized: to provide supplemental learning to highly motivated, self-driven students.
For students who crave a competitive edge and recognize what skills are needed in their chosen industries, MOOCs are great. Courses like “Data Analysis and Statistical Inference” on Coursera or “Marketing for Non-Marketers” on edX can provide students with additional learning that can help them get the job they want.
The downside? MOOCs require students to be incredibly self-motivated to get the most out of the course. The more you put into a MOOC, the better the outcome. But without serious accountability, there tends to be a low rate of completion.
By design, blended learning solutions take from the best of both worlds to create a hybrid model for education. Because these programs are able to deliver content online with a live coach as facilitator, the outcomes tend to be positive, with great retention of knowledge and new skills acquired.
Programs exist that are pioneering the blended learning model on campuses, working with colleges and universities to provide the technology to scale the content while coaches provide in-person support and mentorship. Additionally, there are projects, case studies and team exercises that let students apply the lessons learned in a hands-on manner. Other online programs like Khan Academy are adding coaches to their courses to ensure better outcomes.
The downside? Blended Learning programs are not offered on all college campuses and are not as scalable as the MOOC. That being said, if you have access to a great blended learning program, completion and success rates tend to be high.
Bootcamps are becoming a major player in the edtech and career preparation space. Some programs guarantee real results and jobs at the end of the program, while others provide badges and certificates to show completion. These programs tend to be mostly in-person with some online work. Programs like General Assembly and Dev Bootcamp teach hard skills like coding and UX design that can be directly applied to a job. Popular amongst undergrads and young professionals, this style of program can help lead directly to a career.
The downside? Bootcamps are not always readily available at the times that undergraduates need them. Additionally, they tend to teach one skill in depth, as opposed to diversifying the skill set. However, if you know you want a specific job as an engineer or a designer, these programs are the way to go.
As the higher education system continues to evolve based on market needs, new ways of learning like MOOCs, blended learning, and bootcamps can help speed up the process. Technology has provided a scalable solution to reach more students and provide them with the tools they need to get a job and begin a career. As the market continues to change, these solutions – and others that come after them – will remain flexible and interactive, providing relevant supplemental programming to ensure our youth are prepared for the workplace.
Becky Fisher is the Executive Director of Partnerships at Fullbridge. Previously, Becky was the founder of San Francisco-based career accelerator, Beyond Business, which provided college students and recent graduates with an immersion course in business and the Silicon Valley tech industry. As a former educator and consultant, Becky has designed innovative, tech-integrated curriculum for her own classroom, as well as worked with education companies including EdSurge, Edutopia, Kidaptive, Drawp, and Launchpad Toys. Becky holds a Masters Degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelors Degree from Northwestern University.