In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Why Skills Training Can’t Replace Higher Education,” Dr. George Kuh posits that “much of the current media-reported posturing by policy makers and pundits about the failure of U.S. colleges and universities to adequately prepare people for the 21st-century workplace is either ill-informed or misguided.” Dr. Kuh, chancellor’s professor emeritus of higher education at Indiana University, describes today’s media narrative as one focused on the need for vocational skills versus “useless liberal arts programs.” Multiple badges and certificates will be issued to indicate proficiency in certain skills and in the future, a trusted entity will “rack and stack” a combination of them to issue the equivalent of a college degree. He acknowledges that “short-term vocational skills-based programs are critically important and well-suited for many.” However, he also questions why this should be the desired policy for addressing the needs of the 21st-century workplace.
Dr. Kuh notes that “workplaces, societal institutions, and the world order are only going to get more complicated and challenging to navigate and manage, increasing the need for people with accumulated wisdom, interpersonal and practical competence, and more than a splash of critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and altruism.” He also notes that there are “no short cuts” to enabling people to deepen learning, develop resilience, and convert information into action. Shortening education in order to bolster productivity is shortsighted for many reasons, and he expects that many learners from traditionally underrepresented groups will likely gravitate toward these shorter and less expensive training programs at the risk of delaying or denying themselves a foundational baccalaureate degree. He calls on business leaders to speak about what the country needs from our postsecondary system and for a re-balancing to occur based on their experience leading their corporations through this era of rapid, technology-driven change.
Former University of Toledo President Daniel Johnson’s career, spanning many years and roles at multiple institutions, provides him with an insider’s perspective on higher education. In his introduction, while he acknowledges defending the system for the last 25 years of his career, he also notes that assessing it from the outside gives him a new point of view.
According to Dr. Johnson, paradigms can change and “the paradigm that provides the conceptual, pedagogical, legal, regulatory and financial structures for advanced learning and certification has multiple cracks – some large and some small – all seriously weakening the infrastructure, the very framework, and foundation upon which our public colleges and universities currently rest.” The failure of the higher education paradigm to meet the challenges of today’s education environment brings substantial pressure for change. He maintains that the current manners and modes in which higher education functions are costly and ineffectual and have been for years. Our future success depends on how we prepare our students to find meaningful roles in an economy driven by artificial intelligence, robotics, and an explosion of digitally-based enterprises and industries.
APUS Associate Dean of Alternative Learning Cali Morrison and APUS Provost Dr. Vernon Smith were each recently appointed to new leadership positions with the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), one of the leading authorities on the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. Cali recently sat down with Dr. Smith to discuss the value of APUS's long-standing relationship with WCET and their respective new advisory roles.
I recently attended my third CBExchange and this year, I had the pleasure of serving on the program and welcome committees. The number one benefit to being a Competency-Based Education Network (CBEN) member and/or attending CBExchange is learning from the experiences of those who participate. The community is open in sharing the good, the bad, the challenges, and the triumphs of starting, fostering, and scaling CBE programs. While I wasn’t around at the beginning of the online education movement, the comradery I’ve seen forged in those who built online education is reflected in the relationships established through CBEN.
APUS Provost and former EDUCAUSE Board member Dr. Vernon Smith has a keen understanding of the contributions technology can make to advance the academic mission. In this recent EDUCAUSE Review interview, he discusses where IT and higher education are, and where they're heading.
The Presidents’ Forum, established in 2004, is a collaboration of accredited, national, adult-serving institutions and programs that have embraced the power and potential of online education. The Forum provides a venue for leaders in higher education and stakeholders to share their knowledge and learn from others’ best practices. It was originally affiliated with Excelsior College and Excelsior’s president, John Ebersole, deserves credit for organizing and supporting it in its early years (note: I currently serve as Forum vice chair and APUS has supported the Forum for years).
Jeff Selingo, author of College (Un)bound, recently released his latest book, a primer for parents of college-aged children. He maintains that today’s teenagers and young adults have many challenges ahead of them after college graduation and that it’s appropriate to start thinking about how to manage your career as soon as you finish high school. Selingo notes that the education system is out of sync with the economy and that college is a platform for lifelong learning that we will leave and return to whenever we need further education and training to get ahead in our existing job or to switch careers.
When I read that author Jon McGee had spent the last 14 years as a cabinet officer at two liberal arts colleges, I thought it was an interesting parallel to my nearly equivalent time served at a wholly online institution. While we serve a different clientele (his students are traditional, residential, full-time, 18-22 year-olds and ours are working adults studying part-time online), our viewpoints are nearly identical: higher education faces major challenges, and institutions need to anticipate and prepare for change, rather than simply react to it.