The coming year promises to be an eventful one for the future of higher education. Current and prospective students, along with state and federal legislators are applying pressure to colleges to do more to provide an affordable education geared to meet the demands of the modern economic landscape. Here are 3 emerging trends we’re seeing that warrant attention in 2017:
1. Assessment and Accountability:
As budgets tighten and academic institutions face increased scrutiny to validate their programs, assessment will gain importance far and wide. Challenges to effective assessment include: consistency and scalability, faculty buy-in, and effectively using results to inform subsequent initiatives. Fortunately, new tools and technologies are making this easier every day. Look for closed-loop assessment to become a frequent topic at conferences this year.
2. Bridging the Skills Gap:
At the recent ITHAKA Next Wave Conference, presenters from institutions including Stanford University, Columbia University, and Pew Research Center spoke about macro changes that are impacting the higher education landscape. One dominant theme of the day was the changing nature of the skills needed to thrive in the modern knowledge economy. The calls for this kind of shift have grown in recent years, with numerous surveys indicating that business leaders are underwhelmed with the skills recent grads bring to the workplace. They report a deficit of skills like critical thinking and communication; a majority of hiring managers value these “soft skills” above discipline-specific STEM skills.
3. Showcasing Skills Through Badging and Certificates:
Student transcripts have looked roughly the same for decades if not centuries, however the information potential graduate programs and employers seek is much different today than it was in 1813 (the year Yale began using the 4.0 grading scale). Some schools like Stanford and Elon University have begun providing expanded transcripts to show details about student learning beyond course and grade, however it is the field of digital badging and certification that stands to gain the most ground in the coming year. Badging currently exists in a free-for-all explosion, with badges being awarded for everything from coding to online gaming. As verification strategies improve, allowing students to prove that they did the work to earn a specific badge or certificate, the impact on the hiring process in the knowledge economy could be profound.