I attended the Sloan-C Conference on Online Learning last week and three themes surfaced as I attended sessions and talked with other participants:
Part 3: Marketability of Graduates
Maybe it’s the career counselor in me that tuned in to this theme. In a session on Corporate Partnerships, Phil Ice of APUS posed the question: What is the college experience today? He pointed out that his experience and expectations were different than what you would find today enrolling as a Freshman/First-Year student. I instantly remembered the groan I heard over the phone as I told my parents I had finally declared a major (on the last possible day in my sophomore year at a private liberal arts college). It was Psychology. I think one of them actually said “oh no”. What was I going to do with that? I wasn’t at all sure.
Conversations and presentations addressed the preparation of graduates for the eventual job search.
- Program and degree advisory panels that include local employers. Why shouldn’t they weigh in on coursework and internship requirements? They are the ones that will eventually receive the resumes from these students and apparently they aren’t as willing to train new employees as they used to be. University as vocational-technical? No, there’s more to it than that, but there is also a practical application side to what students need from the college experience of the early 21st century.
- Online identities created using web 2.0 and social networking tools. And then marketing oneself professionally by documenting education, experience, and providing examples of work.
- Vendor/Exhibitor products addressed “helping students reach their career goals”, e-portfolio systems to enhance “career advancement”, and skills and cultural training options offering “virtual business trip” scenarios.
How does online education play into all of this? Are online students different than on-campus students? The market for online students seems to be the working adult who needs to continue education in order to prepare for a career change or advancement while still on-the-job. At least, this is what you see in the commercials. Could the market be changing to include new high school graduates as well? Employability and job stability may be concerns, and motives for enrolling in online education, across the board.
photo credit: greenforall.org, Flickr