Friday, November 6, 2015

Getting Qualified for Work (Part I)

Just as the Wizard was exposed in the final scenes of the Wizard of Oz, colleges’ claims to “prepare you for the career of your choice” have proven to be equally dubious in the last few years.

Much of what passes for career counseling involves testing for particular behavioral traits and recommending training or academic programs based on the available certificates and degrees. All of this is tied to a perception of the local job market. Sometimes this works very well. However, most of the time it produces poor results at the critical juncture where the learner becomes an employee and has to be successful in the workplace. In far too many cases, learners who are “ready to graduate” simply are not “ready to work.”

At OC@KU we decided to change these dynamics by asking and answering a few key questions:
  1. What would happen if, unless required by law or occupational regulation, the certificate or degree program was not viewed as the “price of entry” into a particular field?
  2. What would happen if we could identify the specific requirements of a job; match a learner’s knowledge, skills, behaviors and abilities to those requirements; identify the learning and training needs; and then recommend similarly-evaluated learning experiences that would fill the learning gap and prepare the future employee for work?
  3. What would happen if we could monitor the learning and progress towards work readiness using evidence-based assessments?
  4. And what would happen if, once workplace readiness is assured and demonstrated, we could assess that same learning for academic recognition, as appropriate, if and when employees and employers desired?
The underlying assumption of our answers to these questions is that we have entered a “new world” in post-secondary learning: One in which content is the variable to be adjusted to the actual needs of the learner. One in which the degree and the certificate become options in many cases. And one in which learning done anywhere for any reason can be converted into academic value through dynamic assessments. This new world redefines the workplace, the home, and the union hall not only as places where important learning can occur, but also as important sources of knowledge and learning.

In the “old world,” college was the “sense-maker” for learners and employers, organizing information into curriculum with sequencing that led to the appropriate diploma. Conversely in this new world of abundant information, big data, semantic engine analysis, and artificial intelligence, we can assist students in “making sense” of their learning needs and personalize the learning needed or desired to the actual needs of employers, thus saving students time and money in the process.

In the following several blogs, I will describe these different “sense-making” products and services for learners and employers.