weekly wrap-up from Silicon Valley on what’s making the news in higher education, EdTech, and disruptive trends

Think Students are Unhappy with Higher Education? Try Employers

What it is: A new report by The Brookings Institution shows that the bachelor’s degree premium remains as high as ever. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs says the return on college is falling: “In 2010, students could expect to break even within eight years of finishing school. Since then, that has increased to nine years. And if this trend continues, students who start college in 2030 without scholarships or grants… may not see a return on investment until age 37.”

It’s equally confusing when we’re told that employers are greedily demanding more degrees while simultaneously saying degrees don’t matter. With regard to the former, a new survey from CareerBuilder of over 2,300 hiring and HR managers revealed that 32 percent of employers are asking for more higher education than they were a few years ago.

Why it is important: Employers—the ultimate consumers of higher education—are dissatisfied with the current level of talent being produced by colleges and universities, and are flailing about for answers. For many employers, this means credential inflation—requiring certain degrees for jobs that previously didn’t require them. An equally logical response for others is an openness to alternative credentials.

According to the Gallup-Lumina survey, only 11 percent of employers think graduating students have the skills that their businesses need. It’s not as though degree holders are only falling short on job or even industry-specific skills; an AACU survey released last year reported 75 percent of employers believe recent graduates are not well prepared in critical thinking and analytic reasoning, written and oral communication, complex problem solving, innovation and creativity, and applying knowledge and skills to real-world settings.
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Addressing the Digital Leadership Gap in Higher Education

What it is: Those institutions that are attempting to use digital practices to engage education customers are laying on, rather than building in. Digital solutions are often seen as an afterthought – a practice separate from the rest of the institution – rather than something that is woven into the university’s DNA.

There are unique mitigating factors that explain why integrating experience management practices has been seemingly more difficult in higher ed than in many other industries: 1)  higher education environments tend to be highly decentralized and 2) its leadership structure.

Why it is important: Organizational and leadership structure is unlikely to change in the near term. Therefore, it is imperative to take a specialized approach to creating digital engagement strategies within this unique environment. Institutions need to start looking beyond delivering basic content, and start looking to envision what digital engagement can bring to their institutions – from the inside out – and the implications on time and resources allocated to such efforts.

Some institutions are introducing small pockets of change: educating leadership on very practical and imminent digital needs; forming working groups across departments and schools to bring together new ideas and align goals, and educating faculty and staff not directly involved in digital initiatives around the possibilities that come with embarking on a more collective effort
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Students and Higher Ed Leaders Put Their Faith in Online Classes 

What it is: According to statistics gathered for an Online Learning Consortium infographic, 5.8 million students are now enrolled in online courses, and the majority put tremendous stock in the quality of their education: 90 percent of students say their online learning experiences are the same or better than in-classroom options.

College and university leadership agrees: The infographic states that 71 percent of academic leaders say learning outcomes for online courses are the same or better than that of face-to-face classes.

Why it is important: Online learning is becoming mainstream. This learning modality provides ease of access, affordability and inclusion for an evolving, growing higher education population.

Increased digital learning opportunities, such as learning analytics, competency-based education, and adaptive learning are quickly being embraced by today’s students and allow for new learning methods to be adopted by institutions so that they can better serve students.
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Wearables Market Grows as The Technology’s Impact Becomes Clear

What it is: New research indicates that the U.S. market for classroom wearables could climb nearly 46 percent annually, reaching $4 billion by 2020. At the same time, the global market could grow 36 percent per year, to exceed $6 billion in revenue.

Why it is important: Technology research and advisory company Technavio, which published the findings, attributes the steady surge to today’s education trends: “With the rise in digitalization in education, schools and institutions have adopted digital tools and gadgets such as tablets and e-learning modules to enhance student engagement.

The adoption of wearable technology has improved the engagement in ways that were previously not possible.”Technavio posits that devices from these vendors will become more common on campuses as prices drop and bulk purchases become more feasible for institutions.
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