Monday, July 21, 2014

The Skills that Lead to Employment in Undergraduate Online Education

In higher education employability has come to the forefront of the debate. Arguments revolve around graduate success in finding employment.  Research by Silva, et. al (2013) helps highlight which skills seem to encourage employability in the market based upon the perceptions of students and teachers at a public university that offers online classes. The report indicates that the societal function of higher education is to encourage the highest employment readiness but cannot determine actual employment itself which is dependent on market factors. 

The study was based upon perceptions of employment skills needed for successfully navigating the market. Research subjects were drawn from an online learning center from the Universidade Alberta to help determine the most important employment skills and those skills to be developed in the online undergraduate system. 

It is beneficial to understand what the purpose of higher education is within society. Knowing how higher education fits within society will help provide a conceptual framework for determining proper skills. According to Harvey (1999) higher education should:

-Establish links to employers that assist them with developing strategies to overcome lack of qualifications.

-Contribute to solutions for education and training in highly-skilled areas with a lack of qualified workers. 

-Prepare graduates with effective skills ensuring that employability requirements are explicit within courses of study. 

Higher education follows the same supply and demand concepts within the market as other entities. Where there is a need for educated workers higher education can help fill the gap through adjusting their curriculum for maximum relevance. They cannot control the market but are able to respond appropriate to that market through understanding the needs of employers and reflecting those needs within their curriculum. 

The development of students naturally has an impact on the development of a nation. When job needs are fulfilled the employer is able to move closer to maximum productivity. Think of how low I.T. skill availability is forcing companies to outsource operations or hire foreign workers. Reich, cited by Knight, discusses the need for higher education to enhance natural skills (Knight, 2003):

-Abstraction: Theory and empirical analysis that includes formulas, equations, models, and metaphors. 

-Systems of Thought: The way the brain processes information. 

-Experimentation: Intuitive experimentation and analytical experimentation. 

-Collaboration: Using communication and teamwork to solve problems. 

The study highlights how students and faculty have a slightly different impression of the skills needed to find jobs. Both groups agree that the concepts of problem solving, planning, decision-making, and willingness to learn as fundamental skills that guild them in their careers. Adaptable and transformative profiles should be enhanced. Adaptive employees are able to learn new skills and apply them to their workplace while transformative people are able to move beyond the rules to change the workplace into a higher functioning entity. Higher education has the responsibility to improve upon the process of knowledge attainment and job skill competence but the specific employment opportunity is the responsibility of the graduate and the employer. The closer schools are to businesses and their needs the more likely relevant market skills will be developed.

Harvey, L, (1999). New realities: The relationship between higher education and
employment. Birmingham Centre for Research into Quality.

Knight, T. P., & Yorke, M. (2003). Assessment learning and employability. England:
SRHE and Open University Press Imprint.

Silva, A., et. al. (2013). Employability in Online Higher Education : A Case Study. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14 (1).

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