Education Is Next!

Hazem Said, Director, University of Cincinnati
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Hazem Said, Director, University of Cincinnati

Hazem Said, Director, University of Cincinnati

The decade ahead demands deep transformation in the education sector to address access, quality and cost. This presents golden opportunity for IT organizations to make a difference and drive that transformation.

Since the turn of the 21st century, technological solutions that manage the creation, storage and dissemination of information have transformed many sectors of our society. From shopping (Amazon) and banking (Paypal, etrade, etc) to entertainment (iTunes, Spotify, etc) and travel (Travelocity, Priceline, Expedia, etc), information technology (IT) solutions have shattered traditional barriers and offered new approaches that empowered citizens around the world.

In the education sector, there are many IT solutions that have been created to manage the learning and administrative processes. However, these solutions still work within the confinement of a single function in a single institution. For instance, there are different software to manage the learning process, others to manage transcripts, others for financial aid, and different ones for admission and so on. A lot is still expected to enable the education sector to meet its current and future challenges. The decade ahead holds a major opportunity for IT to help meet these challenges.

Society continues to demand a reduction in the gap between the needs of the industry and the preparedness of graduates, especially for some disciplines including the discipline of information technology itself. Furthermore, the economic pressure is demanding reduction in the amount of debt that the graduates hold while requiring more advanced degrees to meet the growing complexity of the work environment. Finally, STEM disciplines, in particular information technology, suffer a significant shortage in the talent needed to keep our nation competitive requiring increased access and diversity of the students’ population.

  The efficiency of the students’ journey can be improved to increase their transition rate, completion rate, and eventual job placement 

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of IT jobs will grow by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, a faster growth rate than the average for all career fields. A KPMG survey of Chief Information Officers (CIO) revealed that 65 percent of the IT leaders experience skills shortage in their organizations. The shortage of skilled information technology professionals has become a well-noted concern nationally.

To meet the challenges of the future, the students’ journey must be addressed as a whole in a complete partnership among the different institutions involved such as K12, Community Colleges and Universities. Such partnerships could eliminate overlap, diversify the metrics that measure students’ readiness and ensure open pathways that could significantly increase the number of students who successfully complete their bachelor and even masters degrees with reduced or even no debt.

The efficiency of the students’ journey can be improved to increase their transition rate, completion rate, and eventual job placement. A recent report on the job outlook in the Southwest Ohio region showed that, by 2020, 92 percent of the jobs will require degrees beyond high schools. Statewide and national reports show similar trends, especially for STEM disciplines such as computing and information technology. Increasing the rate of students’ transition from high school to college is critical to Americans’ ability to find a job. Similarly, increasing the transition rate from two-year programs to bachelor’s programs and increasing the completion rate of bachelor’s degrees is becoming a necessity in an economy driven by information technology. Furthermore, attaining a college degree and gaining work experience significantly increase the readiness and competitiveness of citizens seeking jobs, especially in STEM fields. In his keynote address to the Ohio Global Reach To Engage Academic Talent conference, Eric Spiegel, former president and CEO of Siemens USA, highlighted the importance of apprenticeship programs that provide students with a combined work experience and post-secondary degree. Such programs require ongoing partnership between the industry and institutions of higher education.

In fact, solving the equation of access, cost, and quality will require direct involvement of the industry as an equal partner with the K12, the Community Colleges, and the University. Involvement as potential employer of the graduates of the education process and, especially for information technology companies, as a provider of technological tools that has the potential to transform this sector.

Information technology companies working in the education space can be a major player in the decade ahead by contributing solutions that crosses the institutional boundaries and provide efficient tools that measure students’ attainment. Furthermore, they could provide global solutions that validate these attainments and provide validated credentials that address students’ readiness for transitioning from K12 to Associate, Bachelor and finally to Masters Degree. Furthermore, they could provide solutions that directly connect the needs of the job market to the learning experiences offered at the educational institutions.

Jeffery Selingo authored a report for the Chronicle of Higher Education to identify challenges and opportunities that face higher education in the decade ahead. The report, “2026,- The Decade Ahead: The seismic shifts transforming the future of higher education” highlights areas of improvement such as universal credentialing of students’ experiences with mapping to readiness requirements and college/job needs, seamless transition (admission) from one institution to another that builds on students’ prior accomplishment and that utilizes knowledge about the students’ accomplishment to reduce the time and cost of the admission process, and credentialing opportunities for teachers to better align content delivery between K12 and higher education.

The public-private interest in the education sector could make implementing such new solutions more challenging than the retail, music, banking, or entertainment sectors. However, the advancement in information technologies and the elevated expectations/readiness for citizens to consume such solutions could generate enough inertia to utilize those solutions to change the way we prepare citizens for the growing complexities of the job market. The decade ahead demands deep transformation in the education sector to address access, quality, and cost. Information technology solutions have the potential to drive that transformation.

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