Bringing Back Higher Education’s Edge with Job Ready Learning

Blog Post 18

Higher Education has Lost Its Edge

There is growing concern that the college degree is no longer revered as the preferred method to obtaining valuable employment. Higher education needs to make a change to address its declining value proposition. This change is starting to emerge in various places. The state of Utah has removed the requirement for a degree to obtain state jobs this past December. The rising costs, systemic inequities, declining enrollments, and the disconnect between higher education programs and the necessary skills for prosperous employment are central to this decline in value. 

Today when we define “workforce,” we are not talking about manual, industrial skills – we are talking about technical skills, critical thinking skills and soft skills as well as hard skills. Within this potential target audience, we are able to address professional advancement, workforce development, career transition and we are moving into an era of lifelong learning. This is the shift higher education needs to prepare for or it risks becoming irrelevant.

The rate of technological change demands that student experience is carefully designed, and blends skills with knowledge to prepare learners for the career pathways that will otherwise remain unfilled. 

Traditional program design focuses on validation from accreditors, but in this new world, validation by employers is growing in importance. A new approach to program design is needed. 

Old School Design….Literally!

When we think about designing a program in a traditional sense, the default standard of efficacy has been certification by accreditors. Academic freedom has not only reigned supreme over what content is taught, but to a large extent has inadvertently extended into how it is delivered as well. Learning has been designed by what and how faculty wish to teach with a stamp of approval by accreditors. There has been marginal adherence to what employers’ needs are, and truthfully, designing for how the student needs to learn has been a huge afterthought. Learner Centered Design (LCD) is practically brand new compared to more didactic instructional practices that have remained entrenched for hundreds of years. 


Influenced by the ideas and principles of the user-centered tools developed for computer-based learning, scholars (e.g., Soloway et al., 1994; Quintana et al., 2001) developed the learner-centered design (LCD) approach to teaching and learning in the classroom. LCD Theory is a social constructivist approach that posits that students learn best when they construct meaning in an environment that facilitates their active engagement. As a result, LCD became the basis of a new pedagogical framework developed by Soloway, Guzdian, and Hay (1994), upon which others have continued to add or improve.1


Curating Authenticated Skills

Job ready learning needs to satisfy both learners and employers to provide value and ROI. If obtaining a credential or degree does not pay back the learner for the investment they are making, what is the point of the expense they are incurring? Consider the ongoing need to upskill in today’s economy as well. If we consider that learners will need to continue to sharpen their skills over time, perhaps a bachelor’s degree program costing 200k can be replaced with a series of microcredentials and pathways that can continue throughout their career – maybe for the same amount or more over time, but providing value along the way. 


If we apply the best practices in learning design and think about the growing need to fill critical job skills in our economy today, job ready learning would need the following:


  • Alignment to skills employers seek

  • Designed to actively engage learners in real, relevant tasks

  • Competency and outcome driven with actionable, trackable results

  • Collaborative and designed to allow learners to construct meaning and internalize how concepts are applied (learner centric)

  • Foster skill development views that enable learners to understand their own value to employers

  • Provide varying pathways and flexible approaches to align to learner strengths to maximize potential skills and ROI

  • Include both hard and soft skills

  • Flexible access options, designed with universal design principles

  • Learning that fosters scaffolding and building on prior knowledge and is not intended to weed out or function as a punitive method of increasing attrition 

By adopting these practical ways to help build job readiness, higher education can provide long-term value to both learners and employers and regain their edge.


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Higher Education

Our unique combination of learning design and development services, managed help desk support and skills assessment solutions prepare your students for the jobs of tomorrow and empower your instructors to deliver an inclusive experience for their students.

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Our tech-enabled solutions identify skills gaps in your workforce. Paired with our learning design and development services we help to fill those gaps with impactful, accessible and equitable program developments, assessments and improvements.

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It is vital to create accountability and transparency around validation of skills in onboarding and ongoing training programs. We help you authenticate skills for various healthcare job tracks while powering your ongoing training solutions.

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