When education meets the corporation

Globally, there is a disconnect between students and jobs. According to McKinsey’s recent Education to Employment report, around the world ‘75 million young people are unemployed, but businesses can’t find enough skilled workers to fill job vacancies.’ Meanwhile, businesses frequently complain that they don’t get the calibre of graduates they need to fill the roles they have, particularly in STEM subjects.

 

Why has this situation come about – particularly considering that fees for universities have increased at eye-watering speeds over the past few years? And what can universities do about it, to better match their students with the jobs that businesses want to fill?

 

First, let’s consider some context. The McKinsey report reveals some fairly dramatic figures.

 

  • Half of young people are not sure that their post-secondary education has improved their chances of finding a job.
  • Almost 40% of employers say a lack of skills is the main reason for entry-level vacancies.

 

Against this figures, let’s look at some equally startling statistics about how much is invested in our young people’s education. At the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, Anthony P. Carnevale and Nicole Smith reveal that in the US,

 

  • Approximately $1.5 trillion or 11% of GDP is spent on human capital or skills development each year.
  • Elementary and secondary education takes the largest share of this: $608 billion (41% of spending).
  • Together, formal and informal training by employers represents $454 billion (30% of spending): $313 billion on informal training and $141 billion on formal training.
  • $380 billion is spent on higher education, which primarily consists of formal education programs at colleges and universities.

 

Some $380 billion is spent on higher education – and yet employers can’t find the right graduates for their jobs? Something is amiss somewhere along the line.

 

The McKinsey work points to several fault lines that it believes are causing this problem. A broad summary of its view would be:

 

  • Workplaces, educational institutions and students are operating in ‘parallel universes’. Fewer than 50% of young people and employers believe that new graduates are adequately prepared for entry-level positions. But 72% of education providers believe new graduates are ready to work. A similar disconnect appears when asked why students fail to finish courses – 39% of education providers state drop-out rates are because courses are too difficult, but only 9% of students agree, citing affordability as the main reason.
  • Education-to-employment is an obstacle-strewn road. Getting the enrolment means overcoming issues of cost and ensuring you’ve chosen the right course. Once underway, there are issues with building skills – 60% say that on-the-job training and hands-on learning are the most effective instructional techniques, but fewer than 30% are enrolled in curricula that prioritise such techniques. Finally, there is finding the job at the end – a quarter do not make a smooth transition to work, as their first jobs are unrelated to their field of study and they want to change positions quickly. In emerging markets, this number rose to as much as 40%.
  • The current education-to-employment system fails for ‘most’ employers and young people. The McKinsey research reveals that only 31% of employers get the talent they require.

 

How we reached this situation

Part of the problem has been the way the competencies that society needs has shifted so quickly from production-based to information-based skills. As Carnevale and Smith at Georgetown put it, ‘In the past, employers viewed workers with solid occupational-specific skills as sufficient for success on the job. But as workers are increasingly called upon to make decisions at the point of production or point of sale and display good interpersonal skills when working in teams or with customers, the confidence that engenders success in these areas springs from a positive sense of self-worth or self-esteem.’

 

In consequence, traditional universities are suffering an assault on several sides from MOOCs, vocational training and for tech educations, coding bootcamps. There is a risk that if traditional universities don’t adjust to today’s fast-changing circumstances, they may find themselves gradually but inexorably being squeezed out by providers that are more flexible about how students learn, tailor themselves to students’ needs, can offer more guarantees of jobs at the end of the process, and come out cheaper overall. When students are being increasingly under pressure from galloping tuition fees, price becomes much more of a stalling factor than it used to be – it can be the difference between committing to a course, and not going at all.

 

Whilst alternative approaches to education are not going to make the walls of our oldest universities tumble down just yet, there is a slight sense of inevitability about the way technology is making distance learning ever more enticing to cash-strapped students. If you get the job at the end of the day, who needs to spend three or four expensive years in a cloistered bubble? Ryan Craig, Managing Director at University Ventures, argues that this point is pertinent to the future of tertiary education. The question Craig poses is – ‘how to use technology to develop and deliver shorter, less expensive, 100% digital (and therefore accessible) postsecondary programs that lead to credentials that employers will recognize and value.’ The answer to the question, if there is one, ‘will be critical to the future of colleges and universities.’

 

Look at the gradual success of disruptive providers like Udacity, which offers ‘nanodegrees’. Starting out as a MOOC, Udacity has developed nanodegrees ‘in partnership with leading technology companies (“built by industry”),’ Craig explains. ‘The thinking [is] that Google’s involvement in the Android Developer Nanodegree improves the curriculum; the Google brand doesn’t hurt either. Udacity has done the same with iOS (Apple), Tech Entrepreneur (Google) and its other programs (by a committee of leading technology lights).’

 

Udacity is slowly but surely making progress. ‘A New York Times profile of Udacity on September 17 [2015] revealed that Udacity has 10,000 students enrolled in Nanodegrees – a number growing by 30% every month.’ If, as Craig points out, ‘10,000 students are paying $200 per month, that’s annual revenue of over $20M – perhaps enough for profitability.’

 

The aim of such courses is to be ‘shorter, cheaper and more accessible’ and create ‘credentials – badges – that employers will recognize and value as an alternative to the existing, expensive and constantly derided degree-industrial complex. To this end, both companies are trying hard to link their content to employers. Udacity’s Nanodegrees carry with them the names of the world’s most famous technology companies – where traditional universities rely on their long-established brands, Udacity piggybacks today’s tech giants to boost its brand for it.

 

Universities at least need to address these side-swipes from badge-based providers. Consider a few more damning figures from McKinsey:

 

  • A third of employers say they never communicate with education providers.
  • Of those that do, fewer than half say it proves effective.
  • More than a third of education providers say they are unable to estimate the job-placement rates of their graduates.
  • Fewer than 50% of graduates state they had a good understanding of what disciplines lead to professions with job openings and good wage levels when they chose their course.

 

A final criticism of traditional degrees comes from Google itself. Degree grades are, believe it or not, ‘worthless as a criteria for hiring,’ according to Google’s Senior VP of People Operations. If this is the view of our leading tech company, which is now busily partnering itself with badge-based providers like Udacity and Coursera, surely traditional education has to sit up and take notice.

 

Looking for the solutions

So, what’s to be done? If universities in the form we understand them are going to survive, then surely the key point is simple to say, but hard to do in practice. It’s essentially for learning organisations, businesses and students all to engage with each other more.

 

The McKinsey research suggests several desirable outcomes – all from the top-line points of universities, businesses and students needing to communicate with other more effectively, collaborate more and stop seeing university education as a linear process where the ‘job offer’ only comes at the very end.

 

In essence, the way forward can be described as follows:

 

  • Have new incentives and structures. Stakeholders need better data to make informed choices and manage performance. Give data to students and parents about career and training options.
  • Offer more workplace data. Information about what happens to students after they graduate is not routinely offered by learning organisations – it could and should be. What are the job placement rates? How long does it take students to get to an average salary role? What proportion of graduates reach high salary roles?
  • Connect more effectively with business. Transformative solutions involve multiple providers and employers working within a particular in industry or function. These collaborations solve the skill gap at a sector level; by splitting costs among multiple stakeholders (educators, employers, and trainees), investment is reduced for all.
  • Take a high-level view of education. In practice, this might mean creating the role of a ‘system integrator’, who works with education providers and employers to develop skill solutions, gather data and identify and disseminate positive examples. The integrator can be defined by sector, region, or target population.

 

To this we could add: encourage students and parents to self-inform more. The internet is full of information, but it can be hard to track down helpful information. Instead of allowing our students to go to learning organisations largely in ignorance of job expectations and in the dark about what their futures might be, help them to think more strategically about their careers from an early age. That will help them choose their course in an informed way, plan their student years more effectively and have an eye on what they want their key outcomes to be when they graduate.

 

The conclusion from the McKinsey work is that successful programmes do things differently. They ‘step into each other’s worlds’. Employers might help to design curricula. They might offer their employees and faculty, and they might let students spend as much as half their time on job sites. They might then get them hiring guarantees. The best programmes work with their students early and intensely. They avoid the linear obstacle-path of enrolment, skill-building and job offer by treating the education-to-employment journey as a ‘continuum’ in which some employers even commit to hire youth before they are enrolled in a programme to build their skills.

 

And finally, to adapt the structures of traditional business education to a more fully-aligned model. Get students to spend more time trailing employees in organisations. Integrate internships as part of the degree, not an add-on or something for graduates to organise for themselves once they leave university. Have more in-university training, as well as academic education. Have more lectures from organisation employees during the course of the degree – current doers, not people who used to be doers or who watch others doing.

 

In short, make education less passive. Make it the platform from which graduates can step seamlessly into their first role – not a launching pad that requires a leap of faith that can seem daunting and hard to attain for many of today’s students. It’s achievable, but not easy. But today’s students will, increasingly, demand and deserve it.

 

Sources

 

http://mckinseyonsociety.com/downloads/reports/Education/Education-to-Employment-exec-summary_FINAL.pdf

 

https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/HRDI.Editorial.pdf 

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancraig/2015/07/14/the-just-in-time-education-revolution/2/#208d36215c75

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancraig/2015/07/29/e-portfolios-competency-marketplaces-for-colleges/#78f3be736186

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancraig/2015/09/30/coursera-udacity-and-the-future-of-credentials/2/#412d79326d95

 

 

 

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Millennials: why are they different?

The current generation of college graduates have very different expectations and hopes from their predecessors. Those expectations are attached not only to their education provider but also their eventual employer. And yet, both employers and universities often respond to today’s students with out-dated models – treating them in much the same as the generation before them, and expecting the same behaviour and results in return.

 

This is a mistake. To maximise performance from millennials, it’s vital for organisations and universities to speak to them in their language, package experiences for them in ways they relate to and identify with, and create an environment that will resonate with them.

 

So how can prospective employers and education providers do this? Let’s start by looking at some background. They key difference for today’s graduates is their digital native status. Millennials born after 1990 – the ‘Generation Z’ that comprises our current crop of graduates – have enjoyed an unprecedented level of technology as they’ve grown up that sets them apart from their predecessors. Generation Z cannot imagine life without the internet or mobile phones, and they have less willingness to accept social injustice. A 2012 Net Impact survey discovered that 88% of millennials see a positive culture as vital to their career and 86% stated that they needed to find their work interesting. Other research has indicated that more than 50% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to find work that better fits their values, and 90% want to use their talents for the greater good.

 

Writing in Fast Company, Paula Davis-Laack quotes a recent report from the International Consortium for Executive Development Research (ICEDR) which suggests there are five key principles for getting the most from your millennials’ mindsets. They are:

 

  • Know me. Invest the time to understand the student as a person and what interests them both inside and outside of work.
  • Challenge me. The student wants to have continued opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Connect me. Relationships are important – the student wants to interact and collaborate with a wide network of people.
  • Inspire me. Students want a sense of meaning from their work.
  • Unleash me. Students want to take ‘good risks’ and have autonomy over their time and projects.

 

These five points have been written with a focus on female millennials. But as Davis-Laack goes on persuasively to point out, they chime rather neatly with suggestions from two other experts. She points to ‘centered leadership’, which consists of these five dimensions:

 

  • Meaning
  • Framing (adapting to change and building self-awareness)
  • Energising (tapping into the our natural energy reserves and rhythms)
  • Connecting (interacting and collaborating with a wide network of people)
  • Engaging (taking good risks and using your voice).

 

And these five are not too far away from the PERMA model of well-being, developed by Martin Seligman:

 

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

 

Davis-Laack’s point then, is that meeting the needs and expectations of millennials is not as complex or as alien for older generations to understand as might have been supposed. All these models chime with each other – and an underlying principle of all three is emotional resonance. The above lists are not about targets, or climbing pyramid hierarchies. They are about personal development and learning outcomes.

 

If we were to examine these lists more closely from a management point of view, we might want to see more emphasis on skills-based learning and a focus on aptitude. If we add these points the mix, there is a valuable lesson to be learnt in how to respond to millennials – and how to get them to respond to you.

 

A different mindset

Millennials have little interest in a job for life (a sea-change from the baby boomer generation’s worldview); have high ethical and responsible concerns when choosing the company they want to work for; and want their work environments to be attractive, comfortable and stimulating. Perhaps with this last point in mind, millennials are most attracted by tech companies, with Google, Apple and Facebook very clear winners when millennials are asked which companies they would like to work for.

 

In aggregated research from the Brookings Institution, Goldman Sachs and Nielsen, published in GSV Tomorrow, Google gained 19.7% of the ‘where do you want to work’ vote, Apple achieved 12.7% and Facebook 8.9%. In other words, over 40% of millennials want to work for a leading tech company. It’s not until you get to the fourth-rated choice, the State Department, that a non-tech organisation appears, with 7.9%.

 

According to figures quoted in Forbes Magazine, 62% of millennials believe they can make a difference in their local communities and some 40% even believe they can literally change the world. Millennials are not willing to play the game and climb the corporate ladder as past generations. They are doers, and they expect companies to change in line with them. If they don’t, they are not afraid to jump ship and take risks.

 

Erika Janovich, Marketing Co-ordinator for the StressCrete Group, spent time working with millennials when she went back to college as a mature student. Writing in The Evolllution, Janovich presents five conclusions about the values that millennials place highest faith in.

 

  • Confidence in your convictions
  • Technologically savvy
  • Engagement is important in learning
  • You can be a ‘me first’ team player
  • Flexibility is the new secure

 

Let’s consider these in turn. ‘They spoke back to teachers without any concerns for retribution,’ Janovich says, contrasting this with her own upbringing where ‘I had to express [my opinions] in a way that was still respectful of my elders. There were times I admired their sheer guts for speaking their minds and fighting for what they wanted.’

 

Perhaps the key distinction of the millennial generation, ‘their knowledge of technology was incredible. Any time I ran into technological issues, all I had to do was ask any of my younger classmates. They were happy to share their knowledge, and often looked at me with confusion wondering how I survived my teens without a computer.’

 

Time and again, engagement emerges as a vital quality to get the best out of millennials. ‘I’ll never forget the term coined by one of the baby boomer professors: “Educainment”.’ Students needed to be continuously entertained and stimulated in class. ‘If not, they’d find what they needed on their laptops or phones. Teachers fought to make the information more exciting and attempted to relate the lessons to students’ lives.’

 

Millennials are less willing to suppress their emotions in the workplace. ‘They were more “touchy feely” than my generation… My classmates wanted to be the best, but not at the expense of others,’ Janovich says.

 

An interesting job, a sense that they are doing something good for wider society and a stimulating place to work are the values millennials place most emphasis on. Janovich’s assessment is that ‘they wanted flexible working hours, a fun work environment and an enlightening experience. When they were done with the experience, they would move on to a new one… they made me see that work-life balance should be a major consideration.’

 

Breaking the myths

And yet, not all millennials meet the stereotypes. Research by KPMG (itself a company with nearly 60% of its workforce composed of millennials) in association with Brad Harrington, executive director of Boston College Center for Work & Family, garnered evidence that bucks some of these trends. Interviewing 1,100 millennials, Harrington found that ‘60% said they plan to stay in their jobs to advance, versus 25% who want to get ahead by moving from employer to employer.’ Harrington agrees that there is no ‘job for life’ – ‘fewer organizations offer lifetime job arrangements… and the world has moved away from the idea of long-term job security. But… at a rate of two to one, millennials prefer to stay, and that was surprising.’

 

Harrington’s figures also agree that millennials feel strongly about work-life balance. ‘The majority felt that their lives outside of work were much more important to their sense of identity than their careers. Few – approximately 20% – were willing to pursue these goals at the expense of their personal lives.’

 

The KPMG/Harrington research did not find, as expected, that socially conscious attitudes figure highly in millennials’ set of values. ‘ “How much I am helping others” and “contribution to society” were among the lowest ranked items in importance of career success measures for the millennials surveyed,’ writes Stephanie Vozza, quoting the survey in Fast Company.

 

And although the millennials were as comfortable with technology as expected, this doesn’t make them people-averse. ‘When we asked how they found their most recent position, instead of saying “social media” like we expected, the number one answer was that they were referred by a friend, relative, or another connection,’ Harrington is quoted as saying. ‘They are using the tried-and-true method of networking.’

 

There are lessons here for both millennials themselves and for the companies recruiting them. One of the consequences of growing older is that you know your own mind more – or, to put it less kindly, you become more set in your ways. One of the joys of youth is that you are still open to new ideas, your opinions are still forming and your view of the world is not set in stone. A fallout from this, when interviewing millennials about what they expect from university and work, is that their opinions are still in a state of flux. That makes it harder for people writing about millennials to come to hard and fast conclusions about them.

 

Looking to the future

What, then, do learning institutions need to do differently? The first lesson is to understand the millennial mindset, and this primarily involves understanding the principle of co-opting. Millennials are not materialistic, and they share rather than accumulate. UK newspaper The Guardian recently reported that average material consumption fell from 15 tonnes in 2001 to just over 10 tonnes in 2013; a huge reduction. In the same article, climate change author Chris Goodall, added that people now spend more on services than physical goods.’ Millennials are less interested in possessing; rather than store thousands of emails, they use Snapchat and delete instantly. Instead of hoarding photos, books, CDs and DVDs like their predecessors, everything is accessed online and there is little sense of possession in the traditional sense of the word.

 

This change has caused a psyche shift as well. They co-create businesses together. They buy houses together. This co-operative shift makes the education dynamic suddenly very different. Classes where students team up are more likely to generate innovative thinking than individual study. Problem-solving can be done more quickly in groups rather than separately. So the insight is, enable students to work together more. Enable them to spark ideas off each other, to come to new conclusions and reach new insights. Let them learn together and the results can be surprisingly effective.

 

Embracing the technology, rather than resisting it, is also essential. Philippe Caignon, a 3M National Teaching Fellow, argues that digital learning can innovate and enrich teaching, and is an addition rather than a replacement for classical teaching methods. ‘Digital learning is the means through which professors can enhance their teaching strategies and adapt their pedagogy to the ever-changing needs of their students,’ he says. Quoted alongside Caignon in How to teach millennials? Embrace technology by Sara DuBreuil is Dr. Nancy Acemian, a professor in the Department of Computer Software and Engineering Department at Concordia University. ‘It is a win-win situation,’ she says. ‘Profs have more fun in class, students have more fun and are more engaged with the course content, which is the first step in learning.’

 

What we can be sure of is that if you respond to millennials in the language they understand – enable them to work with the technology they are familiar with, and treat them responsibly, they will enhance the organisation and hopefully won’t jump ship at the first opportunity. Millennials will make up 75% of the working population by 2025. It’s their world now, and it’s the older generation who need to adapt to them; not the other way round.

 

Sources

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/deniserestauri/2015/08/30/millennial-handbook-lesson-3-only-i-can-create-this-opportunity-for-myself/#d60164350117

 

http://gsvtomorrow.com/market-commentary/the-tattoo-generation/

 

http://www.fastcompany.com/3056674/the-future-of-work/no-millennials-dont-need-special-treatment-to-thrive-at-work

 

http://www.fastcompany.com/3054158/the-future-of-work/8-myths-about-millennials-at-work-that-need-to-die

 

http://evolllution.com/opinions/lessons-millennials-adult-students-reflection/

 

http://www.fastcompany.com/3046989/what-millennial-employees-really-want

 

http://www.concordia.ca/cunews/main/stories/2015/01/21/2015-winter-teaching-and-learning-festival-to-teach-millennials-embrace-technology.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/29/uk-consumes-far-less-ons-crops-energy-metals-average-material-consumption

 

http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/tomprof/posting.php?ID=1047

 

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2011/may-june-11/teaching-the-millennials.html

 

 

 

The opportunities for virtual reality

ELU 1

 

Does virtual reality have a place in the classroom, or is it a distraction – a gimmick to lure students with exciting technology, rather than traditional learning?

The answers might surprise you. But first, let’s consider some background context about virtual reality (VR). Essentially, VR consists of computer-generated images that appear on a headset. As well as sound and images, it can create sensory experiences too – with hand controllers in place, wearers can touch digital objects, move them around and influence their digital environment.

 

Whilst the obvious audience for VR is gaming and immersive entertainment, the opportunities for business are huge too. Writing in TechCrunch, Sean Jacobsohn outlines the likely first beneficiaries for VR technology – among them medicine, manufacturing, engineering, real estate and, most usefully for our purposes, education.

 

Transformative results in several fields are already being experienced. ‘Just last month,’ Jacobsohn writes, ‘a group of surgeons in Miami was able to perform open heart surgery on a four-month-old baby thanks to VR imaging software and a Google Cardboard Viewer.’ In factories, VR is being used ‘to optimize product engineering, design, manufacturing and operations,’ with Ford using it to ‘design new vehicles, develop autonomous vehicle technologies and collaborate with teammates across the globe.’ And in real estate, ‘brokers and developers are using virtual reality tours to speed up leasing and sales.’

 

The uses of VR in education

In the classroom, there are several key benefits that VR can bring. The first is how it enhances learning by creating immersive experiences. ‘Much of this early foray into VR­-based learning has centered on the hard sciences — biology, anatomy, geology and astronomy — as the curricular focus and learning opportunities are notably enriched through interaction with dimensional objects, animals and environments,’ Elizabeth Reede, co-founder of WoofbertVR, explains. And ‘in other areas of education, many classes have used VR tools to collaboratively construct architectural models, recreations of historic or natural sites and other spatial renderings.’

 

It’s well-known that we learn more effectively if we experience things visually. So VR is not a gimmick; rather, it is an enhancing tool that can benefit education in almost limitless ways. ‘This global distribution of VR content and access will undoubtedly influence a pedagogical shift as these new technologies allow a literature teacher in Chicago to “take” her students to Verona to look at the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, or a teacher in the Bronx to “bring” her Ancient Civilizations class to the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza,’ as Reede evocatively puts it.

 

Second is the way VR can teach students to work collaboratively. Writing in Singularity Hub, Jason Ganz takes this idea a step further. ‘The idea of VR education truly becomes useful when you combine VR with another disruptive technology – project-based learning (PBL). PBL is a teaching methodology which focuses students on large, long-term projects to solve real world problems.’ Ganz offers the example of tasking students with designing a sustainable building. They are graded on architectural design prowess and engineering feasibility as well as the sustainability element of the project.

 

What VR can do, that a classically taught project can’t do, is that it’s able to calculate, for example, the energy usage of the building. Learning by trial and error becomes enjoyable, rather than laborious, because you can keep re-working the building until it is right. That way, the student learns things that he or she wouldn’t otherwise learn. You can discover innovations by experimenting. You get to understand how the mechanics of being on site work, without having to leave the classroom. In effect, you’re getting a work placement experience, without having to leave the lecture hall.

 

VR could thus address the problem of students not being ‘adequately prepared for the jobs that exist in the modern, information economy,’ Ganz says. In his view, with classical education ‘students are being prepared for a world that doesn’t exist any more.’ Instead, by creating a culture of education that allows students ‘to work together to foster innovation, we will actively be creating citizens who are prepared for the challenges of the modern world.’

 

Consider how some universities are already using VR in this way. Writing in EdTech, Dave Doucette points to Virginia Tech, which is now using VR to ‘help researchers visualize Big Data in new and innovative ways.’ The modelling capabilities of VR have been exploited by ‘a team from the institution’s geography department [which] combined atmospheric and ground data to recreate the sights and sounds of the EF-5 tornado that ravaged Oklahoma in May 2013.’ And at the University of Maryland, similar data analysis and manipulation has been performed ‘inside the Augmentarium, a space on the main campus at College Park that combines projection displays, augmented reality visors and more.’ Here, the intention is to help generate new insights into astronomy, biology and atmospheric and oceanic studies.

 

Not only can VR enhance the classroom experience, lead to innovation and give students real-world experiences, it can significantly improve learning at a distance. Currently, it’s often assumed that whilst distance learning can be an excellent adjunct to classroom-based education, students will always learn better when they are in a room with a lecturer. With VR, that distinction between being in a classroom versus being in your home office becomes more blurred. As Peter Diamindis puts it in Singularity Hub, ‘Why go to conferences, school, or travel for business if you can have richer, deeper experiences from the comfort of your living room?’

 

Optimising the possibilities

What about the future? And what do business schools need to do differently, once they have looked at investing in HR?

 

Getting students to work collaboratively leads to a probable eventual outcome – social VR. We need ‘collaborative virtual reality communities which connect people from around the world and allow them to work together on real world problems,’ says Jason Ganz. ‘Social virtual reality is going to be an absolute game changer for collaboration,’ he says, arguing that it will make students feel like they are actually in the room with another person. ‘Very soon,’ Ganz believes, ‘we’ll start to see virtual reality seminars, meetup groups and hackerspaces.’

 

Quoted in The Near Future of VR and AR: What You Need to Know on Singularity Hub, Philip Rosedale, CEO of High Fidelity outlines several changes that he believes will influence take-up of VR over the next three years or so. Briefly, they are:

 

  • Screen resolution will match visual brain input. ‘There will be a moment when we can’t tell the difference between reality and virtual/augmented reality (at least with our eyes),’ Rosedale says.
  • Eye tracking will add presence and control. ‘Once you put screens next to somebody’s face, you can also watch their eyes moving.’ This means that in a VR meeting, ‘you’ll be able to make eye contact with people. It also means you can control your computer. You’ll be able to use your eye as a mouse.’
  • Face-tracking creates real appearances, not just avatars. Hardware near a face can measure and track that face. ‘This means we’ll be able to animate you at a distance, talking to somebody else with a perfect representation of your facial movements.’ Your avatar in the meeting will ‘move and express itself emotionally like you do.’
  • More benefits for distance learning. ‘If you can buy your kid a $600 virtual reality headset, and they can study five times as fast as anybody else, and they don’t have to be in a particular neighborhood or near a school to do it, they are just going to adopt these things. They are that much better.’
  • Screens will become obsolete. Future devices ‘will allow you to view a virtual TV anywhere, on any wall, or a mobile phone screen on the palm of your hand, or the air in front of you,’ which means that there will be no need to carry ‘clunky glass devices in your pockets’ or even have a TV on the wall any longer.

     

    None of the above are sci-fi possibilities or future dreams. They are all within reach; the technology is there, and the advances are in all cases happening already in prototype or not far away. Sums in excess of $5 billion have been invested in both VR and AR (augmented reality – which we’ll look at in another article) over the past two years by every major technology company, including Google, Microsoft, HTC and Samsung. It’s not a fad or a gimmick – it’s here to stay, and it’s worthwhile for universities to develop a strategy now about when, and to what extent, they will invest in the technology.

Sources

Technology boot camps – do they work?

The tech sector is one of the fastest-growing industries globally – and with this increasing market comes the need for more jobs. In the US, demand for computer specialists is expected to have increased by over three quarters of a million jobs in the decade up to the end of 2018, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor. ‘New com­puter specialist jobs will rise in almost every industry,’ says David Clinefelter, Chief Academic Officer at the Learning House in The Evolllution, and ‘roughly half will be located in the computer systems de­sign industry, which is expected to employ more than one in four computer specialists in 2018.’

 

But where will all these highly trained computer specialists come from? And in such a fast-changing marketplace, how will computer science graduates stay up to speed for these new roles? A criticism sometimes made of traditional degrees is that students ‘don’t always get the hands-on experience they need to land their first jobs,’ writes Tara García Mathewson in Education Dive. That’s compounded by the fast-changing nature of tech jobs – what worked a year ago doesn’t work now, and what worked five years ago is ancient history. Because of the nature of the role is so quick to change – people always want the latest technology – there’s a perceived skills gap.

 

In response, ‘several coding boot camps have incorporated project experience into their programs,’ says Mathewson. These include Free Code Camp, which places students with not-for-profit organisations that have vacancies for programmers.

 

‘Traditional computer science programs have not been able to keep pace with the demand,’ agrees Clinefelter. ‘The combination of highly motivated students in an immersive environment with veteran practitioners as faculty, coupled with a competency-based curriculum focused on entry-level knowledge, in an industry with a shortage of talent results in an ideal learning environment.’

 

On the way up

Boot camps are a rapidly increasing market. In North America there are more than 300 camps across 51 cities in the US and Canada. According to Course Report, which compares different coding schools for prospective students, the market is expected to have grown by almost 250% in 2015, to an estimated 16,056 graduates – an increase from 6,740 the previous year. All this from a flat base just a few years ago.

 

What happens in these immersive programmes, which can involve studying up to 10 hours a day, or longer? ‘Generally… students spend six to 15 weeks with small groups of peers learning web development skills’ says Michelle R Weise, Executive Director of Sandbox ColLABorative, Southern New Hampshire University, in a separate article in The Evolllution. Costs vary, but will usually be ‘between $10k and $20k.’

 

Impressive figures 

What about job placement rates? The Software Guild claims a 95% placement rate within 90 days of graduation. Most will present job attainment rates from somewhere between 63% and 99%, according to Weise. These are better odds, as she points out, ‘than the 57% placement rate of law-school graduates’ that the American Bar Association quotes. Alice Truong in Fast Company refers to Hack Reactor, which looks for candidates who have some coding experience, boot camps them in San Francisco and then promises a 98% job placement rate within three months of graduating, with an average subsequent salary of $110,000.

 

However, these figures are perhaps not quite as straightforward as they might first appear. Many boot camp graduates will already have completed a first degree, and some will have coding experience already, as the Hack Reactor example makes clear. In these cases it’s not a substitute for university; it’s a top-up experience that talented workers use to hone their skills and knowledge. Fast Company, quoting the founder of Course Report Adam Lovallo, points out that ‘the goal is to find whether these coding programs are just taking in people that are already employed and highly qualified and helping them change careers, or if they are taking in people and producing graduates that really substantially increase their earning potential.’

 

In other words, are the figures indicative of great success by the boot camps, or are they essentially highly-qualified people who would be likely to get jobs anyway? There’s no way of disentangling that from the stats, but it’s worth bearing in mind when reading figures of close to 100% placements.

 

What can’t be denied is that the major players in the tech industry like the look of boot camp grads. Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter are all known to hire straight out of boot camps. Politically, too, an awareness of their value is rapidly increasing. As Michelle R Weise says, ‘the Obama Administration has been particularly enthusiastic about boot camps. In fact, the federal government seems to be fully aware of the burgeoning of alternative learning pathways that lead to middle- and high-skills jobs in demand today.’ Examples of these programmes include Udacity, which offers ‘nanodegrees’, edX which runs ‘Xseries’, and Coursera’s ‘Specializations’.

 

Such partnership models are likely to increase, as businesses and universities try to close the gaps between what traditional education models offer, and what workplaces actively need.

 

Matching workplace needs with learning outcomes

So could coding boot camps eventually replace traditional computer science degrees? It seems an unlikely question, but one which is being asked in some quarters. At present, boot camps are still seen as a poorer relation to university; but if the key purpose of university is to get a job, and boot camps can provide them, how vital is the traditional schooling model?

 

Online boot camp Bloc, for example, offers a course that can be taken part-time over a period of 72 weeks and includes computer science fundamentals ‘that top engineering companies continue to look for in employees,’ according to Tara García Mathewson. Mathewson quotes Bloc’s CEO Clint Schmidt who ‘says it’s a common refrain from employers — that computer science fundamentals are important and that they teach students how to think about software and how to use it to solve complex problems.’

 

Significantly, Bloc offers a job placement guarantee. ‘Graduates are eligible for a complete reimbursement of the $24,000 tuition if they don’t find a job within four months that offers at least $60,000 per year,’ Mathewson writes. ‘We’re designing this software engineering track to meet the very acute need in the market,’ Schmidt is quoted as saying, ‘but without requiring students to spend four years and a couple hundred thousand dollars in tuition to do it.’

 

Funding issues 

As tuition costs at traditional institutions have risen, prospective students are more aware than ever of the need to ensure their investment in their education pays off at the other end. ‘Coding boot camps are providing a tempting alternative to a two- or four-year program, especially when they offer such job guarantees,’ Mathewson writes. She goes on to mention the Viking Code School and the App Academy, which operate on a ‘free’ model similar to the way student loans work – collecting tuition fees further down the line by taking a proportion of the graduate’s salary once they are in the workforce. Both Bloc and Code Fellows, Mathewson points out, ‘offer a refund to students who don’t find jobs using the skills they acquired through the program.’

 

Then there’s Flatiron, which offers a 12- to 15-week program for $15,000 and places students into jobs ‘99% of the time with median starting salaries of $74k,’ according to Michelle R Weise. ‘Students who may not even have a bachelor’s degree are landing jobs at places like the New York Times, Etsy, Goldman Sachs and Google,’ she adds.

 

Even so, one of the factors slowing down the growth of boot camps as a viable alternative to traditional universities is funding. To date, they have not qualified for federal funding in the US in the way that classical study centres do. This situation, however, is rapidly changing. EQUIP – Educational Quality Through Innovative Partnerships – is an Obama-led initiative designed to help some non-traditional educational providers, such as boot camps, access federal money.

 

‘What this experiment does is waive the rules (for a small number of test sites) where schools are limited from using more than 50% of content or instruction from another entity,’ says Joshua Kim in Inside Higher Ed. The aim is win-win for students, enabling them to use non-traditional learning establishments, helping them get the tailored education they need, and achieving the hands-on skills that employers want – without breaking the bank.

 

A mix of skills

It’s not time to start sounding the death knell for traditional models just yet. The advice to potential students is to choose your course carefully and decide if a boot camp on its own is really going to be enough, or whether your career prospects are best served by a mix of university and boot camp top-up. Certainly, be cautious about online-only courses. A mix of face-to-face learning and online components is the optimum way to get the best education at the best price. And whilst boot camps work well for tech – we are talking specifically about coding – nothing compares with the wider benefits of being in a university scenario; having time to absorb and apply the information you learn, the social benefits of mixing with peers, and the distillation of theoretical knowledge to accompany the practical.

 

As Rob Gonzalez in The Crunch points out, ‘the field is constantly evolving and changing — with more things to learn and discover every year than you could learn in a lifetime.’ Universities might have their work cut out a little more to compete with boot camps, but the wider picture is still of vital importance.

 

Sources

 

http://evolllution.com/revenue-streams/market_opportunities/serious-students-only-coding-bootcamps-success-for-workforce-preparation/

 

http://techcrunch.com/2015/12/19/having-success-with-code-bootcamps-where-to-work-as-a-bootcamp-grad/

 

http://www.educationdive.com/news/can-a-coding-bootcamp-replace-a-four-year-degree/410059/

 

http://www.fastcompany.com/3029844/fast-feed/coding-bootcamps-expected-to-reap-59-million-in-tuition-in-2014

 

http://evolllution.com/revenue-streams/market_opportunities/joining-forces-with-the-disruptors-snhus-partnership-with-flatiron-school/

 

http://kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-sections/staff-editorials/10005/your-kid-needs-to-learn-to-code/

 

https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/technology-and-learning/4%C2%A0reasons%C2%A0why%C2%A0equip%C2%A0is%C2%A0a%C2%A0big%C2%A0deal

 

http://www.fastcompany.com/3023456/become-an-ios-developer-in-8-weeks-the-truth-about-hack-schools

 

http://blog.ed.gov/2015/10/educational-quality-through-innovative-partnerships-equip-expanding-access-to-high-quality-innovative-postsecondary-education/