High-tech skills required to succeed in 21st century
“Highlight areas, develop skills, and bring subjects into awareness,” would be a statement you would find in any top-ranked university. But a recent survey suggests that less than a quarter of faculty in higher education would agree with the statement: “It is imperative to address the needs of non-traditional learners, including adults who are online and those who are in the early years of their studies.”
Even with increasing evidence that college students must incorporate more leisure time into their academic practices in order to thrive, the accreditation of online education practices by national and state standards is lagging. There are laws that mandate certifications for only specific areas of undergraduate education, such as courses in mass communications or human resources.
Research by Andrew Reit, an associate professor of management at the University of Arizona, found that only two states, Nevada and Washington, require professional-development certificates that include college-level courses for professionals. The federal office that regulates student-loan servicers does not require colleges to accommodate dropouts because there are no statutory standards in place.
“With so much emphasis on getting more time in classrooms, we have to be doing the same thing for adult learners who take time to set priorities and flexibly manage their time,” says Melissa Moore of Market Planners, a New York-based strategic planning and marketing firm. “It’s also important to attract students who may face specific barriers, such as those working full-time, those with low incomes, and those with special challenges such as children.”
“It’s our challenge to ensure that schools and colleges provide authentic, engaging experiences that reflect real life,” Moore says. In addition to inclusive curricula, accessibility and community benefits are also crucial.
“We provide resources to help colleges and universities make their programs and offices more welcoming and responsive to the needs of diverse populations,” says Jim Melville, president of the National Alliance for Adult and Experiential Learning (NAAPEL).
“NAAPEL and their partner organizations have been working with college presidents to ensure that their campuses are designed in a way that enables students to seamlessly transition between online and on-campus classrooms,” he says.
The organization represents nonprofits and educational institutions that offer adult and experiential education programs in the U.S. NAAPEL research shows that 61 percent of adult learners would attend another institution if they knew it was in addition to the credit-bearing portion of their education. What’s more, more than half of adult learners say they would take classes outside of the normal academic year, and that they would work long hours during the school year and overnight on weekends.
“The real time issue cannot be solved by shrinking the academic calendar,” says Andrew Halpern, professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, and author of How Work and Family Interrelate in the Digital Age.