These are the most in-demand skills in the United States

Americans looking to upskill online are focusing on hard skills they can use in the workplace, according to new data released by Alison. The list of the top 10 most popular courses on Alison, a free e-learning site, was dominated by Customer Service, IT, and workplace skills like time management.

Health and education related courses also claimed many of the top spots, including courses focusing on mental health, working with students with special needs and teaching English as a foreign language.

Olga Crehan, Course Publisher at Alison, said: “We’re bridging a gap between what people learn through their formal education, and what they need to know to be successful at work and in life. We know from learner feedback that these courses often mean the difference between getting that new promotion or job and not getting it.”

Headquartered in Ireland, Alison provides more than 750 online courses to almost 10 million learners worldwide, including more than one million users based in the US. The organization provides a wide range of free courses for people who want to upskill including languagesbusiness and project management.

Colm O’Dwyer, Course Publisher, at Alison, said: “We’re constantly looking at which courses people are most hungry for, and we plan our future course content according to that. Over the next six months, our learners are going to see a dramatic upswing in the number of courses on offer.”

Top 10 most popular courses in the United States

1.    Customer Service Training

2.    HIV/AIDS – Awareness & Prevention

3.    Working with Students with Special Education Needs

4.    Alison ABC IT – Computer Training Suite

5.    Fundamentals of Human Resources

6.    Touch Typing Training

7.    Fundamentals of Network Security

8.    Introduction to Teaching English as a Second Language

9.    Introduction to Time Management

10.  Fundamentals of Accounting

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Ranking report: Is your state among the best for higher education?

Virginia tops a new ranking that analyzes the best states for higher education. The state took the No. 1 spot based on its ability to educate its residents and high graduation rates.

The annual list, from financial technology company SmartAsset, compares four-year public colleges and universities using various metrics such as undergraduate graduation rates, average net price, 20-year return on investment (ROI), and the student-faculty ratio.

Virginia consistently appears in the annual ranking’s top states. It has one of the highest average graduation rates in the study (70 percent); and the average 20-year ROI for graduates is $442,660–the fourth-highest ROI in the study. For 2017, both the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary rank among the top 10 public universities in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Rounding out the top 5 are:

California: The state’s average graduation rate is 63 percent–the eighth-highest in the country. Plus, the state of California has the second-highest ROI in that U.S. Graduates earn an average ROI of $459,656 over the course of 20 years.

(Next page: How the rest of the states stacked up)


How tech-based peer mentoring is radically changing recruitment

Too often, “old methods” of introducing high school students to college life still involve paid college-recruiting agents who visit their high school. These “college reps” introduce themselves, distribute printed information, discuss entrance requirements and invite applications.  For those with the time and resources, a “college visit” may be included.

Both systems are usually very structured and rarely involve actually talking with college-age students.  How often do high school students get the opportunity to talk with college students about being successful, both in high school and at the college level? The high school senior almost never speaks with more interesting and authentic people like first-year students, students in their area of interest, college and university professors, or students nearing graduation.

How Technology Can Change Antiquated Recruitment

21st century technologies have brought innovative communication directly into the high school and college classroom. It is the rare public school or college classroom that is not connected to the internet and does not have large screen projection capacity. These ubiquitous technologies now offer students a “window” to college students, life, expectations and recommendations for success.

High school classroom connectivity-integration tools like Skype and FaceTime may stimulate interest among students who may have never considered college. Given that the four-year college may not be for everyone, connectivity could be established between high schools and community colleges and vocational schools.

College Mentoring 2.0: The Purpose

College Mentoring 2.0 supports an authentic, real-time connective culture that supports communication between age groups and locations. High school students who have questions about a place or program can interact in real-time with near-age students within vocational, technical, community or four-year environment. Therefore, more experienced students can describe the realities of these more advanced learning experiences.

Creative applications of ubiquitous interactive technologies can provide participants with “believable and motivating” insight on prospective learning environments.

I designed and implemented just such an interactive, real time opportunity for high school seniors. My initiative accomplished three things: 1) high school students were able to ask college students questions about college life and studies; 2) college students and professors were able to offer suggestions to maximize college success; and finally 3) all of this was done in a highly engaging, no cost, no travel, no risk, innovative experience that applied proven and emerging technologies.

(Next page: Recruitment 2.0 set-up and tangible results)


New Trump laws will support women in STEM fields

President Donald Trump has signed two bills aimed at increasing the number of women who pursue entrepreneurial endeavors and space-related STEM careers.

“Currently, only 1 in every 4 women who gets a STEM degree is working in a STEM job, which is not fair and it’s not even smart for the people that aren’t taking advantage of it,” Trump said in remarks during the signing. “It’s unacceptable that we have so many American women who have these degrees but yet are not being employed in these fields. So I think that’s going to change. That’s going to change very rapidly.”

The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act authorizes the National Science Foundation “to encourage its entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world.”

The Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act “directs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), pursue careers in aerospace, and further advance the nation’s space science and exploration efforts through support of the following initiatives: NASA GIRLS and NASA BOYS; Aspire to Inspire; and Summer Institute in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research.”

(Next page: The alarming trend of few women in STEM fields)


Say what? Gaming boosts knowledge by 25 percent

Technology changes at a rapid pace, and educators have to keep up.

Check below for the latest marketplace news to keep you up-to-date on product developments, teaching and learning initiatives, and new trends in education.


Triseum’s game based learning development practices and rigorous design methods are creating a measurable impact on student outcomes. Newly released results from Triseum’s Fall 2016 research study aimed at measuring the learning efficacy of its ARTé: Mecenas™ game indicate that, after approximately two hours of game play, art history students who participated in the experimental group had a knowledge gain of 24.7 percent from pre-test to post-test. Read more.

College Access and Opportunity

In a new report from the American Talent Initiative (ATI), The University of Texas at Austin is one of five colleges and universities highlighted for its success expanding opportunity and boosting graduation rates for low- and moderate-income students. The report, “Funding Socioeconomic Diversity at High Performing Colleges and Universities,” analyzes strategies that have allowed the five institutions to increase student opportunities despite budgetary constraints. The other four institutions are the University of California at Berkeley, University of Richmond, Vassar College and Franklin & Marshall College. Read more.

Next page: Online learning, IT and infrastructure, and more


10 can’t-miss Open Education Week events

Open education is changing the way students, faculty and the world view higher education. After all, it has immense potential to help people of all ages and experience levels meet their individual learning goals.

What’s more, the use of open educational resources (OER) could triple in the next five years, according to some predictions. One of the driving forces behind the jump? Students who skip or defer classes due to the price of required textbooks or learning resources.

During the week of March 27, The Open Education Consortium is hosting Open Education Week in an effort to raise awareness about free and open educational opportunities that exist for everyone, everywhere, right now.

The group says it wants to highlight how open education can help people meet their goals in education, whether that’s to develop skills and knowledge for work, supporting formal studies, learning something new for personal interest, or looking for additional teaching resources.

Universities, colleges, schools and organizations from across the globe will showcase their efforts to make education more open, free, and available to everyone.

(Next page: 10 Open Education Week resources and events)


Warning: These fraud attacks are wreaking havoc on education

On March 14, it was reported in CSO (a leading cybersecurity outlet) that 110 organizations experiences successful phishing attacks targeting their W-2 records. This put more than 120,000 taxpayers at risk for identity fraud.  Despite warnings from the IRS in early February, employees continue to fall victim to the bad guys’ ploys.

This wildly successful phishing scheme works like this: malicious actors spoof (or pretend to be) the CEO or President of a company and email a CFO or similarly positioned employee to request copies of all employees’ W-2 forms. The employee falls victim to the fake email, shares confidential information and the damage is immediately done.

W-2 Fraud attacks are particularly dangerous because of the ongoing fall out. In fact, IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen wrote in a statement, “This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns.”

Fraud in Education

So why should education care? While once a problem isolated only in the corporate world, cybercriminals have extended their target base to target a wider range of organizations than ever before. Among the 110 victim organizations, many were schools: Northwestern College, The College of Southern Idaho, Daytona State, Groton School District in Connecticut, Redmond School District in Oregon, Yukon Public Schools in Oklahoma. This is only a sampling, but underscores that no entity is off-limits and that educational institutions need to take precautions to protect themselves.

Regardless of size, geographical region, level of education (secondary and higher ed), we’re seeing school employees across the board fall victim.

(Next page: How institutions and schools can protect against W-2 fraud)


App revolutionizes digital credentials, wins higher ed industry award

Digital platform pioneer Credly, in partnership with Lumina Foundation, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the American Council on Education (ACE), announced today the winner of a special ideation challenge aimed at generating breakthrough ideas to help bridge the skills gap for education and industry association leaders.

The winning submission by Chicago-based architect Larry Kearns is a concept for a web-based recruiting ecosystem that matches candidates with potential employers based on a data-driven record of their perspectives and skills, verified by digital credentials.

The judging panel found that Kearns’ proposal for a skill matching application brought a unique perspective to connecting employers and employees and offered an innovative approach to learning pathway design and the role played by industry and trade associations.

“As the competencies critical to success in today’s workforce continue to change, employers are increasingly seeking timely, verified evidence of specific knowledge and skills while recruiting,” said Jonathan Finkelstein, founder and CEO of Credly. “This crowdsourced challenge offers a reminder that great ideas can come from unexpected places, and we’re pleased to have partnered with Lumina Foundation, ACE and ASAE to surface innovative approaches to meeting the challenge of improving equity, access and efficiency in today’s labor market.”

Near-Miss Matching Feature

The application concept puts forth an innovative ‘near miss’ matching feature, which allows individuals to identify the select skills they need to acquire to pursue new career opportunities and pathways. Kearns’ proposal offers pairs employers with candidates based on a target set of skills, instead of job titles and opaque proxies for relevant qualifications.

“As an architect, each day I design spaces that challenge status quo notions about what learning environments should look like,” said Kearns. “I’m passionate about creating innovative solutions that unlock the human capital in my own city of Chicago. This challenge gave me the opportunity to ideate about closing the skills gap between job seekers and employers. I can’t think of a more important problem to solve.”

Ideation Challenge

Launched in November, the ideation challenge sought innovative ideas in training and credentialing to better bridge the gap between education, associations, who are some of the most active issuers of industry-related certificates and credentials, and employers looking for qualified candidates and greater diversity.

“Associations play a pivotal role in the definition, teaching and credentialing of industry-specific knowledge, skills and competencies,” said Rhonda Payne, chief learning officer at ASAE. “The crowdsourced challenge showcased a wide variety of perspectives on this central truth and helped highlight the transformative potential that digital credentials have to function as a data-rich currency to facilitate career pathways and workforce opportunities.”

“As the skills demanded by the jobs of today and tomorrow continuously evolve, so must our approach to providing flexible pathways for students to get there,” said Kara Gwaltney, director of College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT) at ACE. “This challenge and the collaboration with ASAE, Lumina and Credly helped put a spotlight on agile, relevant and personalized learning, which is empowering students to take ownership of their professional and intellectual growth.”

John Duong, the Director of Lumina Impact Ventures added, “The community of solvers demonstrated great energy, creativity and enthusiasm for this challenge. The innovative approaches they proposed shed new light on how digital credential technology can create opportunities to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality credentials, consistent the foundation’s mission.”

In addition to a monetary award, Kearns presented an overview of his winning solution at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference in Orlando, Florida, in early March. Two second place winners were also selected for their proposals. They included a team from the Vreeland Institute, including Thomas S. Vreeland, and a team from M Powered Strategies (MPS). The winning proposals are available for review at

Material from a press release was used in this report.


What will learning look like in 2025?

Dawn breaks on a gorgeous morning in summer 2025. Peter has been waiting for this for months. It’s New Student Orientation Day at My University, Peter’s customized version of four formerly separate independent colleges that functionally merged several years earlier.

The Student Experience in 2025

Orientation through VR

He readies himself quickly and by 8:30 a.m. carefully opens the box he recently received from Student Life. He takes out the virtual reality (VR) visor, adjusts it, and touches the switch. Instantly, he is on campus, being welcomed by Perpetua, his personal orientation leader. VR has made it possible for each student to have a fully individualized campus that is populated with other students (also in VR mode) who may be physically located anywhere, but whose campus experience is in the VR university.

Perpetua escorts Peter to the session, where she introduces him to several other students. All of them will get to know each other well, as they all will be enrolled in the same set of courses and will participate in many other activities together.

Scheduling through AI

Peter’s small group joins other students for the program. Several skits and presentations that cover the usual topics for new student orientation provide virtual interactive roles for new students to play. After the orientation session, Peter and his friends are told to check their Personal Learning Space for important updates.

Peter discovers that while he was orienting, the smart registration and student information system had identified him through a visor-based retinal scan, analyzed his academic file, and already handled registration and filed all his course materials in his personal cloud storage. Bidding Perpetua and his new friends goodbye, Peter leaves the VR campus and goes about his day.

Fully-Immersive Course Content

Two days later, Peter is ready to attend class. He finds that the learning experience is equally immersive. Through state-of-the-art real presence, each student interacts with other learners and the faculty member. It’s as if Peter’s living room has turned into a holodeck: Course content is fully immersive, so he is virtually present during the building of the pyramids, or the Gettysburg battle, or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In a real sense, the classroom has become his green screen.

Peter’s competency evaluations will also take advantage of VR when possible, and so they may entail running virtual what-if scenarios of alternative outcomes to famous historical events, or doing careful real-time comparisons of artifacts that reside in different museums, or performing with musical players in virtual orchestras at a level of sophistication that the composer Eric Whitacre can only dream of today.

Peter often attends class while standing or sitting on a mat that allows him full range of motion to physically engage in the learning by walking around each virtual set.

(Next page: The faculty experience in 2025)


6 growing trends taking over academic libraries

Spreading digital fluency is now a core responsibility of academic libraries, and Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) are poised to amplify the utility and reach of library services like never before. These are just two of the revelations part of the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Chur, Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB), ETH Library, and the Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Annual Horizon Report: 2017 Library Edition.

The report, which decides the trends and technologies that will have a dramatic influence on academic libraries in the next 5 years—thanks to a panel of 75 experts composed of library leaders, librarians, technologists, industry leaders, and other key stakeholders from 14 countries—aims to help leaders seeking inspiration, models, and tactical insight around strategy and technology deployment for academic libaries.

Watch the Video Summary:

“We are invigorated that the partnerships behind our library report have grown even stronger over three editions,” said Eden Dahlstrom, executive director of the NMC, in a statement. “Academic and research libraries are not just a vital part of scholarship, but also advancing knowledge and society as a whole. They play an important role as curators and purveyors of high-quality research, supported by innovative infrastructure.”

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption

According to the report, the trends that will affect technology use and adoption in academic libraries are:

(Short-Term, 1-2 years):

  • Research Data Management: The growing availability of research reports through online library databases is making it easier for students, faculty, and researchers to access and build upon existing ideas and work. “Archiving the observations that lead to new ideas has become a critical part of disseminating reports,” says the report.
  • Valuing the User Experience: Librarians are now favoring more user-centric approaches, leveraging data on patron touchpoints to identify needs and develop high-quality engaging experiences.

(Mid-Term, 3-5 years):

  • Patrons as Creators: Students, faculty, and researchers across disciplines are learning by making and creating rather than by simply consuming content. Creativity, as illustrated by the growth of user-generated videos, maker communities, and crowdfunded projects in the past few years, is increasingly the means for active, hands-on learning. People now look to libraries to assist them and provide tools for skill-building and making.
  • Rethinking Library Spaces: At a time when discovery can happen anywhere, students are relying less on libraries as the sole source for accessing information and more for finding a place to be productive. As a result, institutional leaders are starting to reflect on how the design of library spaces can better facilitate the face-to-face interactions.

(Long-Term, 5 or more years):

  • Cross-Institution Collaboration: Within the current climate of shrinking budgets and increased focus on digital collections, collaborations enable libraries to improve access to scholarly materials and engage in mission-driven cooperative projects.
  • Evolving Nature of the Scholarly Record: Once limited to print-based journals and monographic series, scholarly communications now reside in networked environments and can be accessed through an expansive array of publishing platforms. “As different kinds of scholarly communication are becoming more prevalent on the web, librarians are expected to discern the legitimacy of these innovative approaches and their impact in the greater research community through emerging altmetrics tools,” notes the report.

(Next page: The 6 influential technologies on the academic library horizon)