Two higher education experts discuss the overarching benefits of higher ed alternative pathways, as well as the roadblocks and pitfalls to their success.
Career and Technical Education (CTE), competency-based learning, digital badging, credentialing, and coding bootcamps are becoming some of the fastest-growing, and oft-discussed, alternative pathways for learning in higher education—mainly due to the promise of entry in today’s increasingly selective job market. But do these non-traditional on-ramps to postsecondary ed always lead to successful implementations within institutions; and are students really getting their investments’ worth?
In our recent Symposium, two higher education experts—one specializing in education research and one in policy analysis—discuss the overarching benefits of alternative higher-ed pathways, as well as the roadblocks and pitfalls to their success.
Though both agree that non-traditional learning pathways are needed for today’s diverse student body seeking entry into the job market, Alana Dunagan, higher education researcher at the Clayton Christensen Institute discusses traditional programs’ problems in implementation and adaptation of multiple career-based pathways.
In “3 Alternative Pathways Primed to Disrupt Higher Education,” Dunagan writes:
“Traditional learning models have been protected not only by regulation, but also by the mystique of the four-year degree. With limited ability to assess competencies and skills, employers have used the bachelor’s degree—and the prestige of the institution that granted it—as a proxy for the information in which they were really interested. So far, bootcamps have provided the clearest evidence that this won’t always be the case, and as badging and competency-based programs become more standardized and accepted by employers, traditional students may begin to see value in them as well.
Will traditional institutions begin to incorporate these new trends into their programming?
So far, there are limited examples of established institutions adopting alternative credentialing. A few institutions are exploring badging, and many are offering online courses, but most traditional institutions are proceeding with business as usual. In fact, what has been notable so far is the lackof success in implementing innovative pathways, even where institutions have made impressive efforts to do so.”
(Next page: Alternative pathways often lead to dead-ends—but why?)
Mary Alice McCarthy, senior policy analyst for the Education Policy Program at New America relates how antiquated policy is hindering the overall vital pathway between CTE and bachelor degrees.
In “Too Many Higher Education On-Ramps lead to Dead-Ends,” McCarthy writes:
“Forcing students to choose between programs that will either help them pick up valuable skills in the short-term or lead to valuable credentials in the long-term does not make sense. But our higher education system is surprisingly unfriendly to efforts to connect academic and vocational pathways below the bachelor’s degree. This resistance to creating more pathways to the BA is one of the least appreciated factors driving our stubbornly low degree attainment rates: we have too many entry points into higher education that are dead-ends.
It does not have to be this way. Vocational education does not have to be terminal. In fact, the best vocational systems in Europe provide a series of connected programs that start in high school but can lead to advanced degrees. A number of countries are building out “higher vocational” sectors, with polytechnic or applied universities and degree programs that provide opportunities for advancement for those who started their education on vocational tracks.”
Read both authors’ full essays here: http://www.ecampusnews.com/symposium/
And be sure to catch our upcoming Symposium at the end of May, which discusses whether or not standardized assessments can work to higher education’s advantage. Simply click on the Symposium link above.
Have a higher ed topic you believe would make for a great Symposium discussion? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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