St. Louis, Bethesda, Providence and Long Beach. These were the locations for this year's UPCEA regional Conferences. uConnect participated in all four of these great events that brought together leaders from the world of Professional Studies, Continuing Ed. and Online Education. Here's my 5 takeaways from the conferences
1. Lifelong learning is being redefined. Propelled by what experts predict will be an increase in the need for episodic learning, students will become lifelong learners focusing on critical competencies as they continue to need to reskill and upskill to keep up with evolving workforce needs. With more new jobs needing to be filled, including those that didn’t even exist as recently as 5 years ago, learners will need to rely on Professional, Continuing and Online (PCO) programs to keep pace as they progress through their career pathways.
2. PCO is becoming the innovation incubator. PCO is becoming more of a focal point at institutions and because they can be more nimble than other areas, they are able to challenge traditional practices. During a keynote at UPCEA New England, Karen Sibley, Dean of the School of Professional Studies, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, Vice Chair, Department of Education Brown University shared that “Institutions are embracing the increasing importance of PCO and are recognizing, in order to drive student success, that adult learners require different types of support than have traditionally been provided.”
3. Breaking down barriers from admissions to completion. Institutions are responding by becoming more focused on the PCO student experience and breaking down barriers – from the admissions process through completion. Support is being tailored to their specific needs. For example, enrollment advisors provide guidance to students who are applying and have not been in an academic setting for some time, and may struggle with requirements to provide an academic reference. When it comes to career, institutions are recognizing that these students aren’t looking for advice on how to land their first job. Instead, they need resources that will help them understand how to accelerate their career, change industries or tackle other advanced career challenges.
4. Millennial managers are becoming the majority. Higher education is being shaped by the growing audience of millennials. This group is quickly becoming the majority of decision-makers, influencers, managers, directors, and organizational leaders and are projected to outnumber baby boomers in the workforce by 2020. As we adapt PCO programs to attract millennials, it is important to understand how millennials differ from previous generations in their views on higher education. Millennials are more open to non-traditional education options and are inherently more skeptical of traditional degree programs. Millennials require many more proof-points than previous generations before they buy, and are focused on the ROI of higher education. Since the millennial generation spans across 15 years, there are differences within millennials based on factors such as the group of millennials that entered the workforce during the 2008 recession. Across all millennials, the biggest factor the leads to dissatisfaction is the length of time it took to find a job after graduation.
5. Career before courses is the new student mantra. UPCEA’s president, Sandi Pershing, said, “incoming students are thinking of career before courses.” Adult learners, millennials and really all students, are savvy consumers of education and need to understand the ROI before committing to a program. These students want to understand what their financial and time investments will yield in terms of impact on career. Too many programs are highlighting specifics around courses and not career outcomes even though it’s career that is driving students to enroll.