Reinventing General Education for the Future of Work and Learning
Concurrent Session 4
In this session, we will share our approach to reimagining our general education core curriculum for adult learners where the essential workforce skills and behaviors that are critical to the future of work are introduced, practiced, and mastered through the lens of traditional liberal arts disciplines.
The future of learning and work are changing. An astonishing 96% of chief academic officers think that their institutions are effective at preparing students for work, yet only 14% of Americans and only 11% of businesses agree (National Issues Forum, 2015). And we can see why this is happening. In many cases, core general education curriculum, which can account for up to 40% of a student’s undergraduate degree program, hasn’t radically changed. The gap between workforce skills and liberal arts in higher education is not a new topic. The debate about the purpose of higher education, whether it’s to focus on career preparation or to build educated citizens, can be summarized by saying we need to accomplish both. Efforts to date have focused on add-ons to the curricular experience more than changing the actual core of the curriculum. Common approaches do not integrate skills and liberal arts in an explicit way, and instead require students to take a core set of courses in liberal arts along with their professional major (Council of Independent Colleges, 2015). Other approaches focus on adding career services and experiential opportunities (CIC, 2015). It is no wonder that students graduate without clearly knowing what skills they have gained in their coursework and how they can apply them to their future work and life. We know the importance of clarity in online learning from an instructional perspective. Why would we not create curriculum that is just as clear as the instructions we provide in courses?
In this session, we will share our work to date on reimagining general education core curriculum for online adult learners through an approach where the workforce skills and behaviors that are critical to the future of work are in the forefront and introduced, practiced, and mastered through the lens of traditional liberal arts disciplines.
The entire general education curriculum was designed with new courses explicitly tied to measurable competency-based skills and infused with behavioral-based skills that are developed throughout a students entire degree journey. This approach is more than simply taking current general education courses and mapping them to skills. It is about taking the skills and integrating the general education areas, flipping the model of how to think and present general education curriculum for adult learners. This has resulted in a unique set of courses that deliver on the top 10 workforce skills we researched and determined are critical for success through mapping to frameworks and standards such as the AAC&U Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Value Rubrics, the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) from the Lumina Foundation and National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, the Quality Assurance Commons Essential Employability Qualities (EEQ), and employer skills requested as identified through Burning Glass Technologies job market data and reports.
The skills are communication, problem-solving, digital proficiency, data analysis, productivity & execution, agility, confidence, self & social awareness, drive, and creativity. Five of the skills are clearly and easily tied to competencies that can be explicitly measured through real-world course assessments in areas such as collaboration, persuasion, active listening, mathematical reasoning, planning, and technology use to just name a few. The other five requires innovative, new approaches to teaching and measuring skills that do not lend themselves to traditional methods. In this session we will explore the question, “How does one teach and measure behavioral skill components such as empathy, urgency, adaptability, self-motivation, and initiative?”.
Participants will learn about the work to date on this innovative approach which draws upon a unique course design method utilizing story-driven learning, using technology to help change behaviors and habits, and providing a gamified, microcredential approach to motivating adult learners. The session is designed to be open and collaborative to seek out new ideas and thoughtful discussion on the future of learning and work for adults seeking online higher education.
Council of Independent Colleges. (2015, July). Career Preparation and the Liberal Arts. (Innovations in Teaching and Learning Research Brief No.3). Retrieved from
National Issues Forum. (2015, January). The Changing World of Work. Retrieved from https://www.nifi.org/en/catalog/product/changing-world-work-issue-guide-downloadable-pdf