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  • Finding a Career Through a Journey, Not a Series of Steps

    by LearnEd

    Young boy with cardboard wings strapped to his back

    Robin Baliszewski speaking at a recent company event.
    Robin Baliszewski speaking at a recent company event.

    Following the Learning

    As Robin Baliszewski reflects on the twists and turns of her three decades in education, she says she always put a premium on applying what she was learning to guide her in her career.

    "I was a biology major in college with an undeclared minor in philosophy," Robin says. "I thought I wanted to go to medical school and I realized that as much as I loved science, my interests were broad."

    back porch

    After graduation and a summer working three jobs, she went on a low-budget trip through Europe with some friends.

    "When I returned home, I remember sitting on the back porch with my mom," Robin says. "She told me in so many words: 'If you aren't going to graduate school or medical school, you better get a job because you're not living here.' That was her way of saying it's time to move into the real world."

    Robin says she began to think about what she wanted to do.

    "Thinking about going to a job where I sat behind a desk all day wasn't really appealing to me," Robin says. "The thought of being able to work on a college campus, in the heart of teaching and learning was exciting."

    She soon spoke with a recruiter—and landed a job in educational publishing.

    "Everything clicked with that decision," Robin says. "I loved talking with faculty members every day, learning about what they were doing in the classroom."

    It was a long way from studying to be a doctor.

    Today, Robin leads sales for higher education in the U.S. for Pearson.

    "The funny part about my first interview with Pearson," she says, "was that I went ahead with the appointment even though I was still recovering from sinus surgery."

    "I sat at a table looking out the window and because of the glare from the window, I had a really hard time seeing the interviewer's face," Robin recalls. "I was so nervous about messing up the interview I didn't think to ask if I could move my chair."

    "I learned later that the hiring manager told his colleagues: 'If she can't maintain eye contact, she'll never succeed in our business.' Thankfully, the recruiter convinced him to see me one more time, and after taking a battery of tests, going through multiple rounds of interviews, and spending a day on campus with a sales rep, I was offered the job."

    A New Understanding About Education

    Having spent a few years as a young sales rep in upstate New York during the 1980s, Robin was moved into an editorial role with Pearson.

    She first worked with authors to develop teaching materials that taught English as a second language.

    "Again, I learned something new about myself and my work," Robin says. "The students using our materials were immigrants who needed English to get a job and have a career and pursue a productive life.

    transform lives"I would talk with teachers in church basements and YMCA rooms," she says, "and heard over and over again about how students sought out learning to improve their lives."

    Robin says she felt the power of education come alive in a whole new way.

    She liked the work so much, she stayed in that job another decade, developing products in criminal justice, hospitality, and agriculture.

    A New Challenge

    After taking on a director of marketing role, Robin was given an opportunity to run the ESL division and subsequently the career and vocational division at Pearson. She was then asked to take on the role of Director for People for Pearson.

    "I knew nothing about HR outside of my experience leading teams and working with HR in my previous jobs. The power of having a great team hit home for me in a whole new way," she recalls. "I was surrounded by HR professionals who taught me the ropes helped me succeed. To this day I'm indebted to those colleagues."

    But after four years in that role, Robin realized she missed something about her previous positions.

    "I realized I missed the direct interaction with customers and product development and sales," Robin says.

    That realization helped lead her to her current position as a Managing Director in charge of sales.

    A Mom's Influence

    "My mom always believed that if you put your mind to it, anything was possible," Robin says.

    Her mother went on to earn her GED at the age of 40 so she could secure a job with Delta Airlines.

    "She didn't let things stand in her way," Robin says. "She also loved creating experiences that people wouldn't soon forget."

    "We'd have holiday dinners," Robin says, "and my mom would make six main courses instead of one. She'd make eight pies instead of one or two," she says. "Fortunately, she was a fantastic cook."

    "Breaking bread with family and friends was one of her favorite things to do. She wanted people to leave feeling like they just ate the best meal of their lives," Robin says. "My mother always went the proverbial extra mile."


    Robin says her mom's outlook and attitude influenced her greatly, especially in her career.

    "It all starts with the relationships and bonds we build with each other," Robin believes. "It's all about the experience we create for ourselves and the people we work with."

    Helping Others Find a Career Path

    Over the years, people have asked Robin about particular career paths.

    "I love having those conversations," Robin says. "I always tell people, 'do what you love.'"

    "I didn't have a plan to one day be a managing director for a large company. To me, it's always been about the journey, about what's possible, about what I love doing."

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  • Pokemon Go: A Mom Falls For It and Loves Playing With Son

    by LearnEd

    Mother and her kids taking a walk

    A Global Phenomenon: From Avatars to Key Work Skills


    Dianna Blake and her son were interviewed by an ABC affiliate in Los Angeles. The story:

    First things first:

    If you're not familiar with all the ins and outs of this mobile app that is sweeping the globe, Vox has published a really useful story called "Pokemon Go: 9 Questions About the Game You Were Afraid to Ask."

    This is exactly where Dianna Blake started.

    She's a mom, a graduate student, a blogger for moms in college, an emerging author—and this fall, a professor of English composition at California State University, Fullerton.

    "My social feeds were blowing up with posts about this new game," Dianna says. "I glanced at the logo and it looked sketchy. I wondered: what was going on?"

    "Seeing my friends stressed out over finding characters blew my mind," she says.

    'We Fell Pretty Hard For It'

    "I decided to download the app," Dianna says, "and happened to mention it to my son when I picked him up from Vacation Bible School."

    Her son's name is Matthew and he's 14.

    "He perked up," Dianna says, "and said 'That's the new thing.'"

    Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 9.19.48 AM

    Then she fell in love, in a matter of speaking.

    "Matthew and I played together on the way home that night," Dianna says, "and we fell pretty hard for it."

    "I've already Tweeted J.K. Rowling and told her 'If you build a world like this in an app, I will live on it!'"

    A New Bond Between Mother and Son

    Matthew has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism.

    "Our interests are very different," Dianna says. "I'm an academic, he is so in to gaming and computers. He dives in to that world and, often, we don't have much to talk about."

    "This game has really built a new bridge between mother and son," she says.

    Matthew playing Pokemon Go with his mom in a picture posted on her blog: collegesuccessformoms.wordpress.com
    Matthew playing Pokemon Go with his mom in a picture posted on her blog: collegesuccessformoms.wordpress.com

    Last week, Dianna and Matthew caught a Pokemon character in their kitchen.

    They've started going on walks to the park after sundown, looking for characters together.

    They play together on car trips. She drives, he holds the phone.

    "He never would go voluntarily on walks before," Dianna says. "and he's been able to teach me about the game while we're together."

    "Matthew educates me about Pokemon, even correcting my grammar as we're talking about the game," she says.

    Using the Game's Strengths to Be a Better Teacher

    "My three kids so often talk about social memes and characters and I have no idea what they're talking about," Dianna says.

    "This game has invited me to be young again and to share a childhood gaming experience with my son," she says.

    "Matthew is more active, I'm able to get him out in the sunlight," Dianna says, "and most importantly, we're doing this together."

    As Dianna and Matthew continue collecting Pokemon characters and increased their status on the game—they're now a Level 9 player on Team Instinct—it's given her some ideas about classes she's start teaching in the fall.

    "This game is teaching students really important workplace skills like collaboration, oral communication, teamwork," Dianna says. "We see groups all the time asking each other who they've caught and what team they're playing for."

    "So I want to use this kind of experience in my class," she says.

    She plans a Pokemon Go-like scavenger hunt on the first day of class this fall.

    "My students can work together to find places on campus," Dianna says. "Hopefully, this gets them motivated, it encourages discussion, and it helps me relate to my students in a fresh way."

    "Just like this new door has been opened up with my son."

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  • China Spotlight: A New Learning Pathway That Could Improve Access to Millions More Students

    by LearnEd

    Chineses students looking happily at each other

    An Explosion in Demand for Higher Education

    "Over the next decade, 50 million more people around the world will want access to higher education," says Matt Evans, a Vice President in corporate finance and strategy at Pearson.

    "There's no way existing infrastructure will be able to handle these numbers," he says. "There are not enough university buildings or faculty to meet the demand."

    It's a significant supply and demand imbalance.

    Unlocking Access to Learning

    Americans have wide-ranging access to thousands of schools of higher education.

    It's a unique resource.

    "So while academic ability is evenly distributed around the world, opportunity for high-quality education is not," says Paul Gleason, a Vice President of Strategic Planning at Pearson.

    "We intend to help bridge that gap," he says. "Our big idea is to bring our vast array of online and on-ground resources, partners, and global reach to provide that opportunity to millions of deserving students."

    "We're looking for more ways to unlock that access to learning across the globe," Paul says.

    new pathways

    A New Pathway Project in China

    Traditionally, international students have sought learning experiences in the U.S. and the U.K., often times to overcome limited access to higher learning in their own communities.

    Matt says roughly one million international students study in the U.S. each year.

    "China alone makes up about thirty percent of those students," he says.

    So Matt, Paul and their colleagues are exploring new, more affordable learning pathways for Chinese students.

    Saving a Student's Money, Improving Access to Higher Education

    It's a twist on the old models.

    Academic programs for foreign nationals in need of English preparation and cultural immersion often begin with a first year of study "on the ground" followed by on-campus matriculation inside a college or university.

    "We're exploring a new idea," Matt says. "What if that freshman year was in the home country instead, with all of the same personalized support and progression path to the U.S. or the U.K.?"

    "Something like this could save students in places like China upwards of $30,000," he says, "and the on-campus immersion would happen during the last three years of their education."

    Pearson is already helping teach English to tens of thousands of students in China at hundreds of  learning centers across the country. These same facilities could be used for the idea Matt and Paul are working on.

    "Our local facilities can help students get a jumpstart to prepare them for study in the U.S. and the U.K.," he says.

    A Complementary Partnership

    Under this new pathway model, Pearson would provide the facilities as well as its expertise in student recruitment, local personalized support, and digital courseware.

    "Our academic partners and their faculty would make all admissions decisions, provide academic control and delivery, as well as oversee progression of students to their on-campus experience where they will earn their degree," Matt says.

    "We envision this new pathway as a blended offering," he says. "It would be a mix of on-the-ground interaction with facilitators and other local students as well as substantive connection with U.S. faculty members online."

    iron triangle

    Decreasing Cost and Improving Access, But Not Limiting Quality

    "We're taking on some really significant issues in higher education," Paul says.

    "For years, the challenge of solving what is referred to as the 'iron triangle' with its three-fold constraints of access, quality, and cost, has limited opportunities in higher education," he says. "We have struggled with how to dramatically impact one of these, specifically access, without reducing quality or exploding costs."

    So how can the 'iron triangle' be broken?

    "This experiment might mean we're able to improve access for those in China to excellent, high-touch higher education in the U.S.—without having to lower quality or increase cost," Paul says.

    Fundamental Indicator of Well-Being

    This initiative is one of several being conducted around the world.

    "So many of us believe that education is the great driver of progress within people's lives everywhere," Paul says.

    improving lives

    "Education is central to improving lives," he says. "It's the most significant indicator for personal health, economic outcomes, and a variety of other things fundamental to well-being."

    Opening a Door to Learners Who Might Have Been Left Out

    This new pathway project in China is slated to launch pilots in January 2017.

    "This could really change the category of international higher education," Paul says, "and improve access to higher education for many, many students who might have been left out due to high costs and limited support."

    Paul and Matt plan to travel to Beijing and other cities in China next month to continue research on this project—and start setting the framework for January's pilots.

    final image
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  • Online Badges: Giving Learners More Choice and Making it Easier for Employers to Compare Job Candidates

    by LearnEd

    Man using a laptop

    Re-entering the Workforce with the Help of an Online Badge

    Coletta Teske recently spoke about the struggles of a job search after taking time away from the workforce.

    She was looking for an IT job—but employers considered her too old for the jobs they were filling.

    "My skills were a bit out-of-date, and I hadn't been in the workforce for a while. I tried everything. And one of the things that kept popping up was going back to school."


    Coletta decided to freshen her skills with a free, online certification course offered by IBM.

    She completed the course, passed its exam, posted her digital certification badge online, where it was viewed by an employer—and got an offer to work.

    A Level Playing Field in the Job Market

    global map

    Companies like IBM have an entire range of credentialing courses that award digital badges through partnerships with Pearson. IBM houses much of it under something called Big Data University.

    IBM says it offers these online badging programs to accomplish three things:

    1 - Provide a reliable, valid and fair method of assessing skills and knowledge.

    2 - Provide IBM a method of building and validating the skills of individuals and organizations.

    3 - Develop a loyal community of highly skilled certified professionals who recommend, sell, service, support and/or use IBM products and solutions.

    "They're creating an entire global ecosystem of comparable qualifications," says Pete Janzow who works on online badging program delivery with Pearson.

    "It's a global talent map they can use to create teams to solve very specific problems," he says.

    More Comparisons, More Choices

    "These online badges help employers have a clearer idea of what each job applicant can do," Pete says. "But the badging system doesn't work if the learner doesn't get something out of it, too."

    "The badge certification has to be 'resume-worthy,'" he says.

    "And, as these online badge programs catch on, learners can stack up courses offered through companies like IBM against courses offered through community colleges and universities—and choose the best course that works for their professional goals."

    stack up

    New Pathways to Jobs

    "These badges have to be valuable for learners and rigorous at the same time," Pete says. "People should be proud of these certifications and want to put them on their resume or share them online."

    It's true that a large and  increasing number of students enrolled in higher education are "non-traditional students," according to The National Center for Education Statistics.

    "That means many of today's learners are coming back to education to collect new skills," Pete says, "in order to deal with the threat of economic disruption or capitalize on a range of profession-enhancing educational options."

    "One thing that's true among learners seeking online badges?" Pete says. "They're largely 'job motivated.'"

    Catching On

    "The IT industry is moving the fastest with substantive online badge programs," Pete says.

    "New industries taking advantage of these qualification programs include healthcare, business, insurance, finance, and manufacturing."

    The Future of Online Badging

    Pete's online badging colleagues at Pearson have seen millions of badges pass through their system over the last two years.

    Companies awarding these badges include Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe.

    Individuals from across the world are currently engaged in a Pearson-delivered online badging program.

    "Part of the future of online badging is in the certification of important job-related 'soft skills,'" Pete says. "These skills are a little more fuzzy and slightly more difficult to measure."

    "Many of my colleagues are putting their heads together to figure this out," he says.

    Always Learning

    Seeking these online badges, Pete says, is a learning accomplishment in itself.

    "When Coletta Teske met with that employer who had seen her badges, he told her he was impressed that she was taking data science classes," Pete says.

    "Those badges told her new employer: I'm willing to re-engage and keep learning."

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  • Street Cred: A Zoology Major, Mother of Four, and Online School Counselor

    by LearnEd

    Teacher with her students

    Street Cred: A Zoology Major and Mother of Four

    "I have four children of my own," says Penny Reeves who is Manager of College and Career Counseling for Connections Education.

    She worked for a time as manager of counseling for four public schools in California.

    "My oldest son went to West Point, served as as Captain in the Army, and is now a professional golfer," she says. "My second son went to UCLA. My oldest daughter went to New York University where she majored in film and television. And my youngest, another daughter, went to a small liberal arts school."

    "I had a unique education experience: I majored in zoology," Penny says. "That, plus my experiences with my children, gave me a good perspective for helping other students find their right paths for college and beyond."

    "So, putting all this together, I think I have some good perspective about helping children find the right pathways to college and beyond."

    Connections Education-supported schools ask students about their career aspirations—an important step in a child's learning experience, especially when it happens early.

    'Every Goal is Achievable'

    Connections Education, part of Pearson, offers virtual learning solutions to K through 12 students worldwide. Students using their materials are in traditional and full-time virtual public and private schools, as well as blended learning schools.


    "My job is to help students find a pathway to college and career that's possible," Penny says. "Every student's goal is different and I never want any student to feel like their goal is unachievable."

    "When helping any child, my first question is always: 'What do you like?' or 'What gets you excited?' or 'What do you want to do in the future?'," she says.

    "They may not be top of their class, but they have goals and schools they are interested in attending—we  can explore different ways around it. There are usually multiple paths to get where they want to go," Penny says.

    Exposing Learners to All the Available Pathways to College and Career

    Penny and her colleagues offer a variety of clubs for K-12 students attending Connections Education-supported schools. Many of the clubs are focused on life after high school—college clubs, career clubs, first generation clubs—where students can explore the available options after graduation.

    "We bring in speakers: recent graduates, grad students, professionals, college admissions officers," Penny says. "The best thing that can happen is that these students hear about all the pathways that are possible to reach their goals."

    From 'I'm Stupid" to 'I Want to Be a Lawyer'

    Years ago, Penny started a lunchtime program for students at a traditional middle school who had multiple low grades.

    believe it

    "These were at-risk students and, at first, they hated those sessions," Penny says.

    "Over time, things started clicking," she says. "We brought in teachers to help students with courses they'd had trouble understanding. Other students who'd had trouble with completing homework started doing their homework during our sessions."

    "One young lady had been a 'problem' student for all her teachers," Penny recalls. "She was argumentative and challenged me at every turn."

    Penny says her parents had told her she was 'stupid.' Her classmates started calling her 'stupid.' And she started to believe it.

    "She worked so hard during our lunchtime sessions," Penny says. "She brought me her next report card, a real improvement in grades, and gave me a hug."

    Penny says the young woman told her she wanted to be a lawyer.

    "A year later, when those students went to high school," Penny says, "their guidance counselor told me that none of them were on academic probation."

    "I wanted these students—all my students—to see all the resources that are available to help them succeed," Penny says. "They started to understand the importance of doing well in class and that teachers, rather than the enemy, were there to help kids reach their goals."

    light up

    What If a Child Doesn't Know What They Want?

    Not every student has a clear idea of their goals.

    "I often hear 'I have no idea where I want to go' from students," Penny says. "So the questions turn to their interests. What do they light up about?"

    "Maybe it's sports," she says. "I can then connect that to something like math—and show them how doing well in math can help them be successful with their dreams."

    "We also have to manage the stress on these students," Penny says. "Nobody is perfect in everything and they're all still kids."

    "Any student can find value in their life experience," Penny says. "Someone might say 'I haven't done anything to put on a resume.' So I ask them if they've been babysitting, or taking care of the family pet, or delivering papers, or mowing lawns, or doing jobs around the house."

    "All of these soft, intangible skills are valuable," she says. "And even these things can help children achieve their goals."

    Finding the Pathways

    "I love the creative puzzle when engaging with every child," Penny says. "We start with their goals, then map back to the various pathways that will lead them to those goals."

    "We're helping these kids make college and, eventually, a job possible."

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