• How to build long-term relationships that foster student success

    Young girl on her laptop

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Kristina Campbell 

    Coaching students isn’t just a job, it’s a two-way bond that helps students focus on their academic goals. It also gives the student support coaches a unique understanding of what students need to complete their online degrees or programs. And it affords institutions the ability to retain students who are tracking toward their goals. Kristina Campbell tells her story as a student support coach below.

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    For me, it’s being with a student from start to finish. Nothing is more satisfying than being a part of the student’s process and hearing the excitement and joy they have upon their completion of the program. To be part of their celebration of a momentous achievement.

    What's it like to have a long-term relationship with a student and watch them succeed?  

    Long term relationships are the most rewarding experience of being a coach. They give me a deeper and richer connection with the student. I even love going through those rough stages and gently pushing others when they feel that they can’t continue moving forward.

    Recently, I spoke with a student who is in their last semester. They told me that had I not given a gentle nudge the first week of class, they would’ve stopped and never reached their last semester. Students have told me they truly value the role of a coach; they’ve gone through programs before where coaching wasn’t provided and have felt the importance of having one in the programs we provide.

    What are 3 characteristics or skills that you need to be an effective coach of adult learners? 

    1. Good communication that goes beyond just talking. A coach needs to listen actively, provide helpful responses, and cultivate an atmosphere where students feel comfortable to speak.
    2. Empathy to understand that going through an educational program is not an easy feat. Students want to work with someone they believe will try to understand and show they care.
    3. Being supportive because everyone wants to be affirmed in their decisions. Coaches are part of the support system for a student.

    How do you help students overcome their concerns as they’re working toward their degrees? 

    Time management is one of the main concerns I hear from students when starting a program or when the tempo of the program changes due to course load. Students have several constants in their lives that take priority before everything else (i.e., family and work). School is a wonderful variable that they are throwing in the mix.

    I try to help students figure out how to balance school, work, home, and life. We work on finding ways to make time for learning, figuring out what needs to be adjusted or omitted in their schedule, and on making time for self-care.

    How do you help learners stay engaged with their courses and programs? 

    I try to keep learners engaged by calling them regularly, sending emails, and texting. I also send reminders, resources, and any aids or tools I can find regarding their courses.

    How do you coordinate with the university to support your students? 

    My team has a wonderful relationship with our school partner. We have been able to identify issues and bring them to the institution’s attention as needed.

    And, on multiple occasions, I’ve reached out to instructors to advocate or help a student succeed. I had one student who was diagnosed with a severe health condition. They were in the hospital and needed help to get extensions on their work. I was able to connect with the instructor to get resources to help the student complete the course.

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  • Offering personalized advice — from someone who’s been there

    by Justin Tate

    Woman on her laptop

    Q&A with Senior Student Support Specialist Justin Tate

    If you're an online learner, it's great to know you can always turn to someone who’s been in your shoes, understands how challenging it can be — and knows you can succeed. Senior Student Support Specialist Justin Tate earned his own graduate degrees online. Now, drawing on that life-changing experience, he counsels other online graduate students on how to stick with the program, balance its demands, and make the most of the experience.

    What led you to become a coach?

    I grew up in a family where college was expected. There was never any doubt whether I would be getting a degree after high school. Unfortunately, when I got to the university, I realized my study habits weren’t as good as I thought. The workload was way more intense than I expected. It took me two years, and a few dropped classes, before I understood myself: how I learned, and how I needed to balance life, work, and education.

    By junior year, I was doing great. I even started working at the university Writing Center where I tutored other students on developing their essays. That’s where I first realized I enjoyed helping learners like me — those who had what it took to succeed, but needed to find their own strategy to get there.

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    College is tough, especially if you're a working adult with many competing priorities. For me, grad school was an entirely different challenge from undergrad. In the long gap between, I developed professional skills and a greater sense of purpose in my life, but I also had more commitments beyond even a full-time job. My priorities and energy levels had changed so much it was like starting over. Again, it took a while to find a strategy that worked.

    It’s rewarding to support students through their challenges in class and in life, because I know how tempting it can be to give up. If I didn’t have someone to talk to — or people in my life who understood what I was feeling — it’s very possible I would have dropped out. My goal is to be that person you can call any time, who understands what it’s like, and can guide you through the difficult times.

    What is it like to work with a student from enrollment to graduation, and to watch them succeed academically?

    The path to graduation does not always run smooth. It’s great to maintain that relationship all the way through, because you have a greater understanding of individual situations and what approaches might work best on a personal level. I tend to get emotional every time a student graduates, because I know what it took for them to get there.

    What characteristics or skills do you need to coach adult learners well?

    Start by understanding that every adult learner is different. They have a wide variety of priorities, obligations, and challenges. The only way to understand the obstacles they may face is to take time to listen to what’s going on in their world. Once you build that relationship, it’s easier to offer support that is relevant to their unique situation.

    What are some of the main concerns students share, and how do you help them overcome those concerns?

    The most common concern is fear about how to find time for higher education. Adult learners balance a lot of big priorities. At first it can seem impossible to find time for them all. Helping them process each class, shift strategies, or find their own unique study style isn’t easy, but we try to get to that space as fast as possible.

    How does your coaching help learners stay engaged, so they don’t fall by the wayside?

    I’m always personally interested in how classes are going, what big assignments are coming up next, and the general feeling each student has about their experience. By talking through what’s going on in and outside of class, we can collaborate on strategies to help them become more efficient as a student and still get the most from their education.

    How do you work with the university to support students?

    As a support coach, I’m primarily focused on talking with students, learning about their challenges, and supporting them through times of stress. This includes navigating complicated university processes, registering for the correct courses, and connecting them with the appropriate financial resources, or other departments which are part of the college experience.

    As a coach, I collaborate closely with the university to share feedback from students, smoothly implement changes, and distribute information. Since I’m usually the first person to hear about a potential obstacle, I can easily pass that information along to the appropriate parties.

    It’s also common for faculty to reach out to me if there are students who could use some extra support, are lacking engagement, or could benefit from walking through resources. All this has retained learners who don’t just go through the motions, but actually feel a part of the program.

    Have you or your colleagues ever helped a university discover a problem sooner, so they could support their students more effectively?

    My goal is to be a neutral advocate for student learners. That means many students are comfortable sharing their honest perspectives on courses and university processes. This includes identifying clear frustrations about their experience, but also the things they love most. Sharing this feedback with the university has led to more efficient processes, improved curriculum, and innovation in the classroom.

    What new issues are you beginning to see now, as more learners come online, or move through and beyond the pandemic?

    The pandemic has impacted students in very different ways. Some mention they’re more motivated than ever, with fewer competing social obligations. Others feel additional stress, as they support family and their own mental health during difficult times. Almost everyone has been touched by it in some way, and a good week can easily turn bad. Planning ahead and making contingency plans are a big part of coaching conversations, so we can expect surprises and work through them together.  

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  • Raise retention rates with student support services

    by Nisha Khan

    Student with headphones in front of laptop computer, engaging in conversation

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Nisha Khan

    Learners today are stressed. They hold down full-time jobs. They’re returning to learning as adults highly focused on careers. They worry about debt. But even with all these additional obligations, learners have big dreams of advancement through education.

    Student Support Coach Nisha Khan works with learners in MBA programs to bridge the gap between institutions and students. And both sides benefit from higher retention rates, less stress, and fewer hurdles to graduation. She shares her story of helping students below:

    Why did you become a student support services coach?

    I was with a cosmetics company for 3 years where I worked my way up to a services coordinator. I already had the customer service skills — active listening and the ability to offer quick solutions. I knew that I wanted to help people and continue to build strong relationships. When I saw the job description for the student services specialist, I knew this would be the perfect role for me!

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    It is a joy to work with the same population and have the same group of students for years at a time. You really get to know a lot about each student as an individual, but also learn a lot of insights about the program that, as a coach, you might not have the opportunity to experience.

    What it’s like to have a long-term relationship with a student and watch them succeed?

    It's truly so special to be part of a student’s life during their studies. You get to watch them from the start, when they are the most passionate and excited to start their degree, through the ups and down of an MBA, and come out the other side to graduate.

    We learn a lot about students through proactive outreach. You could be calling a student to simply check in, and they will share that they are nervous to take the upcoming accounting class. You’ll then get a call from that student after the class is over to celebrate their passing grade with you.

    For them to include you in their wins is so heart-warming. We also learn about students' personal lives, and we are there to celebrate these milestones as well. Watching a student grow in all aspects really drives me to find out as much about my students as possible!

    What are 3 characteristics or skills that you need to be an effective coach of adult learners?

    You need to be compassionate, empathic, and have great attention to detail — simple as that!

    How do you help students overcome their concerns as they’re working toward their degrees?

    Students value their education and have a high expectation of the quality they will receive, especially with how high tuition can be. Even though we strive to provide the most cutting-edge and smooth experience for our students, sometimes “life happens.” It can be a technical error, a miscommunication on course materials, or grades on their homework that they disagree with. For many of our students when their expectations are not met for the price of their tuition, it can be grounds to take time off from the program, and, in the worst case, withdraw entirely.

    Many times students want to be heard, and that is exactly why I’m here. When they share feedback on the quality of the program, I can see whether it was a one-time incident, or if there is an overall trend that I can report to the partner to see if we need to implement change.

    How do you help learners stay engaged with their courses and programs?

    My school has 9 terms a year and classes are between 3–5 weeks in length. While there are benefits to this model, it means that students have registration and drop deadlines in conjunction with their class deliverables deadlines.

    My biggest role is assisting students with registration and ensuring they are reminded about upcoming registration periods. By staying in constant email and text communication, along with proactive phone calls, we help the student think in the future and keep track of the administrative and degree planning items while they focus on their studies.

    When have you worked with the university to help students more effectively?

    I am a coach to online MBA students where most students do not have a background in accounting or finance. As a result, the accounting and finance classes have the highest fail rate and the highest drop rate. Coaches also hear the most amount of feedback in these specific courses.

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  • Bridging the gap in higher ed with student support services

    by Lourdes Carvajal

    Two students talking with each other

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Lourdes Carvajal

    Learners today are stressed. They hold down full-time jobs. They’re returning to learning as adults. They’re first-generation college students. They're highly focused on careers and worry about debt. But even with all these additional obligations, learners have big dreams of advancement through education.

    Student Support Coach Lourdes Carvajal works with learners to bridge the gap between institutions and students. And both sides benefit from higher retention rates, less stress, and fewer hurdles to graduation. She shares her story of helping students below:

    Why did you become a student support services coach?

    I was an online student in my graduate program and had a lot on my plate to balance. I didn’t even know there were resources at my university to help students like me. I wanted to make the difference in a student’s experience while they’re achieving their academic dreams. It would have made my life a little easier if I had someone to go to from the university on the tough days.

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    I love when a student confides in me that they’re struggling and need help. Life throws us curveballs when we least expect them and having someone to confide in makes it a little bit easier to withstand. The trust that I have earned from my students means a lot to me because I know how much they want to make it to graduation. I want to be able to help them get there.

    What is it like to have a long-term relationship with a student and watch them succeed?

    It’s an honor helping someone who has dreamt of achieving their academic goals. They share those goals with me from the very beginning, and I remind them of those goals throughout their journey. We go through ups and downs together, and we get to know each other very well. We become like family. I’m always so proud of them when they do finally achieve their academic goals.

    What are 3 characteristics or skills that you need to be an effective coach of adult learners?

    You need to be able to see the student holistically. They’re an individual who’s balancing a lot on their plate in addition to their coursework. As an effective coach you need to check in on how they’re doing, not just in the classroom but at home, too. This will greatly affect their performance academically as well.

    You also need to be supportive, in whatever decision the student makes. Our students come to rely on us, as they may not always have an effective support system at home.

    I believe another skill needed is to have good communication among your students but also the university. I believe the phrase “it takes a village” is very much applicable when working with students. Having good communication in the end will result in better support for the student.

    How have you or your colleagues helped a university better meet the needs of students?

    Some of the main concerns I hear from students are about mental health and overall wellbeing while being a full-time online student. We brought up this issue to the university and worked together to develop more mental health resources for our program. We have partnered with a resource center at the university to provide workshops on mental health for our students.

    How do you help students overcome their concerns as they’re working toward their degrees?

    My background is in social work, and mental health is very near and dear to my heart. I do mental health check-ins with my students, just to see how they’re feeling. We so often are busy taking care of everyone else, we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of that list. I remind them to prioritize themselves by doing some self-care every once in a while. We talk about activities or hobbies that they like to do to de-stress, and I remind them to do this when things are becoming too stressful.

    How do you help learners stay engaged with their courses and programs?

    My coaching style is to be very transparent with my students. If I’m transparent with them, that will make them more comfortable to come to me when they do have an issue. I remind them that they’re never on their own throughout this journey, and I’d love to help them as much as I can. I believe this has helped my students stay engaged in their courses in the program. Just knowing that someone is really looking out for them makes them feel more comfortable and motivated.

    How do you work in tandem with the university to support students?

    I like to define my role as being here to support the student. The university really likes how my role interacts with learners, as there is generally an academic adviser for the program as well.

    The academic adviser takes care of any academic issues, like course planning and grades.

    I work with the student to ensure they’re always set up for success. I allow the student to talk about their week, how their personal lives are affecting their coursework, and we also talk about their courses.

    The academic adviser and I talk almost every day so we can both brainstorm ideas on how to best support the student.

    In what ways do you partner with faculty members to help a student succeed?

    I’m very lucky to work with such amazing faculty members at the university. A faculty member will reach out to me personally to talk about a student who could use more support. I work to find the root of the issue and help find resources to best support them.

    I reach out to faculty members as well when I notice a student struggling academically and provide the context for what’s going on and how I’m working with the student. I love the collaboration between the faculty, the institution, and myself because we all want the same thing for our students, and that is to see them succeed.

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  • Empathy, skill, knowledge: How a great student coach helps adult learners succeed

    by Natasha Prospere

    Adult learner on laptop

    Q&A with Student Support Coach Natasha Prospere, M.ED

    Every online learner needs somewhere to turn when they have a problem or need someone to listen — someone whose advice is empathetic and reliable, and who can point them to resources that help them succeed. For many learners, Student Support Coach Natasha Prospere is that person. See how she approaches the crucial work of guiding learners from enrollment to graduation — so learners, institutions, and employers all get the outcomes they’re hoping for.

    What do you enjoy most about coaching students?

    I enjoy interacting with my students. And I enjoy working on new challenges every day — you never know what to expect. It's rewarding to support each student along their path, to encourage them and to provide the resources they need, from orientation to graduation.

    I let them know what to expect along the way, guide them through their upcoming courses, and help them meet their graduation requirements. I can help them access the resources they need, whether that’s mental health, tutoring, writing center, or something else. Students often thank me for being their advocate and facilitator.

    What's it’s like to have a long-term relationship with a student and watch them succeed?

    Building relationships and positive rapport with students is fundamental to their success. My students know I truly care about them, their families, and their academic success. They feel supported by me.

    In our first conversation, I learn about their academic goals — and also about their home life, what brought them to the institution, who’s part of their support system, and their ultimate goals. So, when times get tough — and they will — I can be there to remind them why they started in the first place.  

    As coaches, we provide motivation, as well as encouragement through personal struggles and life events, whether that's sick children, taking care of elderly parents, or even divorces.  We also celebrate, sharing in joyous occasions such as weddings and pregnancies!  Whatever’s happening in their lives, we’re there, with personal outreach, regular communication, and timely feedback. 

    What are three skills or characteristics you need to coach adult learners effectively?

    First, you need empathy and compassion. Second, you should be a constructive, active listener. Third, you need to be a problem solver — and to do that, you need to thoroughly understand the resources you can provide to learners, and the university policies you’re operating within.

    What are some concerns you help learners overcome?

    Time management is a main concern: feeling overwhelmed as they try to balance work, school, personal life, and raising a family. I provide tips on being a successful online learner, both during our conversations and via email. For example, I tell them to:

    • Plan your study time.
    • Print and/or download your syllabus so it’s always handy.
    • Check your school email every day — something important might be happening.
    • Log into your course(s) several times a week.

    Stepping back, I also encourage them to find their passion. What do they do for fun? Are they making sure to take time for self-care, exercise, time with family and friends? Are they eating well and getting enough sleep? That’s especially an issue for my nursing students.

    How do you help learners stay engaged with their courses and programs?

    Online graduate advising is so much more than telling students “what class comes next!”

    Students rely on their Support Coach for information to solve problems, make decisions, navigate university procedures, and overcome technology challenges. We help them register for their next class, but we also make sure they know what to expect in their upcoming courses. We help them add the concentration courses they’ll need, transfer programs, take leaves of absence if they must, and — for our Nursing suite — prepare for clinicals and campus visits.  

    We don’t just connect frequently with students. We advocate for them. We share their concerns with the university. We provide the right guidance: information they can use. It’s all about building a personal relationship that shows each student we truly care about them as individuals — and about their success. 

    How do you coordinate with the university to support your students?

    The institution’s on-campus Academic Advisors (AAs) handle grades, GPA concerns, academic standing, instructor concerns, and similar issues. With my Nursing program, Duquesne also has a clinical coordinator to help learners secure a preceptor and complete their required clinical hours. As a success coach, I send learners a program plan to follow, and remind them when it's time to register, order books, and complete financial aid.

    Students tend to reach out to me first, as their main point of contact. I can direct them to their AAs, clinical coordinators, or instructors, as needed. I often copy the AA on emails, and provide time and day when it’s best to reach the student. We follow up via email, and we meet bi-weekly with the university to discuss student affairs.

    We're a great team. Here's an example just from today. An AA called me with a heads up that a student may contact me. The AA said she knows we have a great relationship and wanted me to know what was going on with him academically. Since I know his academic situation now, I can proactively reach out to him, as he may need an updated program plan.

    What issues are rising to the forefront, as more learners come online, or as they begin moving beyond the pandemic?

    Some continuing issues are even bigger — for example, time management. We're always offering advice to help learners stay organized, set aside a dedicated study space, or use a physical or digital planner. And some students who’ve been out of school for awhile struggle with the technology. We’re there to provide resources, including a 24-hour tech support, live chat, and a writing center. So they always have what they need.

    One issue I’m anticipating: helping nursing students find a clinical rotation. With COVID-19, many sites weren’t accepting students in person. Now, I suspect, there will be an overflow that we’ll all have to carefully manage together.

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  • How mindfulness can help us start a new year amidst a pandemic

    by Ashley Lodge

    Young woman looking out at hot air balloons in the sky

    It’s only natural that our brains are in a constant state of alert due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has continued into the new year. Not only do we need to take steps to protect our bodies from the virus, we also need to take care of our minds to deal with the stress and anxiety occurring as a result. One approach that has been shown to be beneficial in dealing with this is mindfulness. 

    What exactly is mindfulness? 

    When I get asked this question, I always quote Jon Kabat Zinn, one of the leading figures in bringing mindfulness to Western audiences. He says it is “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”  

    I came to mindfulness was because it was recommended to me by my doctor. I'd suffered from anxiety that, at times, could be quite debilitating. He suggested a book: Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, co-authored by Professor Mark Williams, the Founding Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. I managed to get a place on the Centre’s eight-week MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) course in September 2013. Following several years of daily practice and seeing the positive impact it had in my life, I later trained as a mindfulness teacher.  

    By attending the weekly group sessions and doing the practices and meditations in my original mindfulness course, I could see my anxiety calming little by little. I was more present in the moment, less reactive to difficult situations, and generally calmer and more focused. I was able to observe the working of my own mind and see thoughts as subjective mental events, rather than an objective view of the world. Understanding the two modes of mind, ‘doing’ and ‘being’, and being able to shift the gear between the two, helped me better navigate daily life. It’s not some kind of quick fix. It takes daily practice (meditation) to help rewire the brain towards calmer, wiser ways of thinking and approaching life.  

    How can mindfulness help us get going in 2021 mid-pandemic?  

    We're all concerned about Coronavirus. Questions like ‘Will I/loved ones be okay?’, ‘What impact will this have on my learning and/or work?’, and ‘When will this be over?’ are never far from our minds. 

    Right now, we don’t have all the definitive answers and while mindfulness doesn't serve to make everything better, it can help us develop ways to feel okay during times of uncertainty. Mindfulness can help offer moments to pause and step back from what's going on around us, all the information we're receiving, and our own thoughts. Rather than getting trapped in ‘doing’ mode and trying to problem solve tricky emotional situations, we learn to stand back, be present in the moment, and observe. Therefore, if we choose to respond, we do so with the calmest and wisest approach to a given situation.  

    What are some ways to embrace mindfulness, starting today?  

    The best way to learn how to be mindful is by attending a course. This will give you a deep understanding of ‘doing’ and ‘being’ modes, the characteristics of mindfulness, and the practices covered. There are many courses being offered online and many apps that can help too. To help you get started today, here are some suggestions for beginning the new year with a mindful perspective: 

    Consider intentions rather than goals. A lot of what we learn through mindfulness is training the focus of attention. In order to do this, we need to be clear about our intentions. Having clear intentions sets where the attention goes. Setting your intentions at the beginning of the year is often more favourable than using language of goals. Rather than setting specific metrics that can be used to beat yourself up, intentions allow us to have more flexible parameters that can be adapted as situations evolve and change.  

    Be gentle and kind to yourself. Self-compassion is so important. Very often we can be our own worst enemies with how we talk to ourselves. Given how much is going on in the world right now, give yourself a pat on the back for what you are able to do. Practising self-care and compassion has the added benefit that it makes us kinder and more understanding to other people too. It has a positive upward cycle effect for us and those around us. It’s a win-win.  

    Reconnect with your body and reengage the senses. Mindfulness is great at helping increase focus and reduce distraction and rumination. Simple ‘everyday’ mindfulness practices, like mindfully preparing a cup of tea or coffee, are an easy way to do this. For example, going through the steps of boiling the kettle and pouring the water into the cup, smelling it as it brews and feeling the heat through the cup, adding milk and noticing the colour change, to finally tasting the drink. This helps focus the mind and train it gently to focus on one thing at a time.  

    Although the benefits of mindfulness are well documented, it’s important to check that it’s the right approach if you’re currently experiencing any mental distress. Please always check in with your doctor or clinician before undertaking a mindfulness course. Remember that talking things through with friends, family members, or one of the many support lines out there can help if you feel things are becoming difficult.  

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  • How to keep nontraditional students enrolled and on track

    by Mandy Baldwin, Senior Student Support Specialist, Pearson

    A man with headphones on and a woman in a plaid shirt sit on a gray couch typing on laptops while a little girl in a yellow dress kneels over a coffee table drawing with colored pencils.

    When every enrollment matters to the health of an institution and, more importantly, to the dreams of every student, keeping them on track to graduate is vital. And when you have a nontraditional student body, they need a student support services team to step in to play a central role, helping students transition back to the classroom.

    As student support specialists at Pearson, my team has the privilege of connecting with online students, supporting their goals, and providing resources for their success.

    Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked closely with our retention managers and institutions (we call them academic partners) to alleviate some of the additional stress this pandemic has placed on students.

    Along the way, we learned three key lessons that can help your team whether your student support services are provided by a partner or from an in-house team.

    Help nontraditional learners balance school and life

    When nursing student Mary* called me in March 2020, she was in her final semester and didn’t know how she was going to earn the remaining credits she needed to graduate. With elementary-school age children and a newborn, she was already juggling a lot. And with facilities closed, she struggled with figuring out how to meet her program’s clinical requirements.

    We worked with her institution to communicate the school’s policies with Mary. But, more broadly, our student support services team became a crucial lifeline for students. We reached out proactively to:  

    • educate students on how credits for the clinical portion of the program would work
    • share the university’s plans for a virtual graduation ceremony
    • ease their fears about how colleges and universities could continue to operate seamlessly and safely

    Nontraditional students tend to be older than traditional college students. They have careers, marriages, and children to contend with on top of managing their studies. The students we support reflect this reality as well. According to the 2020 Pearson Enrollment Experience Survey, for enrollments in our graduate programs: 

    • the average age is 37, compared to a traditional graduate student at 32 years old
    • over half (53%) are married and have children 
    • students are working/experienced, with 78% of students working full-time and 50% having at least 7 years of work experience 

    Focus on student mental health and wellbeing

    Like everyone everywhere, our nontraditional learners grew weary as the months dragged on and the pressures mounted. They had jobs, kids, and life stressors on top of working toward completing their degrees. Their previously mapped out routines of school, work, and family had dissolved. Some students continued to juggle homeschooling kids with work and school. Others struggled to find work while keeping up with their education.

    While online courses remained constant, the balancing act became harder. We spoke with students, employed as front-line workers, who contracted COVID-19. We became the ear for many, helping students cope with all the changes. We realized that we needed to:

    • direct students to mental health resources
    • advise them on time management and organizing tips
    • encourage students to keep going or take time off for self-care when needed

    Serve nontraditional students in novel ways

    When nursing student Josefina* needed to find a clinical placement, she faced a roadblock that could have derailed her studies. She was living overseas with her military spouse and didn’t have many options for placement since the country where they were based was in lockdown.

    Our solution? Josefina participated in a Zoom session with her academic advisor and student support specialist to develop a plan that would help her lock in a clinical placement on the base.

    We learned to:

    • tailor solutions to the student
    • connect students with program staff
    • coach them on options to complete program requirements  
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  • Game-changing startups: Astrome

    by Neha Satak, Co-Founder & CEO, Astrome

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    Unreasonable FUTURE is a unique multi-year initiative bringing together disruptive entrepreneurs to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. Its founding sponsors are Pearson, Fossil Foundation and Accenture. This Q&A series spotlights a few of the ventures in the program to provide a glimpse into the innovative work that is being nurtured.

    Using tech to bridge the socio-economic divide in rural & urban areas

    How would you describe your business to your grandmother?​

    At Astrome, we focus on connection through technology. Be it connecting farmers to the government, connecting children to teachers in cities, or connecting craftsmen to the worldwide market to sell their products—we develop internet technologies to make those connections possible.

    What problem does your business solve for society?​

    Astrome bridges the socio-economic divide between rural and urban areas, helping to create more equal opportunities for all. We develop innovative products that can deliver reliable internet services in these rural areas, allowing millions of people to access the information they need for the betterment of their lives.

    Where did you source inspiration?​

    Our inspiration has always stemmed from using technology to improve the world we live in, particularly within the emerging world. From a personal perspective, both my co-founder and I grew up in small towns in India with many of our relatives living in villages. During this time, we witnessed firsthand the changes that occurred in our own areas due to limited internet access. Even today, we still see a large gap in accessibility of the internet to villages. As technologists, innovation excites us, so we combined this with our passion for solving critical world problems, and Astrome was born.

    What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?​

    Looking back, we wish we knew more about the maturity of the VC funding ecosystem in emerging countries for deep-tech and hardware; we also discovered that the funding available at pre-Series A and Series A stages, as well as the understanding of deep tech start-ups by investors, is much lower than required in many countries.

    What’s the best place for people to learn more about your company’s work or to follow your progress?​

    The best place for people to learn about our company’s work is on our website; the best place to follow our progress is through our LinkedIn page.

     

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  • Game-changing startup: Kuza

    by Sriram Bharatam, Founder & Chief Mentor, Kuza

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    Unreasonable FUTURE is a unique multi-year initiative bringing together disruptive entrepreneurs to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. Its founding sponsors are Pearson, Fossil Foundation and Accenture. This Q&A series spotlights a few of the ventures in the program to provide a glimpse into the innovative work that is being nurtured.

    Empowering rural youth to help farmers increase productivity & income

    How would you describe your business to your grandmother?​

    At Kuza we are changing the status quo by nurturing and growing youth as Agripreneurs—agricultural entrepreneurs, while democratizing access and creating opportunities for smallholder farmers to learn, connect (with other ecosystem partners) and grow (their Agri business).

    We use technology to bring new ideas to remote areas. Agripreneurs visit a cohort of smallholder farmers in rural communities, taking a backpack which holds a Wi-Fi router, portable cloud designed to work without power and internet and a projector. They use this to stream specially created, bite-sized learning videos on best agriculture practices, life and business skills, which farmers can watch using tablet devices that Kuza lends them. The farmers need not be digitally literate.

    What problem does your business solve for society?​

    Smallholder farmers contribute to 80% of agricultural produce in Africa, yet they don’t have access to extensive resources and are dependent on middlemen. They are the people creating value and taking risk, but earn the least in the supply chain.​

    Additionally, about 90% of the 1.8 billion young people worldwide between the ages of 10-24 are living in low and middle-income countries. Most of these youth are unemployed and live-in agrarian societies and rural areas.​

    Enter Kuza; we’re revolutionizing the resilience of over 500 million smallholder farmers by handpicking enterprising rural youth and enrolling them in our REDI program (Rural Entrepreneurship Development Incubators) to become Agripreneurs—each supporting 200 farmers to increase their productivity & income.

    Where did you source inspiration?​

    Late in 1999 there was a hurricane (cyclone) in Orissa, India; over 13 million people lost their livelihoods and over 100,000 lost their lives. We (the future founders of Kuza) developed an idea to support the hurricane victims and put together one of the world’s first crowdfunding campaigns; it was called Cause an Effect. The idea went viral and we raised over $1.5 million in 45 days to support the hurricane victims. A global community of 18 million people from 70+ countries actively participated in the campaign.

    We won the Kauffman award for Social Entrepreneurship for this effort and began a new chapter as social entrepreneurs. To date Kuza has impacted over 5 million lives and created 150K new jobs across 9 African countries and South Asia.

    What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?​

    We wish we had the wisdom and clarity on how to leverage the power of communities to create a sustainable social business model at the time when we started.​

    What’s the best place for people to learn more about your company’s work or to follow your progress?​

    Please visit our company website or follow us on our social channels: Sriram Bharatam | Bharathi Bharatam​

     

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  • Game-changing startups: Kanarys

    by Mandy Price, CEO and Co-Founder, Kanarys

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    Unreasonable FUTURE is a unique multi-year initiative bringing together disruptive entrepreneurs to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. Its founding sponsors are Pearson, Fossil Foundation and Accenture. This Q&A series spotlights a few of the ventures in the program to provide a glimpse into the innovative work that is being nurtured.

    Tech-powered collaboration between companies and employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion

    How would you describe your business to your grandmother?

    Simply put, Kanarys helps people work where they belong by fostering collaboration between companies and employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. The Kanarys technology platform collects both anonymous employee feedback and objective company data to help diagnose, prioritize, and optimize DEI efforts in the workplace.

    Kanarys works alongside company partners to give them a deep look at the diversity, equity, and inclusion at their own company—equipping them the information and tools they need to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Through transparency and accountability, the Kanarys platform provides a feedback mechanism for companies to continuously improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion, ultimately creating a better workplace for all.

    Kanarys provides benchmarks for companies based on their industry, making it very clear where they fall behind in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion and also provides actionable insights for companies on where they can improve.

    What problem does your business solve for society?​

    My co-founders and I started the company in 2018 because we knew that current DEI initiatives were failing employees, and data, accountability, and transparency can help ensure that employees’ voices are heard. Given our personal and professional experiences as Black women and men in the workplace, we observed a breakdown in communication, even at well meaning companies, and we knew we could build a technology platform that could solve this problem for employees and companies everywhere.

    Based on our research, DEI initiatives were lacking the key aspects of data, accountability, and transparency. Kanarys is working to change how DEI is measured and how efforts are being implemented so the kind of hardships we faced in the workplace are stopped, leading our society in creating a better workplace for all. Our platform is built knowing that change starts from within and if business leaders across the U.S. commit to doing the work, we will finally see an inclusive workplace and a more equitable society, where everyone can work where they belong.​

    Where did you source inspiration?​

    We created the platform based on our own lived experiences in the workplace. I had many of the same experiences and accolades as my colleagues in the legal industry, but I continued to experience many inequities in the workplace that Black women often encounter.

    I knew that although my experiences were traumatic, they were not unique, and employees everywhere face similar situations. For example, I have been called the company’s “diverse” partner by a colleague —immediately minimizing me and my experiences to being a token at the company. Additionally, I have been asked if I had gotten into Harvard legitimately.

    It was from these experiences throughout my career, along with the experiences of others, that I drew the inspiration for Kanarys. We are really building a bridge between employees and employers where concerns are addressed without the fear of retaliation, which is something that would have greatly benefitted me during my previous career.​

    What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?​

    I have been a leader many times in my life and during my career, but the demands of being a leader in a startup environment are in a league of their own. Add to that the challenges of leading a business during a pandemic and it’s even more challenging.

    I have a greater appreciation now than ever before about how important it is to be responsive to my team’s mental health and how, as a leader, it’s up to me to make sure this is prioritized. We are a mission-driven company and I’m so fortunate to have a team full of people so personally devoted to that mission.

    But, at the end of the day, it is my job to check in with folks, which ultimately gives the team permission to share concerns and feel comfortable taking full advantage of all the resources we have available. For my team to be at their best, I have had to make sure they are taken care of holistically. I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to go slow to go fast.​

    What’s the best place for people to learn more about your company’s work or to follow your progress?​

    You can learn more about our company on Kanarys.com or our social media channels at @kanarysinc on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

    I encourage everyone to log on to our website and anonymously rate and review your workplace today. Additionally, we offer a robust Resource Center at Resources.Kanarys.com with free webinars, toolkits, and guides for both employees and companies on how to create a more diverse and equitable workplace.

     

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  • Game-changing startups: Re:Coded

    by Alexandra Clare, CEO & Co-Founder, Re:Coded

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    Unreasonable FUTURE is a unique multi-year initiative bringing together disruptive entrepreneurs to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. Its founding sponsors are Pearson, Fossil Foundation and Accenture. This Q&A series spotlights a few of the ventures in the program to provide a glimpse into the innovative work that is being nurtured.

    Training youth in conflicted affected areas to join the digital economy

    How would you describe your business to your grandmother?

    Our goal at Re:Coded Labs is to democratize access to quality learning and ensure that youth from underserved communities are prepared for the rapidly changing workforce of today and tomorrow. We do this by offering transformative learning experiences to talented youth and educators, in a range of technical and non-technical skills, with the goal of facilitating high value employment in the digital economy.​

    We offer three core products / services under one umbrella:​

    Immersive Career Driven Learning Programs

    Each of our immersive programs has one goal: to help launch a new tech career for talented youth being left at the margins of the global digital economy. Throughout the programs, students apply theory to real-world problems, learn software development or design skills, and receive instruction and support from industry leaders while maximizing their personal growth. Our students then receive dedicated career support to help them land their first job in the tech sector.​

    Educator Innovation Programs

    Our intent with these programs is to achieve systemic change in outdated learning models and education systems. We do this by empowering educators to reimagine learning for the future of work using our own pedagogical and metacognition framework.​

    Education Products

    We develop a range of educational products that enable learners to learn faster and more effectively.​

    What problem does your business solve for society?

    We’re in the midst of a digital revolution and traditional education systems and outdated learning models are failing to prepare youth for the future of work. Nowhere is this more evident than in countries that are already affected by conflict, violence, poverty and disaster.

    Meanwhile, COVID-19 has caused massive economic disruption, exacerbating the effects of this technical transformation. While the net impact of this pandemic is uncertain, youth who were already at the margins of the global digital economy risk being further left behind and entering a dangerous cyclical relationship between economic disenfranchisement and instability, unless we ensure they have the skills, resources and networks to thrive. We exist to reconcile this global digital inequality divide by providing youth with in-demand skills and networks in order to create opportunity and good jobs for entire communities.

    Where did you source inspiration?

    The inspiration behind what we do comes from witnessing the problem firsthand. In June 2014, I first traveled to Iraq to implement a peace-building initiative for Syrian refugees who had been displaced by the civil war. Upon seeing the lack of access to meaningful education & employment opportunities for youth, I set about researching initiatives that could bridge the education and employment divide in the wake of conflict.

    Two years later after securing seed funding, I teamed up with my co-founder Marcello to create an organization with a startup mindset and a mission to empower youth by teaching high-end technical skills for the digital economy. My background is in human rights law whilst Marcello’s is education in emergencies.

    What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?

    Everything and yet nothing! Starting and growing this organization has been one of the steepest learning curves of my life. I came from a legal background without an MBA or any experience running a business. Yet, every failure has been an opportunity to learn and grow. From designing our first programs to managing complex operations in conflict zones to hiring — it’s been a fun challenge. I’m not sure any business book or course can prepare you for what is to come on the journey of social entrepreneurship.

    What’s the best place for people to learn more about your company’s work or to follow your progress?

    Subscribe to our newsletter here or follow us on social media @recodedofficial.

     

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  • Supporting learners and working parents in your organization

    by Christa Ehmann

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    Picture this: Joanna is a busy executive and single mom who works as a senior Project Manager at a large technology firm. Due to COVID-19, she’s been working from home since March, and her company just announced they’re extending work from home orders through at least July 2021.

    Although her travel schedule came to an abrupt halt once the pandemic began hit, her 10+ hour days are filled with back-to-back virtual planning meetings, client presentations, and conference calls. In addition to managing her job remotely, Joanna must also oversee her three teenage children who are now engaged in virtual at-home learning, likely through the end of the school year.

    Joanna’s daughter is in 8th grade, and is a severely dyslexic learner with an auditory processing disorder. She has online classes from 8:00 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. with 15- minute breaks between in each class. Joanna’s freshman and senior sons are also virtually enrolled in the public school system. Although the boys’ online schedules are less rigorous than their sister’s, they’re simultaneously navigating the expectations of high school learning and the college search process, with varying demands on workload, applications, and standardized testing.

    At any given point in the day, at least one of the kids has a question — a math equation here, a grammar exercise there, how to read a passage, what a particular chemistry assignment means, or how to start an essay for English. Their teachers say they’ll answer emails or provide study halls, but many times they aren’t available at the time of need. And even if Joanna can help with the content, she can’t interrupt her full docket of video calls and meetings.

    On top of everything else, the house is wreck. Joanna’s mother had typically lent a hand with cooking, cleaning, and helping the kids, but she can longer come to the house due to a weakened immune system. Exasperated & tired, Joanna’s work, her family, and her children’s education are suffering.

    Some employers are doing it right

    While the scenario above is just an example, corporations understand that this type of situation is becoming all-too familiar. Employees worldwide are newly burdened with pressures of working remotely while juggling distance-learning dependents at home. As such, companies are swiftly rethinking what employee benefits look like and aggressively investing in their workforces.

    Corporations spend $164B annually on employee training & education, which can include tutoring services. With the pandemic still creating upheaval for the foreseeable future, that number is likely to rise as employees’ struggles become clearer.

    Mental health offerings by employers are already seeing significant increases in recent years — from 34% in 2014 to 75% in 2018. With nearly half of Americans saying their mental health has suffered due to the COVID-19 crisis, this spending trend on well-being services is expected to continue to help workers deal with stress and anxiety.1

    Some larger companies have adopted new programs that offer heavily subsidized school day supervision for students on a part-time basis to help parents deal with the financial and mental stress created by juggling work and their children’s virtual classes. But even in the midst of the pandemic, some of the numbers around employee benefits are alarming. One report by The Society for Human Resource Management showed that only 4% of the member companies it surveyed offered subsidized child-care centers or programs. About 40% didn’t even offer a pretax dependent-care flexible spending account.2

    Still, there are bright spots. Minnesota-based food company Hormel recently announced that they’d pay tuition costs to two-year colleges for its employees’ dependent children beginning in the 2021-22 academic year.3 Other companies are providing access through their Employee Assistance Programs to education support services like tutoring, mental health activities to help employees stay physically and mentally healthy at home, and support in the form of free financial planning and credit monitoring.4

    Give employees academic help

    To support corporate employee dependents & family members during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Pearson offers Smarthinking. With 24/7 online tutoring and writing support available on-demand, Smarthinking can help employees and their families with normal coursework, reskilling, and upskilling, from middle school through college, graduate, professional, and certificate level. This relieves the extreme pressures on parents working remotely by assisting their at-home students with writing and other school work — in real time and asynchronously.

    For more than 20 years, we’ve successfully served millions of students through our university partnerships and direct to learner models. And now, when your workers and their families need assistance, we can help you offer the best academic and skills-improving support available.

    Sources

    1Erica Sliverman, Increased spending and COVID-19 impact 2020 benefits landscape,” BenefitsPRO.com, August 17, 2020.
    2Jena McGregor, Big firms offer stressed parents new perks such as subsidized tutoring,” washingtonpost.com, August 20, 2020.
    3Madeline St. Amour, Free Tuition for Children of Employees at Hormel Foods,” Inside Higher Ed, September 1, 2020.
    4Alan Kohll, How One Company Is Taking Care Of Employees During COVID-19,” Forbes.com, Apr 6, 2020.

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  • Tele-empathy: The next big thing in digital soft skills

    by Ashley Peterson-DeLuca, Director, Communications, Pearson

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    “Hey, sorry. I was on mute.” It should be our new national t-shirt.

    If you’ve said this recently, you’re in the club. You’re among the millions who have been working at home in the wake of the pandemic.

    According to the Physicians Foundation, nearly half of all doctors are using telemedicine appointments. Nearly every teacher in the US this year made the switch to online learning. What do they have in common? The ability to connect emotionally with patients or students is proving to be a struggle.

    “New Connections Academy teachers often learn that what makes them a great virtual teacher is their communication skills,” says Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Pearson’s Connections Academy, a full-time online school program for grades K-12.

    Trying to be human through the lens of webcam may be the next big skills gap, as working from home continues for the foreseeable future. Over 7,000 people in seven countries agree – in Pearson’s Global Learner Survey, 77% of people said that teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me that working remotely requires different skills than working in an office. What are those skills? 89% say that people will need to develop more digital skills, such as virtual collaboration, virtual communication, analyzing data or managing remote team.

    Two researchers from Pearson explain.

    “Communication and collaboration are two soft skills that become even more important when working virtually,” says Elizabeth Moore, Director, Learning Research & Design. Although these skills have always been important for employees when in the office, they are even more crucial when answering the challenges posed by working solo in front of a computer screen.

    “Communication is important but different in a virtual environment,” says Jessica Yarbro, PhD, Senior Research Scientist. “Formal communication has to be more important. You can’t just pop over and have an informal chat.”

    But you can teach and learn digital communications. Mickey says that “Connections teachers are specially trained to excel in online teaching, especially how to engage students in an online classroom and use a full spectrum of communications. They understand how and when to reach out to students and their families.”

    The norms of how we operate and engage with people at work are gone and being reset by emails, phone calls, texts and video meetings. But something gets lost in these technology-mediated communications. You just can’t read people’s social cues.

    Here is what our experts suggest to build more empathy and keep your soft skills sharp while working at home:

    1. Make an effort to keep your camera on

    “The decision to have your camera on in meetings isn’t something to take lightly. It helps you pick up on someone’s facial expressions and also allows you to show with your own expressions that you are actively listening,” says Moore.

    2. Be more direct, not less

    Researchers say that while it may feel awkward, you may need to be more direct to get people to engage virtually. The researchers recommend you do more check-ins for what people are thinking and feeling. And use active listening skills – reflecting and summarizing not only what people are saying but their social cues too. Verbal cues like “let me play back what I think I hear you saying” or “I think I hear you saying” are ways to show empathy and make you sure you really understand what others are saying.

    3. Practice active collaboration

    “Collaboration is about building on each other’s ideas,” says Moore. “So think out loud, virtually, to let your teammates know what you’re thinking and what you mean, so that they can help.”

    4. Address conflicts quickly and verbally

    But of course, personal conflicts will happen. And if you can’t ask somebody to talk one-to-one over coffee to address an issue, what do you do?

    “I think it is even more important to make a space to talk person-to-person, especially if there are conflicts in a virtual environment,” says Yarbro. She says take conversations off email and do a video call.

    Some people will find themselves back in the office later in the year, but remote work isn’t going away entirely. There is no escape from needing develop your digital skills in this new world of work.

    “This change has been really hard. But, we’re learning,” says Moore. “We will come out of this with a new and more flexible digital working skillset. There’ll be a more of an expectation that you’ll be polished and skilled in doing anything virtually.”

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  • 5 tips to stay motivated when working remotely

    by Dan Belenky

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    I’ve been working remotely for almost six years, so I have some sense of what it generally takes to be successful working from home. But then the social distancing orders went into place in March. Now, I’ve gone from focusing on work, alone, in my home office, to sharing my workspace with my wife (who has started working from home too), while we provide around-the-clock primary care for our two young children. Working from home has become less about working and more about home.

    Recent surveys from Pearson indicate that others are experiencing challenges as well. In March, 81% of Americans agreed that remote work is just as good as office work, but that number is down 16 percentage points in the April survey. Satisfaction levels have also gone down as the pandemic stretches on: in March 93% reported being satisfied with their work from home experience, but that dropped to 82% reporting satisfaction in April.

    In my state the shelter-in-place restrictions aren’t likely to be lifted any time soon. Since I’m a researcher, I’ve turned to the body of evidence for motivation and self-management for advice on how to get through this.

    Here are five tips for how to stay motivated when working remotely based on that research and my own experiences.

    1. Update your mindset

    Many of us are trying to juggle two full-time jobs at the same time: caring for and being a teacher to our children while also doing the job that pays the bills. But you can not physically do both at the same time. Repeat that to yourself if you need to (I know I have!).

    As such, I’ve had to reset my expectations so I’m not setting myself up for failure. My recommendation is that you try to be realistic in order to keep from getting demoralized. These are difficult times and you can not be as productive as before.

    2. Set realistic goals

    Now that you’ve updated your mindset, write down what is most important for you at home and for work. This will help you not only prioritize your work when time is limited, but also enable you to be satisfied that you’re still focusing on what matters. Then celebrate the small wins to help you stay motivated.

    For example, I’ve become less worried about how much time my kids are spending with the tablet, and been explicit to myself that my goal is for my children to be healthy, safe, and as happy as they can be right now. And, I’ve talked with my boss to prioritize projects and push out some deadlines.

    3. Create a new routine

    Working from home gives you more flexibility than ever before. However, this freedom can be a double-edged sword. Work can bleed into family time and vice versa.

    To counteract this, I’ve established some habits to help me transition from “morning with the kids” to “working day.” In particular, I’ll go and get changed, make myself a cup of coffee, bring it to my desk, and start on whatever task I told myself I’d pick up first thing the next day. In addition, my wife and I split up days so we can each make sure to carve out enough time to get our jobs done.

    I recommend keeping to a healthy routine, blocking off working hours (as much as you can), and maintaining a dedicated “work zone” in your home, even if it is temporary, to stay focused.

    4. Help yourself stay on track

    To make the most of the time you have, it can help to get specific about how you will deal with obstacles in your way. Spend some time thinking about things that might make it difficult to stick to your goals, and then come up with some concrete plans for how you will deal with those (e.g., “If I see a notification news story about COVID-19 that I want to read, instead I will turn off notifications for the next hour and go back to working.”)

    Planning these “if → then” kinds of rules ahead of time has been found to be really effective for helping people stick to their goals.

    5. Stay connected

    Working from home can often feel isolating and motivation can easily wane, so efforts to feel like part of a community at work can help. Turn your camera on during meetings. And, make an effort to recreate that watercooler talk via chat or by scheduling catch ups with your colleagues. Everyone who I’ve talked with has been in a similar challenging situation and it has made me feel better that I’m not alone.

    I also really look forward to virtual calls with family and friends. Knowing that I have a happy hour with my favorite people coming up has made getting through the day a little less painful.

    In the same surveys I mentioned earlier, in April, 65% of Americans say they intend to continue to work remotely after the pandemic subsides. If you do continue to work from home, I can tell you it will get easier when life returns to normal!

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  • Kayleen's story: From building fences to building a successful career in construction - and helping others do the same

    by Pearson

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    A Famous Face

    If you’ve ever watched the DIY Network on television, Kayleen McCabe’s is a face you may recognize.

    She is the host and star of “Rescue Renovation,” a show that helps homeowners who are in over their heads. Renovation projects turn from disastrous “befores” into jaw-dropping “afters.”

    When Kayleen is not in front of the camera, she’s traveling the country telling students the story of how her long-time construction hobby turned into a successful career.

    Growing up different

    “As a little girl, I was always building stuff with my hands,” Kayleen says.

    “My dad was a welder by trade, so I learned a lot of what I know from him.”

    “We did repairs around the house, built fences, and worked on cars together.”

    “I didn’t realize how unique that was until high school,” Kayleen says.

    Kayleen says most of her classmates had no idea what they wanted to do after graduation.

    Kayleen was different.

    “I knew, even then, that I wanted to work in the construction trades,” she says.

    Trusting her instincts

    Although knew she wanted a career in construction, Kayleen didn’t enroll in trade school after high school.

    “I made good grades,” she says, “and I felt pressure to do what the other ‘good students’ did: go to college.”

    One year and two schools (Red Rocks Community College and Colorado State University) later, Kayleen called her parents with some news that ultimately wasn’t a surprise to them: college wasn’t for her.

    “I could’ve saved a lot of tuition money by following that instinct earlier,” Kayleen says.

    “I am so grateful that when I eventually did, my parents were supportive.”

    The first foray into television

    Shortly after graduating from high school, Kayleen says, her cousin called her with a proposition.

    “She was a producer on the TV show ‘Trading Spaces.’”

    “She knew I liked working with my hands, and she said she could help me get a production assistant job.”

    From her very first day on the set, Kayleen says she was hooked.

    “I would bounce of out of bed at 5 am, vibrating with excitement about whatever we got to build next.”

    “It was the first time I fell in love.”

    The mentor of all mentors

    On the set of “Trading Spaces,” Kayleen met a master craftsman named Frank.

    “He was this grumpy-looking older guy with a big bushy mustache that was permanently stained from tobacco,” Kayleen says.

    “But he taught me more than I could ever explain.”

    “I could ask him anything, and he encouraged me to learn, to try, and most importantly, to fail,” Kayleen says.

    “Being in an environment where I felt so safe to do that was the best gift I ever received.”

    “Learning the way that I did—on the job—was more of an education than I could ever have gotten from going to college.”

    “Rescue Renovation”

    “Rescue Renovation” is currently in its fifth season on TV.

    Kayleen says she is immensely grateful for her continued success—especially in a field that is traditionally dominated by men.

    “When the show first started, I was one of the only female hosts on our channel—or any other one.”

    “It’s different now, and I cannot wait for that to keep changing.”

    When she travels for her show, Kayleen says, she is often able to help drive that change.

    “I like to leverage a plane ticket as much as possible.”

    “I’ll find out what schools are close to the airport and call them up. I say, ‘Hi, I’m a woman in the trades, can I come talk to your kids about career opportunities in my field?’”

    “To the best of my ability,” Kayleen says, “I will continue to leverage what fame I’ve garnered to help recruit more and more young women into the construction trades.”

    Connecting with audiences on smaller screens, too

    In her spare time, Kayleen produces short, instructional videos for her followers and fans. She hosts them on her personal web page.

    Topics range from cabinet building, to clamps and fasteners, to drill skills.

    “I want to get them into the hands of middle and high school teachers so they can show their kids what working in the trades is really like.”

    “Growing up, my teachers had nothing like that. In terms of recruitment, I think it could be game-changing.”

    Something to strive for

    Kayleen says she is constantly thinking about the future—for herself and for construction trades overall.

    “I want to double the number of students I talk to every year … until that becomes impossible.”

    Already this year, Kayleen has made incredible progress towards her goal. She has trips planned to Indiana, Ontario, Nebraska, Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Abu Dhabi, and Mississippi—all in the next few months.

    “Someday, I hope I am able to travel full-time, speaking to students and giving them scholarships to study the trades.”

    “I want to be the Bill Gates of power tools,” Kayleen says.

    “And my passport has a lot of room in it.”

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  • How to be a student again, this time online

    by John Sadauskas, PhD, Learning Capabilities Design Manager, Pearson

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    There are many reasons right now for why you may be looking to upskill – social lives are currently limited, you may unfortunately be out of work, or you just might be looking for ways to spend isolation productively. To help you be better positioned to excel in or re-enter the workforce, here are some tips on where to begin, and how to succeed as a student again, this time learning in an online world.

    1. Consider your goals

    You may already know what knowledge or skills you’re after, but if not, spend some time thinking about your goals. For instance, is there something that could help you improve your performance in your current role?

    Or perhaps you have your eye on a new position or a career change. To get an idea of the skills you need, read through job descriptions for roles similar to the one you want. How well do the job descriptions fit you? What would you like to be able to add to your resume in order to better align with the qualifications?

    2. Ask others for advice

    This could be a great opportunity to discuss your professional development with your manager to see what would take your work to the next level in your current role or a desired role. You could also ask current and former co-workers.

    LinkedIn is also a powerful resource for seeking information and advice in this area. For instance, you could see if anyone in your network works in a similar field or role to the one you’re interested in. If so, what credentials have they earned? What skills do they describe in their profiles? If you know them personally or through a mutual connection, see if they would be willing to answer any questions you might have.

    Once you have a good idea of your learning goals, consider the following when choosing your next steps.

    3. Find a learning option that aligns with your goals

    Most well-designed learning experiences will come out and state their intended learning objectives – essentially the knowledge and skills you’re meant to get out of the experience. You certainly don’t want to waste your time, so make sure the experience is aimed at moving you toward your learning goals.

    Next, consider the scope of the learning. Is it completely or mostly focused on what you hope to learn at the appropriate depth of detail, or is it so broad that it will only touch upon topics you’d prefer more detail on?

    Finally, think about the time commitment for the learning to ensure it would be realistic for you to complete the learning on the expected timeline.

    4. Decide whether you need a credential

    For many learning goals, it may be important to be able to share or demonstrate that you’ve completed the learning or are proficient at a skill. For example:

    • Earning a professional certification to advance in your current job
    • Pursuing a new position that requires you to hold a certain degree
    • Working toward a badge or certificate to include on your resume to demonstrate that you have skills in a certain area

    In these cases, it often makes more sense to pursue a more formal option like a training course, degree program, or studying for a standardized assessment that would provide you with a diploma, badge, certification, etc.

    However, a credential may be less important to you. It could be instead that you simply want to acquire skills and knowledge to help you do your current job better, or that you’re pursuing a topic that’s of personal interest to you. In this case, the more formal learning options mentioned above could certainly work for you, but you also might consider whether you can meet your needs with online videos, books, webinars, or other similar (potentially free!) resources.

    5. Look into free and discounted options

    Many organizations provide free learning resources on a variety of topics to their employees to encourage professional development, so it is worth looking into what your organization already has, and whether it meets your learning needs.

    Some organizations allow employees to expense all or a portion of learning costs (e.g. college tuition or enrollment in a single course). In some cases, organizations also partner with a university to provide relevant learning and training opportunities at a discounted rate.

    You may also find that there are perfectly appropriate resources for your learning goals for free. Video sites like YouTube provide detailed tutorials on how to do just about anything. Webinars on a wide variety of topics are often available at the cost of simply providing your email address to a learning provider’s mailing list (which you can later opt out of). Even some more formal online courses are available for free from sites like FutureLearn, Harvard Online, and Coursera (until May 31) and many are currently available at a discount in response to COVID-19 on sites like Udemy and Udacity.

    Not all learning goals will have free or discounted equivalents, but a little extra investigation could help you save money while meeting your learning goals.

    6. Use strategies to stay motivated

    Finally, once you’ve decided on a learning experience, it’s important to set yourself up for success with good habits and make efforts to keep yourself motivated. If you’re new to being an online student, you can find out more about that with these 5 tips to keep motivated when learning online and how to excel in online classes.

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  • Holley's story: how an inherited love for hands-on work lead to a rewarding but unexpected career

    by Pearson

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    Shadowing dad from the start

    “As a little girl, I followed in my dad’s footsteps—literally,” says Holley Thomas.

    “Carpentry has always been his hobby, and he had a workshop in every house we lived in.”

    “I followed him around, watched him build things out of wood, and asked a lot of questions along the way.”

    It’s an approach that has served Holley very well later in life.

    Going to college like dad, too

    When it came time to apply to college, Holley says she again followed in her father’s footsteps.

    “I enrolled at Mississippi State—just like he had decades earlier.”

    “But I learned very quickly that college wasn’t for me.”

    After her freshman year, Holley left Mississippi State and moved back home to live with her parents.

    “At that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in terms of a career,” Holley says, “but I was sure that a traditional four-year degree wasn’t the right path.”

    Finding her own way

    After a few months of soul-searching back home, Holley says she had a conversation with her dad about her future.

    “He told me about a robotics program he’d heard of at the local community college,” Holley says.

    “I’d always liked working with my hands, and always trusted my dad, so I made an appointment to talk to the Program Director.”

    Holley says her instincts proved right.

    “After our conversation, I signed up for classes.”

    Degree requirements

    A year and a half into her two-year robotics program, Holley says she had a surprising realization.

    “As I was reviewing the course requirements for graduation, I saw a welding course on the list.”

    “I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to do this. I’ll probably be in a hot shop with a bunch of smelly guys.’”

    “But I was truly enjoying school for the first time in my life, and I was so close to finally earning my degree, so I bit the bullet and signed up.”

    An unexpected love

    The first day of welding class, Holley says she showed up in shorts and flip flops.

    “I learned very quickly that it wasn’t the proper attire,” she says.

    After that initial hiccup, Holley says, everything changed.

    “The second week of class, we went to the shop to weld for the first time.”

    “I fell in love that first time I struck an arc.”

    “After I earned my two-year degree,” Holley says, “I stayed on an extra year to get my full welding certificate.”

    More than a model employee

    Today, Holley is Lead Quality Inspector at KBR, a global engineering and construction company.

    During the day, she manages the welding operations on complex construction sites in Oklahoma.

    Four evenings per week, she is a welding instructor, teaching courses to her KBR colleagues.

    Throughout the year, Holley says she travels the country to talk to high school students about her experiences in the construction industry.

    In 2015, Holley’s hard work was formally recognized when she was named Craft Professional of the Year by Associated Builders and Contractors.

    She was nominated by her colleagues at KBR, who submitted an essay celebrating Holley as a top welder, a generous teacher, and a leader in her field, helping to recruit women to a traditionally male-dominated industry.

    “It feels so good to know that I am viewed as a positive light for my company and for the industry overall,” Holley says.

    An open mind, and an attitude to live by

    Holley says she owes her professional success to two things: parents who encouraged her to pursue her own path—and a positive attitude.

    “The coolest thing about my parents—and especially my dad—is that they’ve always been supportive of my siblings and me, no matter what,” Holley says.

    “They encourage us to follow our dreams, and are there to help pick us up if we fall or fail.”

    Holley says the personal mantra she’s developed as a welder is rooted in their positivity and open-mindedness.

    “I come to work every day with a great attitude, wanting to learn something new.”

    “Taking the initiative to expand my skillset makes me a better employee,” Holley says.

    “And it makes me a better instructor and mentor, too.”

    Looking forward to the future

    Holley says that in the future, she plans to become more involved in recruiting new members to her industry.

    In particular, she says, she wants to offer support, advice, and encouragement to young women considering a career in construction.

    “I was once in their shoes, unsure of my future,” Holley says.

    “Without that encouragement, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

    “Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.”

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  • 5 tips for being a leader in the virtual world

    by Jessica Yarbro

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    Being a leader can be challenging at the best of times, but even more so in a crisis situation like the current pandemic. Transitioning Survey findings from Pearson identified that people’s satisfaction with the work from home experience has declined: Only 82% of those in the US are currently satisfied with working remotely versus 93% in early March.

    But how do you lead well when you can’t physically meet with the people you are leading? Here are our tips for effective leadership in a virtual world

    1. Focus on inspiration and motivation, rather than just managing or controlling

    Motivating and inspiring leadership strategies are especially important when leading virtually because we lack many social cues and tools we usually use to influence others. Be more mindful and practice this.

    Examples of these types of strategies include:

    • Displaying ethical and inspiring behavior, taking a stand, and acting with conviction.
    • Supporting others and attending to their individual needs.
    • Motivating others by projecting a positive vision.
    • Supporting innovation and creativity.

    2. Be optimistic, but honest

    In times like these, people look to their leaders for hope, while also expecting honesty and transparency. This can be a difficult balance, when you might be experiencing personal stress and worry and often have to communicate bad news.

    We recommend:

    • Delivering information in a timely manner, and in a compassionate, caring, and straightforward way. Here is a checklist from the CDC on how to communicate in a crisis.
    • Giving others an opportunity to process the information, and a space to share their thoughts and experiences.
    • Finding opportunities for realistic optimism, pointing toward the future and highlighting ways that everyone can work towards it.

    3. Support trust and cohesion within virtual teams

    It can be challenging for virtual teams to develop trust and cohesion.

    As a leader, you can:

    • Set norms and processes around communication.
    • Encourage and schedule time for personal and social conversations as well as work discussions.
    • Include regular opportunities for video conferencing, which allows for much richer interaction.
    • Be a role model for these strategies.

    4. Provide frequent and explicit opportunities for coordination

    Because virtual teams have fewer opportunities to spontaneously interact and coordinate work, it is particularly important to provide clear channels and expectations for communication and coordination.

    Leaders play a key role in establishing these norms and expectations, such as:

    • Plan regular calls so that everyone in the group can share their progress.
    • Use instant message or chat functions to take the place of impromptu in-person meetings.

    5. Take care of your own mental health

    Leaders are not immune to experiencing worries, stress, anxiety, or sadness at times of uncertainty. In fact, you may experience a unique set of stressors, making it all the more important for you to take the time to take care of yourself. For strategies to do this, read our blog on wellness.

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  • Wellness: 6 tips for taking care of yourself during this stressful time

    by Jessica Yarbro

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    Right now many of us are juggling working in a new environment, becoming a teacher for our kids, caring for our family full time and dealing with the anxiety that comes from living in the middle of a pandemic. We’re all feeling pretty stressed. Self-care is crucial for managing these negative emotions and being resilient.

    Here are six tips based on the science of learning to help you get through this:

    1. Look after your physical and mental well-being

    If possible, continue your current self-care practices since it is easier to stick to existing habits. However, many of us will have to alter or discover new ones.

    Here are some ideas if you are stuck at home for a few weeks:

    • Take care of your body by eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep.
    • Work up a sweat with at-home or individual exercise activities by following workout videos on YouTube, using Fitness Apps for HIIT or strength training, or by hitting the pavement for a walk or run outside.
    • Practice relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. If you’re new to this, here are a few options to start.
    • Make time for appropriate activities that bring you happiness and joy. These might include cooking, listening to music, taking a warm bath, crafting, reading, or watching TV or movies.

    2. Maintain social connections

    For introverts and extroverts alike, the activities that are most important for promoting our well-being are inherently social, which can make this period where we are encouraged to be physically distant from our loved ones particularly difficult. It is all the more important to maintain our social connections, using technology to help us stay psychologically close.

    • Use the many different modes of communication at our fingertips – voice calls, text, social media. Video especially can make us feel closer.
    • Since interactions will not come up as naturally during this period, be more intentional about scheduling time to speak with friends and family. They will be excited to hear from you.
    • These conversations will be important opportunities to relieve stress by sharing your feelings with others. In addition, try to incorporate fun, play a game virtually or watch the same movie together.

    3. Create structure and a schedule

    Watching the news can make us feel a lack of control, which fuels stress. Control what you can and maintain as much normalcy as possible.

    • Develop a schedule and try to stick to your new routine. You can start with activities that support good eating and sleep habits, and fill in with both fun and necessary activities. Scheduling in regular opportunities for self-care can help us stick to those plans.
    • For those who are transitioning into remote work, maintaining a schedule can help ensure dedicated time for work while also protecting individual relaxation and family time.
    • Particularly for families who have young children home from school, maintaining a schedule may seem daunting. Be kind to yourself as you work through new processes and routines. Much of the benefit of the schedule comes from thoughtfully making one, not perfectly following one.

    4. Be a smart media consumer

    It is important to find a balance regarding media consumption. With situations changing quickly in a crisis, it is useful to follow the news in order to keep up-to-date. On the other hand, repeatedly viewing (often negative) news stories can increase stress and anxiety.

    Consider taking breaks from viewing the news, or schedule specific times to check the news. It can also be helpful to limit your media consumption to a few, trusted sites, which can help keep you from hearing the same information repeatedly.

    5. Seek additional help if needed

    During times such as these, it is completely normal to experience elevated levels of stress along with other negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, and frustration. If these persist or worsen and begin to cause significant distress or dysfunction, seek additional help.

    More specific warning signs include:

    • Persistent anxiety, worry, insomnia, or irritability.
    • Withdrawing from appropriate social contact.
    • Persistently checking for symptoms or seeking reassurance about one’s health.
    • Abusing alcohol or drugs.
    • Experience of suicidal thoughts or actions.

    Many therapists are transitioning to providing telemedicine so you get professional support without needing to meet in person. Find a therapist from a site like Psychology Today. Those with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with treatment.

    6. Practice empathy

    We are in many ways overwhelmed with information and recommendations and it can be easy to fall into the trap of judging others for their choices. But many are having to weigh financial concerns with public health and personal safety, and making difficult decisions.

    • Hanging on to judgment and anger at others can be counter productive. It can cause our personal stress levels to elevate and can break down the social bonds that are so important to weathering crises. Try to practice empathy by considering the perspectives of others. Understanding why someone has made a different decision from you can help you be more compassionate. Loving-Kindness Meditation can also support compassion and empathy. This type of meditation involves mentally sending kindness and goodwill to others. Read more here.
    • But also, don’t let trying to practice self-care stress you out. Do the best you can and be kind to yourself and others.
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  • Welcome to the remote workforce

    by Laura Howe, VP of Innovation Communication, Pearson

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    As the Coronavirus continues to spread, organizations like the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending strategies to reduce the spread in communities. A big part of keeping people healthy involves minimizing contact at work and during the commute.

    But for many people, teleworking is new and it can be a real challenge, especially if multiple members of the same family-parents and kids-are all trying to work and study together under the same roof.

    Nearly one-fifth of Pearson’s employees around the globe work from home full time and thousands more split their time between their home and an office. It’s been part of our company’s culture for years. But, not everyone is a regular in their own home office. If working from home is new to you, we’ve compiled the best tips from our own teleworking employees to help you get through this uncertain time.

    Maximize the technology your company has to offer

    Confirm the tools available to you while working remotely. That may mean practicing with new technology. It may also mean remembering to take home simple items from your desk or asking your employer for what you think you might need.

    Things like a monitor can ease eye strain and a separate keyboard or mouse can be more comfortable while typing. Grab a headset or earbuds from the office so calls and video conferences are easier. You probably can’t take the desk chair from your office, but you are going to need to carve out some kind of dedicated space. Think about how you would manage space if multiple people in your house need to work and study together.

    Set expectations now with your boss and colleagues about communication

    Agree where, when, and how to best communicate with your team to create awareness and enable efficiencies. Be deliberate about scheduling meeting times and quick check-ins. Will you huddle for 15 minutes virtually first thing in the morning or have a quick wrap up in the evening?

    Consider less email and more talking, especially via video conferencing. This can be an uncertain time, so it’s going to be reassuring to hear and see colleagues. Leave your video camera on during meetings – facial expressions and personal connection mean a lot right now.

    Create opportunities to talk beyond work discussions

    Plan virtual coffee breaks or consider extending virtual meetings to account for all of the chit-chat that you miss by not being in the office. Having extra time in a meeting makes a difference in the quality and depth of a work discussion.

    But it also allows you to understand your colleagues better and what they are going through right now. You can ask about people’s work experiences, families or even the photos you now see on their walls. You can introduce your dog, share funny memes or just talk about how everyone is coping with the current situation. Mostly just be human.

    Set working hours and keep to them, scheduling time for work, meals, and when to disconnect

    Unplugging is just harder when your work from home. Work can bleed into every part of your day if you let it. Set consistent hours and clearly socialize your schedule with colleagues. Get up, get out of your PJs and get dressed in the morning. Follow your regular morning routine as much as you can and let colleagues know when you expect to login and start your working day.

    You may not be commuting, but if you have kids out of school you may need to set aside time in the morning to help them login and get started with their online lessons. You may need to stop during the day and care for a child or sick relative.

    Communicate those needs to your team. During the day, block out time for work, but also reclaim your lunch and get away from your desk. Take short breaks and don’t let working from home merge into your evening or family time.

    Give your colleagues a virtual pat on the back!

    Now is the time when people need that inspiration and encouragement. So build up colleagues when you can, even if it’s an email shout-out to their boss, a thank you for going the extra mile or a “You got this!”.

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  • Five emerging fields of study

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    The question we get asked most often is “what’s next?” As new technology, business practices, laws, and changes in the global economy are happening at breakneck speed, they’re creating needs for new and evolving occupations and career specialties. To meet these demands, we’ve provided a brief overview of what’s next — five innovative emerging fields of study that your institution should consider to help you stand out in a hyper-competitive online market.

    In our evaluation, we scored fields of study based on a combination of the following key indicators of success:

    • Student demand
    • Employment opportunities
    • Competitive intensity
    • Search volume

    Data Analytics & Artificial Intelligence

    With the rise in “big data,” interest in data analytics roles have shown rapid growth. Schools that are testing how to go to market with AI offerings are increasing as well. Course work covers such topics as natural language processing, cybernetics, human factors, computing theory, computer science, cognitive psychology, and/or engineering.

    Current examples in market

    MS in Artificial Intelligence

    Graduate Certificate in Artificial Intelligence

    BS in Data Analytics

    MS in Data Analytics

    Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics

    Substance Abuse Nursing

    Every day, more than 115 people in the US die after overdosing on opioids. As the drug abuse epidemic continues, more qualified nurse practitioners are needed to tackle the problem head on. Substance Abuse Nurses must be able to monitor patient treatments, administer medications, speak with patients regarding aid programs, educate on the dangers of drugs, alcohol, or addiction, and provide support to patients.

    The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) provides Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners the opportunity to demonstrate their nursing knowledge by completing various professional certifications. Some certifications are professional differentiators for nursing professional development, while others are required by the respective state laws for practice licensure. Qualifications to take certifying examinations differs per examination.

    After becoming a credentialed nurse practitioner, one can differentiate themselves among job applicants by completing a program that offers specialized training in substance abuse, opioid treatment and/or addictions, and by working in a psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral health care center. The specialized training programs in substance abuse, opioid treatment, and addictions are offered through nursing, medical, psychology, and social science departments at colleges and universities, and can be taken online. These types of specialized programs may be at the undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate level, and are open to other professionals working to provide care to patients and clients needing assistance.

    Current examples in market

    Healthcare Innovation

    As healthcare organizations face challenges to improve quality, access, and efficiencies, reduce harm, eliminate waste, and lower costs, innovation is becoming a necessity. A healthcare innovation program teaches change theory, leadership, entrepreneurship, application technology, and system design programs to create transformative solutions to current healthcare challenges.

    Current examples in market

    MS in Healthcare Innovation

    Healthcare Innovation Courses

    Financial Technology (Fintech)

    A fintech program seeks to fill an important gap that exists today between the supply of and demand for academic knowledge in the area of digital currency. Financial analyst jobs in fintech are in great demand as startups continue to grow. Additionally, as the regulatory burden in fintech grows, there will be a need for more compliance experts, compliance officers, and compliance analysts working in these financial companies.

    Current examples in market

    MS in Fintech

    Concentration in Fintech

    Graduate Certificate in Fintech

    Human Computer Interaction (HCI)/User Experience (UX)

    User experience has emerged as one of the fastest growing specializations in today’s business world. It’s about finding that balance between what people want to do and what they haven’t even imagine yet. Interdisciplinary by definition, human computer interaction impacts nearly every area of our lives. The program reflects a broad recognition in academia and industry of the need to train researchers to meet the challenges created by today’s breakneck pace of technological progress.

    Current examples in market

    BS in UX/HCI

    MS in UX/HCI

    Concentration in UX

    Graduate certificate

    Take a deeper dive

    In the recorded webinar, Emerging fields of study: How to identify key target markets to grow and compete online, we further explore:

    • how your institution can identify key markets
    • recommended criteria for entry, risk factors, and key success indicators
    • how Maryville University and Pearson partnered to successfully expand online offerings

    Watch the webinar →


    Research and analysis used to identify emerging fields of study

    • Review of new NCES CIP codes
    • Analysis of BLS Employment Projections to identify occupations slated to grow in the next 10 years
    • Review of national and syndicated data sources, like Burning Glass and TalentNeuron
    • Utilization of Google Trends to analyze the popularity of search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages over time
    • Review of institutional websites to identify new and emerging programs
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  • Creating a strategic education benefit that works for your employees and your business

    by Sean Stowers, CPTM & Rachael Bourque, MBA, Accelerated Pathways, Pearson

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    Here’s what we know

    For years, organizations have established tuition reimbursement benefits to attract potential new hires, but generally put them on the shelf and forgot they existed. Traditionally these policies were designed to meet a $5,250 per person, per year allowable tax benefit deduction and covered only post-secondary education expenses.

    The benefit was used to show stakeholders and industry competition that the company was a good corporate citizen, even using the benefit in campaigns to get onto “Top 100” lists, but the desire for actual employee utilization is very low and often deterred. Still, other organizations have turned their back on an education benefit all together, thinking investing anything in individuals that turn over at such a high rate is a waste if they never show up for a second shift.

    Most companies who have adopted this approach have seen low benefit participation rates, and worse, fail to articulate the value of such benefit to senior leadership. With the right toolkit leveraging insightful questions, organizations can shift their thinking on education assistance as a powerful tool in attracting, developing, training and retaining employees.

    Here’s what we found

    Both scenarios above are missing several key components such as: strategy and unification of cross-business stakeholders to drive a meaningful discussion related to talent management; design thinking around educational programs and solutions that can impact job and career development; the right technology and support to capture data analytics related to performance and business impact of these benefits; and ultimately, widening the lens of who your workforce is.

    We’ve met many companies who keep similar philosophies; not because they’re meaning to, but because they don’t understand the underlying strategy or cost to the organization. These lackluster views about talent development aren’t keeping up with the pace of change, in an economy where nontraditional competitors are now attracting your talent and, where employee resignation or quits have risen steadily by the millions since 2010 due to lack of development opportunities.

    Total employee quits per year

    Total employee quits per year. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Here’s why we did it

    Leveraging our collective years of experience in working with employers to design, develop, deliver and manage learning and education programs for companies, we partnered with Jaime Fall and UpSkill America as a way for us to share our insights broadly with the marketplace. UpSkill America, in partnership with the Walmart Foundation, has built a toolkit for organizations to use in designing sustainable upskilling strategies and solutions.

    We encourage you to download the “Tuition Assistance Policy Discussion: Roadmap to a Skilled and Educated Workforce”.

    This tool is the latest in a series released by UpSkill America in the past year to equip businesses with the tools to educate, train, and support frontline workers’ development to advance their careers. The work builds on UpSkill America’s 2017 UpSkilling Playbook for Employers.

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  • Three ways employers can prepare for the future of work

    by Nathan Martin

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    To prepare for the future of work, we could do much worse than learning from Geoffrey Owens.

    Remember Geoffrey Owens? He’s the former Cosby Show actor who was thrust into our timelines after a “look where he is now” image of him bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s went viral. The tabloids’ attempt was to shame, but the public saw his example as something to be praised, not ridiculed.

    Here was a man who had spent his life teaching and acting and, like so many people, had picked up additional work to support his family. The tabloid backlash was immediate and justified. Vindication was swift and Owens handled the situation with grace. He summed up the incident well on Good Morning America, “I hope this helps us rethink what it means to work, the honour and dignity of work.”

    His story is something to be celebrated, a role model to emulate, but it should also make us think about not just what it means to work, but how employers can better support and prepare people for a world of work that is changing and seems to require more than one career in a lifetime.

    Successful workplaces will be places where the best people can thrive regardless of bias about gender, age or background.

     

    This is something I think about in my job at Pearson — how to not just prepare for the future of work, but to also ensure that this future is one which benefits all people. We know that the world of work is undergoing seismic changes. Trends like automation, climate change and political changes will impact jobs and careers. The idea of a traditional career or “job for life” is changing.

    We need to ensure that education and employment is fit for the needs of our changing world.

    That was one reason why, in 2017, Pearson published The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030, in collaboration with Nesta and Oxford Martin. By combining a wider understanding of the trends that impact the future of work with expert human judgment and machine learning, a clearer understanding emerged of the skills more likely to be future-proof.

    While the research pointed to a coming disruption in employment (one in five jobs will likely decline), that will be accompanied by increased demand for other jobs. Skills which will be important are qualities like the ability to teach other people, solve problems, read social situations, analyse systems and develop unusual or clever ideas about new topics.

    Increasingly, as automation and artificial intelligence plays a greater role in our lives, what makes us human is what will make us employable. Employers must find ways to sustainably support and get the best out of those human qualities. Three ways they can do that are:

    1. Support flexible pathways

    Living in London, I am reliant on the web of the Underground. As I wrote in a recent report with Jobs for the Future, the changing world of work will look less like the linear highways of America, and more like the Tube. Pathways to employment may not follow traditional routes. It might look like the gig economy. There may be stops and starts. Whether it’s apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships, flexible working, new models of work-place learning or credentialing, employers should embrace ways to make it easier for people to progress throughout their career, even if it’s not in a straight line.

    2. Enable life-long learning

    A changing world of work means that learning new skills will need to be a continual part of each employee’s lives (you can explore what skills you’ll need in 2030 to succeed in your current job here). Employers play an important role in supporting the acquiring of those skills. That might involve the apprenticeships and training offered by a group like Network Rail, the skills mentoring offered by LocalizED, or it could be the Best You EDU partnership that Pearson operates with Brinker International and its restaurants in the United States. At no cost, employees are able to earn different credentials, including their GED and Associate Degree.

    3. Prioritise diversity as a core competency

    Workplaces in the future must see the business case for equality and be able to attract and retain people from all backgrounds at all ages and stages of life. For the first time, five generations of workers are working at the same time. It is difficult to build a “Fourth Industrial Revolution-ready” workplace where these generations can succeed and do good. Diversity makes for better work and we’ve been exploring this critical topic with journalists, educators, scientists and students in Nevertheless. Successful workplaces will be places where the best people can thrive regardless of bias about gender, age or background.

    This is just a start, but for the world of work to become a place that values humanity, we will need more than just policy or business actions, we will need better heroes. And we will need to be honest and transparent about the opportunities and challenges.

    It might look like an actor trying to continue balancing a career, a scientist whose accomplishments were overlooked (now featured on this STEM Role Model poster) or a colleague who literally worked their way up from nothing to helping lead technology at a major company and mentor other women in STEM careers.

    We need pioneers to show what it looks like to dream, to continue learning, take different pathways and stay resilient in the face of changing circumstances and this brave new world of work.

    This guest post is republished from Virgin Unite’s 100% Human at Work Series.

    Nevertheless is a a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology. Supported by Pearson. Subscribe on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcherSoundcloudTuneIn or RadioPublic.

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  • A new talent compact: Striking a new deal with your employees

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    The U.S. is experiencing historically low levels of unemployment. As a result, learning and development (L&D), talent management and human resource (HR) thought leaders are declaring that the war for talent is over. Talent has prevailed.

    Even with historically low unemployment, consider this:

    • There are an estimated 6.6 million jobs currently going unfilled in the U.S.
    • There are over 70 million individuals in the U.S. with either some college education but no degree, or without a high school diploma
    • These same individuals currently work in jobs with a high likelihood of being impacted by automation
    • By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require some form of post-secondary education and training beyond high school

    This doesn’t sound like either side won.

    To prevent another declaration of war for talent, L&D must create a new compact for talent. We need to strike a grand bargain with our employees and offer them a new deal.

    Ed Baldwin, an HR strategist, suggests doing away with the concept of “at-will” employment and striking a compact that is worthy of reciprocation for both employee and employer. Additionally, Evan Hackle, CEO of a leading training development company, believes that we must provide career planning for every employee and transparency to where they stand in the talent pipeline.

    With all of this as a back drop, I would like to propose that there is a new compact to be had with talent, and as L&D leaders, it is within our grasp to strike this grand bargain. This new deal for talent requires L&D to deliver on three main points.

    1. We will ensure you have the skills you need to succeed in your role.

    Now, for many of us, this may feel like what we are already doing. We provide what we think is role-specific training or tools to our employees to help them be successful in their current job, but in many industries, like hospitality, retail or quick service restaurants, the lack of foundational skills, literacy, numeracy, and even fluency in English, is holding workers back from achieving their potential.

    As a learning and talent leader, we often lament when our front line does not take the programs we push out. But what if the obstacle to taking these programs is a language barrier or not having the personal technology devices or Wi-Fi to assist them in consuming these courses? Research shows 30 percent of the workforce falls into this latter bucket.

    Forward-thinking organizations like Brinker International have recognized this. In January of this year, the parent company for Chili’s and Maggiano’s launched an innovative, voluntary employee education benefit Best You EDU™ to all hourly and salaried team members that begins with foundational education all the way to college.

    2. We will invest in the development of your skills to advance your career.

    Imagine being told you had $3,000, $4,000, or $6,000 a year that you could spend on developing your skills and advancing to your next role. How would you spend it?

    As I talk to learning and talent leaders across a wide spectrum of companies, and we talk about the cost of turnover especially in front line worker roles, replacement costs can equal $2,000-4,000 a year for roles making on average $10/hour.

    What if we flipped the model and instead of accepting this as the “cost of doing business,” we focus it on developing the employee for their next role – inside or outside of the company. For each year you stay in your role and have satisfactory performance, we will invest the value of turnover that year into your personal development. Talk about worthy reciprocity.

    The Amazon Career Choice program is an example of this type of approach. Amazon invests up to $3,000 per year, up to a total of $12,000, for warehouse workers to reskill to their next role – largely outside of Amazon – for jobs in high-growth areas such as health care, technology and the skilled trades.

    Imagine a world in which companies with programs like Career Choice are connecting their talent ecosystem to companies that are looking for that particular skill set, seamlessly moving talent from one organization to the next.

    3. We will provide you with the tools and resources to determine how to invest in your skills.

    How do we trust individuals will make smart investments in their skills development? This new deal is about providing tools and resources to help them make those investments. In my view, this is about career advising, academic advising and success coaching.

    It may seem foreign to think about these types of services or roles in the context of your traditional talent management team. But giving your employees the resources and tools to plan their career requires these types of roles. The traditional back-office educational assistance program is not providing this level of support or strategic alignment to your talent strategy.

    This means moving away from the fallacy that our managers are effective at guiding career planning conversations. Sure, they can conduct performance reviews, but most managers have limited capacity, few tools at their discretion, and minimal training in guiding an effective career planning conversation.

    Success coaching is important to front line workers who are returning to learning for the first time. Success coaching is there to monitor and support the employee through their learning experiences. This should be required of every educational provider the organization works with – or a service provided by a third party.

    A great example of this is an insurance company located in the Midwest. As part of its talent management organization, they have individuals who help coach internal candidates through their talent management process – from understanding a job posting, to preparing a resume, to submitting the resume to the hiring manager, to prepping for the interview. Their commitment to helping their employees understand internal talent mobility is a defining part of what it means to be an employee for that company.

    Many will say “This is not possible. This would be too expensive to fund. I could never get this approved.” Yes, this is a departure from the norm, but consider the following:

    • Several studies by the Lumina Foundation have shown a return on investment (ROI) for up to 140 percent for organizations that strategically use their educational assistance programs. What learning programs do you currently offer that show that level of ROI to the organization? If you could demonstrate that level of ROI to your CEO and CFO, what would their reaction be?
    • Turnover of employees is a major cost to organizations and a drain on an organization’s results and resources. What if you could reduce turnover by 20 percent in your organization? What is the value of that reduction, not only in turnover cost, but also in increased productivity, revenues and customer satisfaction?

    A Starting Point

    As learning and talent leaders, this new deal starts when we prioritize workforce development. It starts when we move programs, like tuition assistance, out of being a benefit and into being a strategic tool for investment. It starts when we begin to look at our educational assistance policies and begin to customize them to the workforce. It starts with equipping your employees to make good decisions about how they develop their skills and invest in their development. It starts with removing the roadblocks your employees have in order to utilize these programs.

    According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report, 33 percent of the workforce is actively engaged and fully productive. That means that 67 percent of our workforce is looking for a new deal – better opportunities for development, opportunities for advancement, opportunities to be the best version of themselves. Gallup estimates that for every $10,000 in salary, a disengaged employee cost the company $3,400 per year. As learning and talent leaders, the business case is ours to make. The impacts are ours to make. This grand bargain is within our reach.

    It is time for L&D professionals to strike a new deal with talent – a deal that is good for organizations, employees, and for the communities in which the business operates. A deal that is truly worthy of reciprocity.

    This article originally appeared in Training Industry Magazine.

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  • Kate's story

    by Kate Edwards, Senior Vice President, Efficacy & Research, Pearson

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    Kate Edwards, SVP, Efficacy & Research at Pearson: “Why I chose to tell this story.”

    At face value, what I’m sharing is a story about efficacy in medicine and what can be learned and applied in the field of education. It’s about the power of focusing on outcomes and what can be achieved by a diverse team applying evidence in the service of delivering those outcomes. It’s also a story that tells another tale. It’s the story of someone, me, who at the time felt they had personally and physically failed — and what they went on to do next.

    With that in mind, it wasn’t an easy decision to share my story. I am not someone who lives a life of self-disclosure. In fact, however seamlessly presented this narrative appears, its sharing has been grounded in a lot of fear and self-doubt.

    I was afraid. Afraid I’d jumble up events, misrepresent things or people, forget important medical things. I was afraid others would judge me, or the sharing of it, as inappropriate. Scared that it would be interpreted as giving advice when I don’t presume to have any to give. The story is my family’s experience of extreme premature birth. It is also a story that is not ‘over’ for us, we are still living with the effects of what happened.

    Why did I choose to do this? Living through that experience, I learned that it’s the moments when you think everything is going wrong that a strange alchemy can take place. One that transforms the disaster into a renewed and purposeful journey. I chose to share this story not because of the experience of failure, but because of what I learned next, and what that’s helping me to go on and do.

    The twists and turns that learning took me on, taught me that straight roads are conducive to a speedy arrival at your destination, but they don’t necessarily make skillful drivers.

    Over the course of the 116 days we spent in hospital I learned things about myself, about others, about resilience in the face of adversity, and about what you are capable of doing in the service of the things you care most about.

    After we left the hospital and returned home, a very wise man (Pearson’s CEO, John Fallon) who was reflecting on his own personal challenges said,“I’ve learnt that it is not what happens to you in life, ultimately, that matters, but what you do about it.” John’s words have stuck with me. Over time, and with the support of other colleagues at Pearson like Tim Bozik, Kate James and my team, the words gave me the courage to build on what I learned. I have come to understand what it means to show-up as myself, not just in private, but at work, and as a leader. Ultimately, to paraphrase researcher Brené Brown, I learned that the courage to be vulnerable can help you transform how you live, love, parent, and lead.

    On the 16th of November, it will be two years since my daughter’s scheduled delivery date. November 17th is World Prematurity Day. To personally mark these poignant milestones I agreed to write about my experience. I wanted one or two of the parents of the 15 million babies born prematurely each year to know that they are not alone. I also want to remind you that we all have these stories that go into the making of who we are and how we show up. It’s by feeling the fear, choosing courage over comfort, daring to be brave, sharing and listening to stories of persistence, and using what we’ve learned to make a difference (however big or small) that change can come: in our personal relationships, our families, our workplaces, our communities.

    Nevertheless is a a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology. Supported by Pearson. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud, TuneIn or RadioPublic.

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  • Soccer lessons

    by Robin Beck, Contributor, Pearson

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    Diversity, communication, and other learnings that companies and higher education can take away from the World Cup.

    The 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament is taking place in Russia from June 14 – July 15 and England is bringing the most diverse team it has ever taken. England has players ranging in age from 19-32 and nearly half of its players are black or of mixed identity.

    Bringing together 32 nations with players speaking more than 20 languages, the World Cup is celebrated for its diversity and multiculturalism. While billions of people will watch the matches to see who will be declared winner, there is something else that businesses, in particular, should pay close attention to — team diversity and culture.

    A recent article in the Harvard Business Review notes that a strong culture is implicit, pervasive, and enduring. Senior executives and HR professionals know this well. According to Deloitte Insights, 87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges. Creating a diverse workplace with a strong shared culture is hard to build, but the rewards are far-reaching.

    Avid soccer fan Ikechukwu Odum says the World Cup is his favorite sporting event. Having traveled to Brazil for the 2014 matches, he said what he enjoys most is the competition, the talent, and learning about the players’ backgrounds. “The World Cup means so much for the players and for the countries, communities, and the people they represent. Every player brings different abilities and talents, but they come together and try their best to win.”

    In this way, FIFA soccer teams resemble the modern-day workplace, where different groups of people must work together to outperform the competition and reach a shared goal.

    Diversity not only brings different experiences and skills to a team, but it also drives team performance. England midfielder Dele Alli said, “We’re all confident in ourselves and the team we have. We have a young, very talented squad…we just have to play as well as we know we can.” The same spirit of teamwork and collaboration should be present in the workplace.

    Shideh Almasi, Director of People at Feedvisor, an algorithmic commerce company, said, “Teams at work function quite similarly to sports teams. They need to be diverse, they need to be adaptable, and they need to work together. You, of course, need the technical skills, but it’s the skills like communication, leadership, resilience, and interpersonal skills that help teams push forward to reach their goals.”

    And CEOs, much like head coaches, must embrace soft skills like empathy to help guide employees to achieve success. Former Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz was well-known for his inspirational and touching messages to employees, driving big wins for the global company.

    German soccer coach Joachim Low has a similar success story. During the 2014 World Cup championship, he told player Mario Götze, “Show the world you are better than Messi and can decide the World Cup.” Götze went on to score the game-winning goal for Germany.

    Talent is the prerequisite, but the interpersonal skill of communication is what set Germany apart from the competition. Soft skills for both players and coaches prove to be crucial, driving results and positive outcomes.

    Reflecting on the victory, Götze said, “…We can be happy that we have so many great and skillful players and a real good mixture of young guys and experienced players.” While there is no gender diversity among the all male soccer teams, the different ages, languages, and backgrounds make teams stronger, more agile, and more competitive.

    The referees who govern the game are not exempt from using strong communication to work through language barriers and cultural differences. The 36 referees and 63 assistant referees were picked based on their skills and personality. Prior to refereeing the games, they were required to attend workshops and seminars.

    FIFA Director of Refereeing Massimo Busacca said, “…the referee has to prepare himself in the best possible way in all areas…Knowing the different football cultures will help him in his performances.”

 Similarly, companies like Pearson offer employees ongoing training to help them develop a global mindset and understand cultural differences.

    “It’s not always pretty if the teams aren’t organized or if there’s not a shared philosophy,” Odum says. “But you hardly see bickering or egotism, because the players know they represent more than the game.” Companies that take time to build their culture with diverse teams and shared values have employees who work effectively with others toward the mission and vision of the organization.

    Almasi adds, “There’s so much you can learn by working with people who share common goals and values, but who think differently and maybe even look differently than you.” Soccer teams competing in the World Cup understand this and use diversity to their advantage. Businesses tuning into the World Cup may do the same and prioritize investing in a more diverse workforce. That’s a winning strategy — on or off field.

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  • New report: Demand-driven education

    by Caroline Leary, Manager, Pearson

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    A new report responds to The Future of Skills by exploring its implications for education systems and offers up practical solutions for higher education to more closely align with what the workforce needs.

    We are excited to share a new report by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Pearson that explores the changing world of work and provides recommendations for shifting from the traditional route to employment to a network of pathways that is flexible, dynamic, and ultimately serves more learners.

    Released at the Horizons conference in June, Demand-Driven Education: Merging work and learning to develop the human skills that matter looks at what is required for transitioning to the third wave in postsecondary education reform – demand driven education.

    The first wave – access – was focused on getting more people to enter higher education. The second wave was focused on improving achievement – getting more students to earn degrees and certificates.

    In this third wave, the worlds of education and work will converge producing programs that ensure students are job-ready and primed for lifelong career success.

    Adapting to the needs of both the learner and the employer, “demand-driven education takes account of the emerging global economy — technology-infused, gig-oriented, industry-driven — while also striving to ensure that new graduates and lifelong learners alike have the skills required to flourish.”

    The report states, “as the future of work unfolds, what makes us human is what will make us employable.”

    While technological literacy is critical, learners need educational experiences that cultivate skills, including fluency of ideas, originality, judgment, decision-making, and active learning, all supported by collaborative academic and career paths.

    Higher education and employers are making headway in this arena with innovative programs like University of North Texas’s Career Connect and Brinker International’s Best You EDU.

    In a recent interview, Joe Deegan, co-author of the report and senior program manager at JFF, said,“although technology such as digital assessment might enable educators to make programs faster and more adaptive, the most significant change is one of mindset.”

    The future is bright. And there’s a lot of good work to do through active collaboration and partnership to create rewarding postsecondary learning experiences that are responsive to our changing world and inclusive of all learners.


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