(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes a look at the articles and posts I found interesting from the previous week, along with reflections about how the trends they point to might shape my thinking about education and technology.)
Whichever way you look at it, cybersecurity is one of the hottest tech areas around. There are obvious reasons for the high demand, and that demand is also leading to workforce shortages in the area. One solution to those shortages, at least for colleges and universities, is setting up formal mentorship programs to develop in-house talent pipelines.
The cybersecurity workforce in the United States is not big enough or diverse enough, but programs focused on strengthening the next generation of employees are aiming to change that, in part by tapping current workers for help.
While formalized mentorship programs within higher education institutions are rare, outside organizations can provide opportunities for students and IT departments to join and learn, creating what could become in-house talent pipelines.
Keeping with the cybersecurity theme, I also noticed this news about IBM partnering with HBCUs to set up cybersecurity leadership centers. Among other things, the initiative:
…Seeks to help bridge a wide chasm in the United States between the number of cybersecurity jobs and the workers to fill them. Data tracked by Cyberseek show there were nearly 600,000 cybersecurity job openings in the United States as of September 2021, leaving more than 36 percent of all cybersecurity jobs vacant. And a 2020 report by ManpowerGroup found that 69 percent of employers were struggling to find skilled workers, a staggering jump from just 14 percent a decade earlier.
Also in higher ed, I enjoyed this article about the different ways successful online university programs provide proactive interaction to engage students.
Leaders at institutions that specialize in online higher ed know this. And so they’ve designed systems, strategies and tools to better hold the attention of their students, many of whom are working adults. These techniques include human outreach, like employing teams of mentors and advisers who proactively check in on students, as well as automated tools that help keep learners on track.
That’s a sharp contrast to how most residential colleges operate. And so the online and hybrid courses these institutions spun up during the pandemic came with little of the scaffolding that experts recommend.
Michael Feldstein had an interesting post last week, in which he addressed the difficulties of discerning industry patterns that will lead to inevitable change in entrenched markets (like education). As an example, he discusses the rise of the “upstart” Canvas LMS that eventually disrupted the market and also led to changes in the decision-making around LMS adoptions. He admits that he didn’t see that happening (and he has abundant company in that admission, including me). The information was there, but we were all blinded by our own assumptions, so much so that we failed to see new patterns, cracks in the wall of what seemed to be an inevitable market outcome.
Beating the odds, and accomplishing the impossible, often requires us to mercilessly throw out our assumptions and relentlessly hunt for even the tiniest hints of cognitive dissonance that may point the way toward a path that averages and conventional wisdom miss. When facing a dauntingly complex problem, like systemic change in the ways that educational institutions operate, getting out of the tight spot we’re in can seem impossible. The trick is in training ourselves to see the cracks in the wall of inevitability and then believing what we see. Whatever others may tell us.
I tend to agree with this post about the gradual move away from traditional high school transcripts that do little or nothing to show a person’s true competencies and relevant experiences. Startups like GreenLight Credentials and ELocker are working to ease the transition to more effective transcripts and credentialing for students, schools, and employers.
Finally, it was nice to see someone reminding folks about the importance of spaced learning for long-term information retention. This is one of the three recommended strategies for knowledge retention in the useful book, Make It Stick, by Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel: (1) active retrieval; (2) spaced repetition; (3) interleaving. Good reminders here for anyone designing learning programs and experiences.