Can EdTech (education tech) help with universities’ biggest challenges – particularly around career outcomes for students? And should universities be turning to start-ups and scale-ups in the search for a solution? These are the subjects of a report released by Jisc, a not-for-profit provider of technology solutions for colleges, universities and research organisations, and Emerge Education, a European seed fund investor into start-ups interested in filling the employment skills gap.
Sponsored by GTI, the report The start of something big? is based on findings from interviews with more than 50 key decision-makers within higher education and pinpoints five main priorities for universities. One of them was adapting to changing student expectations around employability and career outcomes. Mark Mitchell, the head of university partnerships at GTI, got together with Sue Attewall, head of EdTech at Jisc, and Nic Newman, a partner at Emerge, to present a webinar delving into the details around these expectations.
We heartily recommend you watch the webinar and read the report (not least to discover what the other main priorities are). But, if time is short, here are five takeaways about how EdTech, and in particular what we like to call Career Tech here at GTI, can help universities deliver better outcomes for students.
Employer mentoring remains a crucial component for increasing students’ employability, but it can be difficult to deliver at scale. Up until now, many universities’ mentoring programmes by necessity have only covered a small percentage of the student population. The outcomes and success of these relationships can also be hard to monitor, with data often kept in a rather piecemeal way on individual spreadsheets.
Start-ups and scale-ups in the EdTech space provide platforms that enable:
These platforms can facilitate these relationships both for ‘loose mentoring’ (which happens through work experience) and ‘tight mentoring’ (the one-to-one relationship between mentee and mentor typically facilitated by universities).
Research from Jisc has indicated that students have a strong desire to know that their study experiences are preparing them for their future workplace, including the software and apps they might use and the skills they will require. What’s more, a recent survey from Jisc reveals that only 41% of students thought their course was preparing them adequately.
The challenge for universities – whether working with local employers to embed employability skills into individual courses or tapping into national schemes – is the time-intensive nature of course development. The rollout of courses can take 18 months, and the risk is that by the time the course is ready, businesses will be seeking different skills and capabilities in recruits. This is where online programme management (OPM) providers can help; providers are working with top employers to produce courses on, for example, database management that can be developed and rolled out to students within six to eight weeks.
The additional advantage of this is that these modules do not need to be limited to a particular faculty – for example, a geography student can take an additional module in one of these skills areas as much as a business student.
With the growth in remote working and virtual internships, which has been accelerated by Covid-19, students do not have to be confined to the employment opportunities within, for example, 30 miles of their university or home location – or limited by their ability to relocate. Platforms in the EdTech and Career Tech space can facilitate greater access to these opportunities, for example by:
This, in turn, allows for a greater degree of social mobility. By removing access barriers to a greater number of opportunities, it enables and encourages students to be more aspirational in their career choices.
A theme picked up by the The start of something big? report is an ever-increased desire for the students to be offered personalised careers advice relevant to their specific situation. Again, Career Tech platforms can enable this personalised delivery of content. However, they can also provide opportunities for self-development and self-directed career discovery with a tailored learning and employability journey that career professionals know from their own experience works. The ‘nudges’ provided by bespoke content and the online delivery of mapped-out career pathways (such as the ones offered by TARGETconnect) can make all the difference to students’ engagement with employability.
Entrepreneurial thinking is vital for all students, not just those who already run or want to set up their own business (around one in four students, according to research from Santander). It provides all students with the mindset that will equip them for a changing employment market, in which they may switch careers throughout their working life.
Incubators for intellectual property and student innovation hubs are well-established within most universities and are key components of how they foster entrepreneurship. However, the latest thinking – embraced by the Universities of Coventry, Nottingham, Manchester, Falmouth and Western Scotland, among others – is to turn the entire university into an entrepreneurial incubator. This results in entrepreneurialism being embedded in the pedagogy and the curriculum for all subjects. Of course, EdTech organisations – particularly start-ups and scale-ups – have much value they can bring to universities in this regard.
For us, one of the nicest things about Jisc and Emerge Education’s report is that it shows that our own platform TARGETconnect is well-placed to support universities.
TARGETconnect already enables careers services and welfare and support services to manage their casebooks and caseloads and, in the case of careers services, capture essential data on their students’ employability journey. It also provides careers advice from GTI’s TARGETjobs and gradireland brands, and we plan to make this ever-more bespoke to the students’ preferences. Our automated national graduate job and employer distribution service, TARGETconnect Link, is the largest of its kind and provides even more vacancies to students.
In the pipeline we have plans to develop our existing capability further to deliver virtual work experience and experiential learning – and, among other things, to develop personalised employability skills/competency development programmes for students at scale.