The QA Commons is mindful of the dramatic and transformational impact COVID-19 is having on all institutions of higher education. As an organization, we are adapting our services to support preparing graduates for the workplace that is now changing more precipitously than ever.
The education system is broken, and the disconnect among students, employers, and Higher Ed is clear. Below are findings that coalesced into the idea for the EEQ CERT.
To address the disconnect, and to facilitate and catalyze communication among Higher Ed faculty and administration, students, and employers, we co-designed a certification for educational programs that:
“Our process comprehensively and extensively reviews how effectively programs prepare graduates for the workforce. Each participating program said the process added considerable value. Most programs changed & improved during the 9-month pilot.”
The co-design program was a success. Here are what some of the participants said …
“At the end of the pilot process, I was thrilled to attend a final convening where all members of the pilot process were able to celebrate our progress and our learning. While only a few of us received certification, we all felt privileged to be a part of this first cohort—and I’m excited to say that two programs from my institution are planning to participate next year!”
“Once I completed my program portfolio, QAC helped me identify ways to showcase my participation in the pilot and to encourage others in my institution to apply for next year, which I was more than happy to do—I hope to stay involved in the community of learning as my program continues to evolve.”
“I had a blast reconnecting with my peer liaisons at the second convening …. There, I received the results and feedback on all data inventories, which I was eager to share with my colleagues back home. I gained clarity and understanding about the framework of the pilot moving forward—including the work my program needed to do before June. I felt excited and proud to be part of the pilot process as well as the larger movement of quality assurance.”
“Having access to my fellow program liaisons throughout the process was invaluable. I communicated regularly with these peers, asking questions and sharing my own learning. Together, we amassed a great set of best practices for future programs who might want to participate in the process—including those within my own institution!”
“With assistance from my campus colleagues, I completed and submitted my Data Inventory … , which detailed my program’s specific characteristics and practices. Completing the data inventory really got me thinking about my data, and showed me what we might be missing.”
“My relationship with The QA Commons deepened when they visited my campus later that fall. The team answered any remaining questions I had about the EEQs and my role in the pilot process. They even met with my colleagues who were assisting my program in this work—I felt very supported in my decision to participate.”
“The QA Commons prompted me to connect with others on my campus and provided the information I needed to get them on board. … I reached out to faculty, department members, IR, and others who would help my program engage in the pilot process, using messages and materials I received at the convening. Articulating the value of EEQ certification was easy, and I had no trouble convincing my colleagues to get involved.”
“The QA Commons sent me great materials for our convening, where I was to meet other pilot participants—I was immediately excited to start learning from these passionate peers! … I received aggregated information from pre-surveys and a program profile from every institution, which helped build my contextual understanding. I gained clarity on the various steps … and my role in the co-design process, as well as who on my campus needed to join me in this work. I felt excited to begin!”
“I reached out to The QA Commons to learn more. After receiving a comprehensive packet of information, I had a great conversation with Melanie and Ralph where all my questions were answered. They helped clarify the value of the certification …. They were so helpful and energetic—I was surprised by how much they already knew about my program!”
and these diverse majors and disciplines:
|Student Age||Student Attendance|
|Majority of students A18−25: 19 programs||Majority of students F/T: 24 programs|
|Majority of students A26+: 8 programs||Majority of students P/T: 3 programs|
Factors contributing to the gap between employers and Higher Ed comprise disconnects in the following areas: preparation, communication, cooperation, application, and coordination. These gaps can be bridged by these recommendations:
The 18-month pilot process yielded promising practices that can be useful for myriad programs that have yet to formally adopt the QA process:
Other promising practices included the following:
After this extensive R&D, we continue to test and refine our model via new programs, institutions, and geographical areas.
The US alone has about 3,700 degree programs in the US—not even counting certificate programs—so a robust model must work as well for a coding boot-camp as it does for a 4-year degree program.
Our current demonstration project is a “working laboratory.” There, we continue to develop how the EEQ CERT process builds workplace competence and confidence in students—while we address employers’ key concerns about the readiness of graduates for the workplace.
Already, we find that as programs self assess, they discover gaps in assuring that graduates achieve employability skills (along with academic content). And employers share the gaps they find in current graduates.
Once a program earns the EEQ CERT, students and prospective employers alike can trust that the credential signifies employability. “Growing evidence tells us EEQs are what employers want most—but struggle to find,” said QA Commons Ralph President Wolff.
Once a robust set of programs have been assessed on all 5 criteria, the resulting anonymized big data will help us learn which criteria have the most demonstrable effects. These findings will be shared with institutions and systems to broaden the scope and impact of our work.
We also want to embed EEQs into course and program outcomes (CLOs and PLOs) so workplace skills can be assessed along with academic content. We want to ensure that EEQs are incorporated into new courses, as well.
We appreciate you contacting us. One of our colleagues will get back to you shortly.