Linda Suskie

 A Common Sense Appr​oach to Assessment in Higher Education


Is it time to update our learning goals?

Posted on March 27, 2019 at 5:40 AM

Burning Glass Technology recently released a report on a study of skills that employers included in online job postings in over 50,000 online job boards, newspapers, and employer websites.

Before I get to the meat of their findings, an important caveat: While 50,000 online employment sites sound impressive, they’re clearly not representative of all jobs sought and filled by college graduates. The jobs discussed in the report are heavy on information technology and business. There’s no mention of many other fields such as teachers, social workers, scientists, clergy, or musicians. The report acknowledges the heavy weight on IT by separating results for digital occupations from other occupations, but I still don’t think the results are representative of all employers everywhere. That said, let’s dive in.

A few of the skills that employers seek are ones that already show up on virtually every college’s list of institutional or general education learning goals: communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills. Two others—collaboration and creativity—show up occasionally although, in my view, far too infrequently.

The remaining skills are largely absent from institutional or general education learning goals:

  • Analyzing data
  • Communicating data
  • Digital design
  • Project management
  • “Business process” (skills with cost control, business operations, planning, and strategy)
  • IT skills including computer programming, software development, data management, and digital security

I’m not going to recommend anything based on this one, somewhat flawed study. But it generates some ideas for all of us to think about:

  • Should our curricula be giving greater emphasis to creativity, collaboration, and visual communication?
  • I’ve heard arguments that gen ed math courses should be statistics courses, and this study, showing the need for skills in analyzing and communicating data, reinforces them.
  • Should we not only require program capstones but require that they be projects that students are responsible for planning and completing, thereby developing project management skills? Should we encourage group capstone projects, thereby helping students develop collaboration skills?
  • Would liberal arts students benefit from a course or badge that gives them basic skills with IT and business processes?

Categories: Learning goals