This week, Kathy Booth, Senior Research Associate at WestEd, joined us for an exciting presentation of research into learning pathways within community college.
Kathy’s research digs into important questions about how we define “success” and “failure” with regards to course completion, and looks at how badges might help capture success in a way that changes attitudes towards community college programs and non-completion statistics.
The national push for completion of degrees, certificates, and transfer to four-year institutions has helped to focus community colleges on measurable goals. However, this emphasis on completion does not fully capture community college outcomes, particularly in job training.
The traditional degree-to-lifelong-career narrative is no longer an accurate reflection of most people’s pathways, as new technology and jobs are creating opportunities that didn’t exist while these people were still in education.
We know that education and the workforce are changing: many traditional college degrees provide inadequate preparation for the jobs graduates are pursuing, and workers are finding they have to go through continual training and skills development throughout their careers, either in a workplace setting or by obtaining additional degrees, certifications, or online credentials. Employers are looking for a way to identify workers with the right skills for the job, and workers are trying to showcase their skills in a way that ‘counts.’ Badging comes in, according to Kathy, when employers need to know more about a candidate’s skills and knowledge than can be gleaned from a degree or transcript.
Despite all the changes to education and the workforce, and a number of individual colleges working to adapt their approach to the new world of work, there is still a deeply ingrained image of “success” when it comes to education - the cap and gown, a neatly rolled diploma with a red ribbon, the fresh-faced graduate walking into interviews and coming out with multiple job offers to choose from, each with opportunities for development and advancement.
Non-completion can equal success
Kathy’s research was inspired by the realization that there needs to be
The quality of a community college credential
The researchers found that non-completers were earning more than completers in certain areas, likely because non-completers were older, and had increased experience and skills in the field as well as the academic credentials, which meant they are entering the workforce at a higher wage.
The average age of the students in these studies was 37 or 38 and most h
For many fields, the economic value of the training received came from the content of the courses, not from the credential itself. Years of work experience plus updated training and skills development were more valuable than a long-term degree - with the exception of healthcare, where the credentials and expertise were both very important in determining the value of the degree.
How badges can help
There is a distorted image of