Published on 2013/11/22

Just-in-Time Learning Flies Under the Radar with Completion Target

AUDIO | Just-in-Time Learning Critical for Employees, Workforce
Integrating just-in-time learning and prior learning assessment into degree programs will help the 60 percent completion initiative with its goal of strengthening the workforce.
The following interview is with Bob Mosher, chief learning evangelist at Ontuitive. Mosher formerly served as a learning leader with Microsoft and has written and spoken in the past about the value of just-in-time learning for professionals. In this interview he expands on the value and importance of just-in-time learning for employees and those seeking work after graduating, shares his thoughts on the true value of a degree in the eyes of employers and discusses how, by collaborating with major corporations, institutions could simultaneously alter the student life cycle and produce highly sought-after graduates.

Click here to read key takeaways

1. How valuable is just-in-time learning for working adults when it comes to career progression and advancement?

In the world we live in today, I think it’s invaluable. Most corporate learning executives — both HR and on the learning development side — would concur with that. We live in an ever-changing world; the days of the corporate universities and [other training facilities] that people used to have in their career advancement and development once they left higher education, have changed very dramatically. Their ability to keep up with the ever-changing world of business and the amount of content we have and the lack of shelf life of that content is really significant.

The idea of moving learning to a more just-in-time format for career advancement and development has become more important to the success of both the workforce itself and organizations than I think it has ever been before.

2. What role do just-in-time postsecondary classes play for working adults as compared to a degree or certificate program?

It’s an interesting dichotomy in the world we’re in today. I think clearly there’s a place for, and there will almost always be a place for, the more traditional degree or certification program.

But, the value of … just-in-time secondary ed environment becomes much more critical. It allows the baseline of a certification program or a continuing ed degree to take on a lifecycle of its own, which by nature of the traditional degree or certification is not the case.

It allows secondary institutions to extend their learning to a more applicable day-in/day-out, on-the-job type of context and relevance. One of the larger complaints of a lot of organizations today is they have a lot of up-skilling to do to people who come out of a traditional ed degree or certification program.

I think an ongoing just-in-time approach allows them to take those baseline skills but have a more structured and systemic way to allow learners to continue their learning and be more effective in the organizations that hire them; and at the same time give the organizations a way to guarantee and streamline their ability to up-skill professionals and keep them current once they appear on the job.

3. How critical is it for an individual to possess a higher education credential to find a pathway into the workforce and succeed in the future?

It’s interesting; I think that the jury is still out on that question to be honest with you.

I spend a good part of my time talking to Chief Learning Officers who are faced with professional development of their people that come from higher ed. Candidly, there’s a little bit of disillusion about the traditional degree programs.

There’s a challenge in that world to modify them and make them a bit more flexible in their ability to work with the corporate side. There’s a relevancy when people come out of those programs. There’s still value as I said before, but I think the jury’s still out on the degree of which value will continue to hold the levels that we’ve been used to, if [institutions don’t] find out a way to work more collaboratively with corporate America to make those programs a bit more relevant in preparing folks to come into the workforce.

4. What kind of an impact do you think the 60 percent degree and certificate completion target will have on the availability of courses for adults looking to gain just-in-time skills?

I think it’s a powerful concept, as the research supports there a number of folks who didn’t finish their degrees. There’s a number of folks who question the quality and, frankly, the viability of investing in a traditional four-year or even two-year degree.

These kinds of programs are going to really open up a whole new workforce to us that maybe have not been filled in the past. It’s going to be a challenge though, to ensure that there is a marriage between those types of programs and the type of worker that they create.

I think there need to be initiatives around the degree to which … [institutions work] on ways to partner more closely with corporate America to make their programs relevant to help with these types of degree programs.

There’s high potential for them; I think it opens up a whole new set of worker, if you will, to the workforce we haven’t had before. I’d be anxious to see the creativity around [changing] the degree that creates a more relevant degree program which is, I think, ultimately what everyone’s looking for.

5. Is there anything you’d like to add about the impact the degree completion initiative will have on the availability of, even potentially noncredit, just-in-time classes for adults and how the value of the degree is going to change to meet employers’ expectations in today’s learners?

It’s going to be interesting to see if the issue of “a degree” is as important as what the degree is on; the currency of the degree, the specificity of it relative to the worker that an organization is looking for.

There’s some anxiousness around the degree of re-skilling that is needed. And so I think the ability of transitioning into a more traditional degree program to get baseline skills, but at the same time marrying that with more just-in-time continuing ed programs that are not just an extension or a redo of how we have done before but a truly born out of and co-authored by the organizations which these institutions are trying to prepare the learners to enter.

I think there’s a tremendous promise in the marriage between the two programs.

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Key Takeaways

  • The degree does not hold the same value as it did in the past when it comes to communicating a graduate’s skills and competencies to a potential employer.
  • The need for employers to up-skill graduates, and for employees to continue to learn and develop, has underlined the value of just-in-time programming.
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Readers Comments

Jason Bennett 2013/11/22 at 9:58 am

I agree completely with Mosher when it comes to the value of degrees in their current form, and think his comment (the jury is still out) was particularly nice.

The degree needs to be revamped. Students should get a two-year education in soft and technical skills, then continue taking classes once they enter the workforce to gain necessary skills and competencies they need to improve their job standing. After they have taken a determined necessary number of competency-building courses as a working professional, they can earn a degree, which wills signal their capacity to move from an entry-level position to a decision-making position.

Chuck Schwartz 2013/11/22 at 11:56 am

The degree has been getting a really rough ride over the course of this week, but this is the first piece I’ve seen on the negative side that shows how valuable it can be with a few changes.

Francis Beyer 2013/11/22 at 2:17 pm

Working more closely with employers seems to be an important idea that’s been recurring throughout the week. If degrees aren’t providing anything more than theoretical, conceptual understandings of abstract concepts, then what is their value?

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