Changing Learning Outcomes: Global Strategies for Students’ RetentionEarl Harewood | Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University/School of Higher Education
In today’s fast paced global environment, teaching and learning can take place at any time and in any space. This is response to the demand for new knowledge, skills and abilities created by the evolutionary economies, sociopolitical undulation and the globalization phenomenon.
Thus, that “learners are enrolling for programs en masse” is an undisputable phenomenon in higher education. It is necessary for higher education leaders to understand the drivers behind this trend so they can adequately prepare to accommodate a diverse students coming with their respective uniqueness to the teaching and learning environment.
It is also prudently important for higher education leaders to understand the inner workings of another country’s educational system, their habits, celebrations, culture and historical links to behavior before exporting their institution’s programs to those nations. Doing differently prepares students to function in their current state and not with a focus on the developed future state because of a lack of internal accountability, foresight and follow-through.
I make this assertion because education is all about development; developing the person, developing communities and eventually developing nations. It does this by providing matching programming to develop students who in turn participate in developing their own countries rather than relying on the some outside international agency to the develop for them. This is an imperative because the many changes that are taking place in the world are creating conditions to further marginalize already marginalized persons, communities and nations and higher education has a role in short-circuiting the impact of some of these events.
Cookie cutter programming does not fit in foreign countries. People in these countries have a desire to develop beyond where they are, both individually and collectively. If their national developmental needs are not considered in the programming, then providing this foreign degree to someone does very little to elevate the nation and in some ways the benefactor of such educational opportunities are empowered to advance to positions of privilege and thus becoming part of the elite grouping who sometimes are involve in further marginalizing others.
Hence, it is important to consider the culture and the noted dynamics that shape individual places and peoples, otherwise more and more students and potential students will give up or seek education opportunities elsewhere and may remain in the host country, thus leading to serious brain drain issues for many nations which have their own challenges as developing and under developed nation as developmental activities tend to stall with these events.
Technology has transformed the way in which business is conducted, the way in which people learn and certainly the ways in which information is attained and used. Globalization has done similar things, but most of all, it has connected people in unconventional ways and created all kinds of interconnected links that is making the world smaller and activities and events more immediate.
These transformational processes are creating all kinds of uncertainty in the workplace, thus leading to a mad rush to the halls of higher educational institutions. Some of the learners are not working because of varied displacements events; some are retirees affected by the global financial crisis seeking alternative sources of income or another career; some are recent high school or college graduates who are unable to find meaningful sustainable work and are seeking new learning opportunities that will help them get a suitable employment; some are international students seeking self-improvement or on furlough from their home countries to pursue a focused area of study to assist in attending to the development needs of their respective nations. Others may be displaced from their home countries because of perpetual wars, famine, underutilization of their gifts and talents or some have received an immigration visa through some immigration lottery or family sponsorship and want to pursue higher learning.
All these persons bring their uniqueness to the learning environment, their individual concerns and contexts, including their:
- Childcare concerns
- Displaced worker syndrome
- Psychosocial vulnerabilities
- Cultural and ethnic variations
- Little or no financial support
- Desire for sustainable advancement
- Uncertainties of what careers to pursue
- Holding more than one un-sustaining jobs
- Deficiency in the local functional language
- Deficient foundational educational preparation
- Broken marriages or other familial relationships
- Marked symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome
- Single parent with young children or teenagers at home
- Concerns with generational differences, needs and aspirations
- Memories of unpleasant past experiences and other idiosyncrasies
- Prior learning whether learning has been good, bad or indifferent; on-the-job, classroom or life learning
The world is in a state of perpetual transformation and it is only fitting that learners be adequately primed to take advantage of suitable learning opportunities that will prepare them for new employment openings or to better fit in their current organization that is constantly changing. What is clear is that learners’ decision to pursue higher learning does not prohibited them from bring all their accumulated “life content” to the learning environment. Sometimes the effects of these punctuated events in learners’ life can be a catalyst to focused learning or these events can be major hindrances to starting a course of study and maintaining a suitable momentum that will propel forward.
In next week’s conclusion to this article, Earl Harewood will present a list of some of the most important student services elements that higher education institutions must provide to help learners acclimate, connect with others and access critical, individualized support services.
Author Perspective: Educator