Graduate Outcomes and Work Readiness: Employers Perception of Blended Learning
Policy Connect recently hosted the second evidence session of the Higher Education Commission's inquiry into Blended Learning at the University of Derby. Chaired by Vice-Chancellor Kathryn Mitchell, the session focused on Graduate Outcomes and Work Readiness.
Digital skills have recently become a key component in determining a graduate’s outcomes and work readiness. As a result of COVID-19, there has been an abrupt shift to digital learning and working, leading to a premium being placed on digital capabilities and literacy. Employers expect students to be digitally skilled and are expected to communicate and translate teamwork from face-to-face work to digital work. Requirements for suitable digital skills may have alienated existing members of the workforce, and university students for whom digital poverty has obstructed effective engagement in digital learning.
Higher Education providers are increasingly coming to recognize that students have access to vastly different digital infrastructures, yet have thus far failed to provide the inclusivity necessary to appropriately equip students with skills required in the modern workforce. With blended learning approaches now commonly adopted by universities, there is concern that members of the workforce who completed their degrees pre-pandemic may not possess skills useful in the post-Covid economy.
Participants commonly remarked on the importance of ‘digital confidence’ in ensuring graduates acquire technical skills and develop the capacity to adapt to technological advancements. COVID-19 has eroded the digital readiness of job entrants and required employers to provide additional digital training for new staff. Universities may improve digital confidence by increasing their signposting of the general support available for students wishing to access digital resources.
As the transition to Blended Learning was not strategically planned, educational institutions should make the digital transition a purposeful choice that is supported by pedagogical evidence and strategy. Unsurprisingly, attendees reached a consensus that policy must be reformed and built upon pre-existing structures as to not disrupt the sector further, especially when it comes to conversations regarding education for employment.
Employability is at the core of university degrees now, more than ever. Employers are concerned that the current approaches and models of traditional degrees are not effectively equipping graduates with the digital capabilities needed to thrive in the modern workforce. However, there are instances of great practice occurring across the sector, which will be highlighted in the upcoming report.
For more information on the inquiry and evidence session, please contact alyson.hwang [at] policyconnect.org.uk