by Nancy Sturm MS Education, Principal Consultant, The Sextant Group

The marketplace—particularly the labor market—identifies and rewards the 21st Century skills needed in today’s and tomorrow’s work environment as identified by the World Economic Forum. Higher education campuses across the country seek ways to refocus instruction & student engagement to align with those 21st Century skills teamed with a depth of learning in a variety of disciplines. It might best be defined by research from SCUP’s Trends Report for 2016 “The Michigan State T-Shaped Student model combines curricular learning with experiences outside the classroom, including internships, undergraduate research, and practice in entrepreneurship.”

The World Economic Forum has identified 16 skills that students will need in the 21st Century.

©2016 World Economic Forum

Meanwhile, the role of technology has become a mandatory companion to almost everything we do. How can technology enhance teaching and learning environments that foster these expected skillsets? How can space encourage physical and social environments that foster competency skills that match workforce needs? You might ask yourself “What are the drivers of the T-Shaped Student?”

One critical driver is that in the next ten years the US is going to need to grow the number of college graduates to 40 million, but at our current success rates and capacity, the nation’s postsecondary institutions will fall short of that need by some 11 million graduates. We also are entering the “smart machine era” that will be the most disruptive in the history of IT. Campuses will need to focus on skills that computers don’t have and recognize how these skills change the landscape of formal and informal teaching and learning. And lastly, we have to recognize how Higher Education Credentialing will be designed to meet these new directives. By acknowledging the T-Shaped approach, new concepts in evaluating students’ educational experiences must be explored.

With this call, leaders from higher education, industry, government, foundations, and professional associations met in March 2014, in San Jose, California for the first T-Summit. The summit generated dynamic discussions regarding how higher education and industry can collaborate to cultivate the talent development required for the 21st century workforce. T-shaped professionals need educational and work experiences that help them to learn how to handle information from multiple sources, and to collaborate.

T-Summit 2015, held on the campus of Michigan State University, pushed the conversation further to determine how these groups can best work together to prepare students to be professionals who use new technologies, business models, and societal innovation to make a positive impact on the world. By bringing corporate leaders to the table, conversations focused on their needs for our college graduates. Conversations around Data Analytics, Digital Marketing, and Mobile Developments jobs skills were highlighted. They explained that these jobs have tripled over the last five years. They asked College leaders what they were doing on their campuses to teach these T-Shaped Student skills. Campuses shared many “Best Practices” they are implementing.

A report done by Institute of Educational Technology in the Open University collaborated with researchers from the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International offers suggestions for the call for Innovative Pedagogy. Ten pedagogical approaches were identified for campuses to consider for the development of the T-Shaped Student.

• Crossover Learning: connecting formal/informal learning environments
• Learning through Argumentation: developing skills of argumentation
• Incidental Learning: harnessing unplanned/unintentional learning
• Context-based Learning: how context shapes the process of learning
• Computation Thinking: solving problems using computing techniques
• Science with Remote Labs: guided experiments on authentic scientific equipment virtually
• Embodied Learning: making mind and body work together to support learning
• Adaptive Teaching: adapting computer-based teaching to the learner’s knowledge and actions
• Analytics of Emotions: responding to the emotional states of students
• Stealth Assessment: unobtrusive assessment of learning process

Imagine if…through the efforts of educational leaders all over the nation, we could embrace these ideas to more fully realize the promise that higher education holds for every American.