As Learning Goes Online, Should I Reconsider My Approach to Hiring

by Evil HR Lady on September 10, 2020

Dear ReWorker: Universities are going digital. Does this mean that MOOCs, training courses and independently gained skills are just as good as the university experience? Should we change our hiring criteria?

To read my answer, click here: As Learning Goes Online, Should I Reconsider My Approach to Hiring

Leave your own in the comments!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

jccbeach September 10, 2020 at 7:46 pm

The question isn’t whether someone can learn effectively online – research shows this occurs. Instead the question is what is the educational quality of the programs offered outside of a traditional institution of higher learning (including trade programs). Most colleges/universities offering degree programs are accredited through external entities. Those entities ensure the quality of the programs through an extensive review of the institution’s operations and offerings.

Many employers will want an accredited degree to distinguish between those that are vetted and ones which are not. An accredited degree assures a level of quality like specific competencies being met like these abbreviated ones: Analyze specific rhetorical contexts, Organize writing to support a central idea, Use appropriate conventions in writing; etc.

I haven’t seen where universities claim you can’t learn effectively via an online program – please share source. What has been said is not every program easily converts to an online environment. Some programs require that hands-on component like Nursing degrees. Most programs require students to work with real live patients at some point in their program of study.

As for the university experience, do you mean activities which occur outside the classroom like clubs, fraternities, internships, study abroad, etc.? Many of those experiences can occur virtually, too. Even alumni are hosting virtual happy hours.

Your article misses mentioning community colleges which often partner with businesses to create courses to address skills gaps for their employees. These courses adhere to guidelines which make them eligible for awarding college credit. Community colleges also award credit for prior learning such as military service, unaccredited college courses, etc.

The example of programming learned through CodeAcademy misses the point of the Economics degree. Economics degree classes will encourage critical thinking and require writing and researching skills. It’s a broader education but, hey, if we only need to know specific tasks to get through life, I guess we all can just learn them and ignore everything else.

I agree with your point that always requiring a degree for a job isn’t the best route for finding the best candidate. There is nuance to almost everything.

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Jame September 10, 2020 at 11:01 pm

Finding which courses can be done online will be interesting and will take a while. There are some that require a hands-on component. You mentioned nursing. I would add geology and civil engineering to this–both require that you get your hands dirty, and both include stress-test classes that determine if you can handle the work (field camp is a fond memory for every geologist!). On the flip side, I’ve yet to hear a good reason why accounting can’t be learned via apprenticeship or online learning. Some can even be self-taught, such as computer programming (we all have that one friend).

Ideally our society will use this pandemic as an opportunity to critically examine our educational industry and determine how much of it actually makes sense. Given the realities of 21st century technology, does it make sense to revise how we teach each course? Realistically? Can anyone imagine universities giving up their status just because it’s the best option for society as a whole?

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Kathy September 10, 2020 at 9:10 pm

It’s important to know if a non-college course is appropriately rigorous, it’s true. But colleges are often less than rigorous in awarding degrees and no one seems to notice. Many college students focus more on parties than on education and still scrape by with degrees. Many profs are reluctant to grade below B-. Employers say that a degree shows that one has the dedication and persistence to finish a large undertaking. That’s probably quite true for some but it seems like a strange way to describe the experience of many students I’ve known. Perhaps in addition to considering other forms of education as qualification for a position, we might stop idolizing formal college degrees quite so much.

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Elizabeth West September 10, 2020 at 9:21 pm

Yep, and since they’ve become gobsmackingly expensive, they’re also out of reach for a large segment of the population who otherwise would make really great employees.

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Elizabeth West September 10, 2020 at 9:27 pm

Another thing that bugs me is how training seems to have gone the way of the dodo. Too many employers want experience with their exact systems and don’t even look at transferable skills. You can teach someone who’s done work that relates to yours but isn’t necessarily an exact match. Don’t just look for a unicorn—MAKE ONE! 🙂

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