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Educators should embrace employability agenda and “virtual exchange”

With online learning videos receiving more than one billion views per day, one keynote speaker at AIEA’s conference urged educators to give students “about 20%” control over their learning, and freedom to learn using their mobile devices.

AIEA 2019AIEA president Cheryl Matherly said: "It challenges us to consider the evolution – and maybe revolution – of higher education." Photo: The PIE News

Virtual exchange – through the use of technology – is able to bridge some of those gaps

At a time when education leaders are increasingly expected to be “both futurists and strategists”, sessions that explored strategies for engagement and employability featured alongside innovative approaches to mobility at the recent Association of International Education Administrators event.

“What we need are people who have skills that computers don’t have

In her keynote address, renowned author and journalist Esther Wojcicki urged educators to adopt online learning platforms and encourage peer-to-peer learning.

“Banning phones doesn’t work; it’s better to teach kids self-control and to teach them to use [their devices] politely,” she counselled.

Wojcicki also called for an updated approach to preparing students for success post-graduation. “The number one skill employers want today is creativity,” she told attendees. “But how do we prepare creative students when the way we learn has changed? 

“We already have AI; what we need are people who have skills that computers don’t have… social-emotional skills.”

Enabling relevant workplace skills, agreed executive director at CONAHEC Sean Manley-Casimir, is proving to be a significant challenge.

“The skills gap is manifesting itself – there is a distance between what we are doing in higher education and what industry is looking for,” he told attendees.

The global race for international students has also “ramped up”, added Manley-Casimir.

“There is a very significant increase in student mobility towards Canada, including a path to permanent residency, and students are very carefully watching what will happen with skilled migration such as OPT programs in the US,” he advised.

Meanwhile, in Australia, IEAA chief executive Phil Honeywood shared, international students increasingly want course-related employability.

“In Australia, we now have 650,000 international students.. which makes it difficult for Australian employers to provide [course-related employment].

In Australia, international students increasingly want course-related employability

“But we are very grateful to [UK prime minister] Theresa May for abolishing post-study work rights, which we do have, ” Honeywood added.

With new and innovative opportunities for students to transform themselves into global citizens being another focal point of the conference, “virtual exchange” became the buzzword for campus leaders looking to expand internationalisation efforts and boost mobility.

In a roundtable chaired by executive director of the Stevens Initiative, Mohamed Abdel-Kader, delegates shared their approaches to virtual exchange and discussed how technology can open new opportunities to internationalise the student experience.

“There can be some significant barriers to physical student mobility, and virtual exchange –through the use of technology – is able to bridge some of those gaps,” Abdel-Kader told The PIE News.

“Not every student is able to go abroad, but virtual exchange allows students to have an experience where they are connecting with and learning about peers in another country – and that’s a very powerful experience.

Closing the conference, AIEA past-president Nell Pynes congratulated delegates on a successful event filled with rich discussion.

“I think we are well poised to undertake new and innovative initiatives to tackle real-world issues in the higher education landscape,” she added.

• Photographs taken by The PIE, the media partner of the event can be viewed here and here.

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