Jackie Pichette and Lena Patterson — Learning with Lynda(.com)

Educators around the world are being called on to pull up their socks and save the economy: to “bridge,” “plug” or “prevent” the skills gap by equipping students with the technical and transferable skills needed to meet tomorrow’s economic needs.

But which technical and transferable skills, exactly? Well, we know that employers are looking to hire people who can think critically, work in teams and communicate effectively. And, we suspect that in addition to those skills, many employers will soon be scanning the market for digital literacy and creativity. Studies such as the 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit report (sponsored by Google) show that both employers and students doubt whether the education system is adequately developing these skills.

It’s within this context that the Government of Ontario launched the Career Kick Start Strategy, with an investment of $190 million over three years. Part of that investment has been dedicated to providing blanket access to the full suite of online learning material contained in the repository for a three year period. Acquired by LinkedIn in 2015, is an e-learning platform offering a video library of business, technology and creative courses. The goal of this investment is to provide students the opportunity to supplement their learning through an on-demand, self-serve, skills-based platform. Instructors and staff can also access the material to enhance their courses or skill-up in an area of interest.

eCampusOntario has been working with Ontario postsecondary institutions to ensure all students, instructors and staff have access to the full suite of content. Over the next couple of years, HEQCO will be working with eCampusOntario to evaluate how and the extent to which the platform is being used to develop measurable skills and demonstrable competencies. It’s a research project with questions that cut across all three of HEQCO’s research priorities: Access — whom does this platform best serve? Skills Assessment — can a skills-based online learning platform add value for students on a large scale? And system design — can a universally accessible platform drive system-wide consensus around assessment metrics?

To get at these questions and more, HEQCO and eCampusOntario will gather data from students and institutions to better understand perceptions about and use of resources. We’ll then work with institutions to expand on this research, potentially by piloting new opportunities for online skills development and assessment.

By 2020, we hope to have a sense of the impact of this investment, as well as greater insight into the role that skills-based online learning can play in preparing students for the careers of tomorrow’s economy.

Jackie Pichette is HEQCO’s Senior Researcher and (Acting) Manager for the Centre for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Lena Patterson is eCampusOntario’s Senior Director, Programs and Stakeholder Relations.

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