A 2018 Gallup poll found that only one-third of college students had strong confidence that their degrees would lead to success in the job markets. The unpredictable social and economic impacts and rapid technological advancements of the past year mean students are increasingly looking for job readiness to assess whether higher education is worth the investment. To address growing concerns over undergraduate enrollment rates, higher education curriculum needs to be adaptable and ready to change based on both student and job market needs.
Over the past few years, higher education has seen a growing demand for workforce-ready certifications incorporated into broader degree programs. For most colleges and universities, however, updating degree programs and course catalogs is a long and tedious undertaking that many schools would prefer to avoid or delay. As Kim Beckica, VP at Kirkwood Community College explained, “some credentials may or may not be mapped within the higher education majors and programs that we have.” To meet student needs and alleviate the administrative burden, some colleges and universities are turning to streamlined curriculum management systems to align courses with certifications and student interests with workforce needs.
When the University of Northern Colorado (UNCO), which has more than 200 programs and 500 courses, digitized the forms and workflows of their curriculum review processes, it led to faster processing of course changes, a complete and up-to-date course catalog, and a better system of course planning for students. Previously, curricular changes were handled by a mix of PDF’s, Excel sheets, and paper processes. Michelle Heiny, Assistant Registrar at UNCO, described how these scattered documents impeded UNCO’s ability to get curriculum changes approved quickly. “[It] is very onerous for academic units to complete curriculum forms,” Heiny said. “We spent a lot of time going back and forth via email.”
UNCO’s upgrade to a digitized curriculum management system means that students can map out two- or four-year plans against job market potential. Heiny explained how improved catalog and curriculum processes have led to better career planning experiences for students. “Four-year plans will be housed within the catalog,” Heiny said. “It will allow students to say, ‘okay, I like that major. Here are the courses I have to take each year.’ They will actually see their workload over four years, all in one location.”
As colleges and universities seek to attract, retain, and graduate students, being able to demonstrate alignment with the job market and in-demand skills through the course catalog and degree programs is essential. By digitizing course catalog management, schools can streamline curriculum change processes to readily incorporate in-demand skills training and certifications into their course catalogs. And, more importantly, students can map out their learning pathways to achieve their career goals and demonstrate knowledge and value to their future employers.