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Study: Online Ed Execs Need More Accurate Measures of Students' Career Success

According to a recent survey, executives of online and professional higher education programs want to change the way they evaluate the career success of their graduates.

Measuring how successful their graduates are over time is becoming a higher priority for executives of online and professional higher education programs.

According to the annual Future of Online and Professional Education Survey, 95 percent of the senior executives who responded said they want to do a better job of evaluating the career outcomes of their graduates. The survey, prepared by EAB, a division of the Advisory Board Co., found that conventional ways of evaluating success — average starting salaries or the number of graduates who get jobs upon graduation — are losing relevance.

Many of the respondents said they would prefer to measure career success over a period of time, instead of limiting the measurements to the period immediately following graduation.

Also, nearly half of the 85 senior executives in continuing, online and professional education who responded to the survey this spring said they plan to add some form of customizable certification to their programs over the next five years. The study pointed out that only 4 percent currently offer any kind of similar certification.

Carla Hickman, practice manager at EAB, said that finding is likely a response to what experts are learning about the way the millennial generation is organizing its work life.

"Millennials, who are expected to average 20 jobs over the course of their lifetimes, are approaching professional education much differently," said Hickman. "They are seeking short-format courses and credentials for 'just-in-time' and 'just enough' education."

Scott Fassbach, EAB's chief research officer, said in a statement that the survey findings indicate higher education administrators are looking for ways to refine their efforts to prepare students for careers: "Institutions are clearly responding to contemporary learner demands for flexible, personalized and effective education options."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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