The Great Resignation and The Great Deflate

balloon

2021 was the year of the “Great Resignation.” We have been told that it was a year when workers quit their jobs at historic rates. This is an economic trend meaning that employees voluntarily resign from their jobs. Blame has been aimed at the American government for failing to provide necessary worker protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to wage stagnation. There was also a rising cost of living. The term was coined in May 2021 by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Texas A&M University.

It's now 2022 and unemployment rates have fallen sharply from their pandemic highs. The labor force participation rate - which is the percentage of people in the workforce, or looking for a job - has increased, though not to its pre-pandemic level.

It was thought in 2020 that 2021 with a vaccine would mark the renormalization of the economy, schools, and life in general. But Covid variants wiped out that vision.

It seems counterintuitive, but to economists quitting is usually an expression of optimism. You don't quit a job unless you have the prospect of another, probably better one, or you don't need to work because of a good financial situation. But the quits happened when inflation is looming, and the Omicron variant is dominating.

Some industries are seeing higher rates of quitting. It isn't surprising that leisure, hospitality, and retail are at the top. Those were hit hard by the pandemic. Healthcare is another and certainly many of those workers were just burned out by the pandemic. But the reasons given for quitting include a lack of adequate childcare and personal and family health concerns about Covid. If the pandemic overwhelmed you at your job, you might have decided to quit even without a new prospect in search of better work opportunities, self-employment, or, simply, higher pay.

Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic that there are 3 myths about this Great Resignation. One is that it is a new 2021 phenomenon. Is it really more of a cycle we have seen before or that has been moving into place for years and simply accelerated by the pandemic?

For colleges, it wasn't so much a Great Quit as it was a Great No-Show. The newest report I found from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) shows that postsecondary enrollment has now fallen 2.6% below last year’s level. Undergraduate enrollment has dropped 3.5% so far this fall, resulting in a total two-year decline of 7.8% since 2019. As with jobs, not all of that decline is because of the pandemic and it too is a trend that was evident before the pandemic. But Covid didn't help the decline.

Add to these one more "Great" that I see talked about - The Great Deflate. This is the idea that rather than our economy being a bubble that will burst, it's a balloon that is deflating. In "The Great Deflate" by M.G. Siegler, he talks about a more gradual trend. Picture that helium balloon floating at the ceiling on your birthday that day by day has been slowly moving down as it deflates. No burst, just a slow, steady fall.

Is there a connection among all these trends? Certainly, the connection is the economy. Perhaps, there won't be a stock market crash or something like the Dot Com bubble burst, but we see stock market drops of 1, 2 or 3% pretty regularly. Those are significant drops.

Since May 2021 when Anthony Klotz coined "The Great Resignation," other terms have emerged including “The Great Reimagination,” “The Great Reset” and “The Great Realization” terms that express the re-examining of work in our lives. But the quitting wave hasn't broken yet and so Klotz has more recently made three not-so-surprising predictions.
The Great Resignation will slow down
Flexible work arrangements will be the norm, not the exception
Remote jobs will become more competitive


Economists say rapid quitting and hiring will continue in 2022 despite omicron wave

A Toast to the Tech Future

Businessman holding transparent tablet innovative future technology

LinkedIn Top Voices in Tech & Innovation were asked their thoughts about the technologies shaping the future of how we live and work. I'm wary of "thought leaders" and prognostication in general, but I know it is part of all this. There are buzzworthy topics that I have written about here - the metaverse, NFTs, Roblox - which are all starting to have an impact but likely have not changed your present.

Here are some links to these voices. See if someone piques your interests and read their post or follow them.

Allie Miller - Global Head of Machine Learning BD, Startups and Venture Capital, AWS - Miller is all about AI

Anthony Day - Blockchain Partner, IBM -  blockchain in crypto, NFTs and other trends and innovations

Asmau Ahmed - Senior Leader, X, the moonshot factory - she posts about her company’s latest work - robots, access to clean and reliable power, improving availability of safe drinking water (by harvesting water from air)

Many of these people are consciously or unconsciously also posting about who they are and how they got to where they are - and perhaps, where they want to go.

Avery Akkineni - President, VaynerNFTT which is Gary Vaynerchuk’s new NFT venture.

Bernard Marr - Founder & CEO, Bernard Marr & Co. - a self-defined futurist, he writes cars, phones, delivery robots, trends in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Cathy Hackl - Chief Metaverse Officer, Futures Intelligence Group - how many CMOs have you heard of so far? Her agency helps companies prepare for the metaverse.

Martin Harbech worked at Google and Amazon prior to Meta (formerly Facebook) and shares news and updates from the tech industry. You might read about remote truck drivers, photorealistic avatars, or haptic gloves research. He also shares insights on new companies and the future of various industries.

Remote Learning Is Not Necessarily Online Learning

remote learnersThe COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and corporate trainers to move their content online. Teaching and training went remote. But are remote and online learning the same thing? I see the terms used almost interchangeably.

Remote teaching, training, or learning has been done before there was an Internet to get online. Correspondence models and instructional TV/video predate the Internet. Today, we are using Skype and Zoom lectures, apps and tools but remote learning is still considered different from online learning.

I have taken classes and done training remotely that don't have many of the elements of a classroom experience. Things like reading assignments and writing assignments, assessments, collaboration on work, or full discussion boards are not used. For example, I have watched a series of history lectures that were mostly one-way experiences. I watched and although there was an opportunity to ask questions in chat or a Q&A time if you were watching live, this is not online learning.

Online learning should be more robust. It resembles more of what we consider to be "education" and would include interactive modules, assessments based on real-world scenarios, discussion forums designed to discuss and solve problems, synchronous learning sessions that involve discussions and problem-solving. There may still be live or recorded lectures, but that is not the only component.

Remote learning certainly has a place, especially in corporate and training situations. This can be pre-recorded content that can be used as needed, has a shelf life, and can be viewed again by users if necessary. Training on using software is a good example of content that works as remote learning. "But it's all online," you might say, "Why isn't it online learning?" Well, it is and it isn't.

Educators have long been trying to elevate engagement in online learning. It is not training. It requires a teacher or facilitator. Some elements are synchronous. Progress is monitored.

I hedged on my title for this post - "Remote Learning Is Not Necessarily Online Learning" - because fortunately, some training uses the elements that we consider to be integral to online learning. And, unfortunately, some online learning seems to be more like just remote training. And training and education have both been experimenting with hybrid models where learners and instructors can be in the same classroom working together but be extending the classroom online.

Remote learning is not inferior to online learning. It has its place in the broader "learning" experience. Remote learners sitting on their couch at home with a laptop may look the same as students taking an online course, but what is being provided to them, what they are expected to do with that content and what is the final expectations for that learning should be different. Putting a label on learning platforms is tricky, but it is important to know the differences.

 

The Virtual Internship

workplace
The in-person internship

Internships for college students (and sometimes high school students) have long been a good experience. They help young people develop a professional aptitude, learn real-world skills, and often create an opportunity for a follow-up job. They took a hit during the pandemic with offices closed and a reluctance on both sides to be out in the world.

Virtual internships became a thing. I assume some existed before but not in great numbers. I read about some undergrads at Brown University who began Intern From Home in March 2020. They wanted to salvage internships during the pandemic for classmates with a free, simple-to-use platform. They were connecting students at more than 200 colleges with virtual internships and it looks like they have doubled that.

They were not the first to do this. Sites like virtualinternships.com offer college and high school students internship opportunities.

When I was a college student many moons ago, internships were rare. When my sons were undergrads, internships were fairly common but often unpaid and in some cases, students had to pay tuition in order to get credit for the experience. If money is an issue for you as a student (as it was for me), then an unpaid summer or semester was not likely. The National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) reported that the average hourly wage for undergraduate interns rose from $16.35 in 2014 to $18.06 in 2017.

Career exploration is a big plus for internships. I knew several fellow undergrads who did internships or worked in the field that they planned on after graduation and the experience led them to decide that they did not want to pursue that career. That is disappointing but important.

Reading a report from the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions CCWT and other sites all list similar benefits for the internship experience.

    Gain valuable work experience
    Explore a career path
    Give yourself an edge in the job market
    Develop and refine skills
    Receive financial compensation.
    Network with professionals in the field
    Gain confidence
    Transition into a job

 

infographic

Infographic - for larger size see ccwt.wceruw.org

It is disappointing that a new study of online internships shows that, among more than 10,000 students at 11 colleges, most virtual internships last year went to students in middle- and upper-income families. Also more positions were unpaid than paid. (Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin- Madison) They also found that there were higher levels of dissatisfaction with virtual internships compared to in-person experiences. Not unlike online learning, students listed limited opportunities for engagement and learning.

Is Your Job Future Proof?

book coverAmber MacArthur's newsletter turned me on to a new book by The New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose called Futureproof. which considers the question Is your job future-proof? 

First thought: Is any job future-proof? I'd guess that we will always need doctors, farmers, teachers, police and a bunch of other professions, but as they change will they remain recognizable as their former professions?

As a teacher, I've been hearing for decades that we'd be replaced someday by computers, robots, and artificial intelligence. It hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't mean it won't happen after I have left the planet.

The age of automation has been with us since the last century. We have all seen how some industries, like automakers, have automated many jobs that were done by humans. Some humans are still there working with robots and such but not very many. I once toured a beer bottling facility and the observation area was decorated with a timeline showing the place over the years. The thing that immediately hit me was that as we moved through the 20th-century photos was that people were vanishing from the photos. A crowd of humans was putting bottles into boxes in the 1920s and on the floor in front of me now was one person on a platform operating controls for it all to be done by automation.

Automation doesn't take breaks, call in sick, slow down at the end of the day, join a union, or mind working 24/7 for no extra pay.

Futureproof's subtitle is "9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation" and the first rule is to "Be Surprising, Social, and Scarce." Roose's approach is to do things yourself to protect your job.

It's not about defeating the machines because they are here and not leaving and it doesn’t just change our jobs. It changes our entire life experience with AI and algorithms influencing what you watch on screens, what you listen to, the news you get, and on and on. 

It's not about becoming like a machine. In fact, Roose thinks you need to be more human. What are the creative, inspiring, and meaningful things you can do that even the most advanced AI can’t do? At least, not yet.

Better technology for medical imaging was welcomed into hospitals, but you still needed humans to read those x-rays, scans, and such. But now, we are finding that AI might be able to more accurately read those results without bias and using comparisons to an ever-growing data collection of other results. 

Chess and Go players once thought no machine could beat a master. Wrong.

There is too much in the book to summarize here but think about some of these provocative personal rules: Resist machine drift; Leave handprints; Demote your devices; Treat AI like a chimp army.
 
Think about one of those rules: "Leave Handprints." It's the idea that we still value human artisanship and service. People are willing to pay a premium for some handmade items - such as artwork - or to be served in a restaurant. 

 

 

 

 

Gig Workers Versus Employees

work from homeTraditionally, "work" was described as a full-time worker with set working hours, duties and benefits. But the definition of work has changed more rapidly in the past 20 years due to changing economic conditions and continued technological advances. A new labor force characterized by independent and contractual labor has emerged.

I was listening to a podcast about how California’s Prop. 22 could affect the gig economy nationwide from Marketplace Tech. Proposition 22 is a California initiative sponsored by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig work platforms that would exempt app-based ride-hailing companies and food delivery companies from a new state law that requires them to classify drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. Gig companies have poured nearly $200 million into getting a Yes vote on Prop 22. That is the most spent on a ballot initiative in state history, but a No vote will cost them all (and others) a lot more money.

I have mixed feelings about it. As someone who unretired into gig work, I have no desire to be an "employee." But I'm past the full-time worker phase of life and have health insurance, so I'm not like younger gig workers who might be using gig work for the bigger companies as their main gig.

Those companies have threatened to leave California or dramatically raise prices if Prop 22 doesn't pass. I'm not sure how seriously I would take that threat. California represents a lot of business. And yes, I know it will cost them more to operate there and they will probably need to pass at least some of that along to customers but a "dramatic" increase in their prices will also hurt business.

California often takes the initiative on issues - environmental and otherwise - and other states often follow California.

Temporary work or temporary employment isn't really new. What we call gigs might once have been termed "odd jobs" by my parents. Any employment situation where the working arrangement is limited to a certain period of time that is based on the needs of the hiring organization is similar temp work to some new gigs. Those workers (who we should not be called "employees" at this time) have been called "contractual", "seasonal", "interim", "casual staff", "outsourcing", or "freelancers."

At the higher end of those positions are some highly skilled professionals and seasoned workers in "white-collar" worker fields, such as human resources, research and development, engineering, and accounting. Those people (and I include myself) often refer to themselves as consultants.

Gig workers and the "gig economy" are a 21st-century development. Gig workers are also known sometimes as independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers, or temporary workers. In most cases, gig workers enter into formal agreements with on-demand companies to provide services to the company's clients. It was the Internet and the digitalization of the economy and industry that allowed this type of work to emerge.

Digital technology has created jobs and employment forms that are differentiated from existing offline transactions. The economy is driven by accessibility, convenience and price competitiveness.

Presently, 36% of U.S. workers in the gig economy arrived there through either their primary or secondary jobs. In Europe, 9.7% of adults from 14 EU countries participated in the gig economy in 2017. , according to the survey. Meanwhile, it is estimated that gig worker's size, which covers independent or non-conventional workers, is 20% to 30% of the economically active population in the United States and Europe.

Will the Gig Economy someday be the dominant economy?

Reimagining Work After the Pandemic

home office toyParody home office toy for kids watching their parents working from home - see actual toy below

 

As we move towards the winter of 2020, the pandemic is still the most dominant factor affecting work and school in America. In March of this year, the rise of COVID-19 cases forced a reimagining of work and school. I'll leave school for future posts and focus here on work. 

I could have used the title "Reimagining Work" as a title on a post in any of the 14 years that I have been writing here because we are always reimagining work and the workplace. But 2020 has also been the year of social and cultural uprisings throughout the world, a record number of hurricanes, catastrophic fires in California, dire warning about climate change, and an increasingly divided American political system. 

I saw a panel on this topic focused on reimagining the office and work-life after COVID-19. I think it's too early to say what the results will be, but it is clear that some things have been forced to change. The question is how many of those things will remain or will we return to some of what we were doing in 2019? 

Before the pandemic, it would have been safe to say that having offices were critical to productivity and creating a company culture. Estimates I found vary on how much work has moved out of offices. In April, I found that it was estimated that about 62 percent of employed Americans were working from home. Work from home was already a trend before 2020 but the number was closer to 25 percent. Prior to the pandemic, just 3.4 percent of Americans worked from home, but at the peak of the shutdown, an Upwork report in partnership with MIT found that nearly half of the U.S. workforce was working remotely

Will there still be competition for prime office space in major urban centers? Will companies be maintaining but downsizing their workspaces?

around the world, and many focused on solutions that were seen to promote collaboration. Densification, open-office designs, hoteling, and co-working were the battle cries. a couple of years ago. During the pandemic, many people have been surprised by how quickly and effectively technologies for videoconferencing and other forms of digital collaboration were adopted. For many, the results have been better than imagined.

According to McKinsey research, 80 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home and 41 percent say that they are more productive than they had been before.

As I said, this reimagining was happening before the pandemic. In the 2017 book, Reimagining Work, the focus is on the business leader working in what the author calls a "new on-demand economy" positing that "traditional management strategies are becoming obsolete."

That obsolescence is driven from the bottom up. A skilled workforce wants much greater flexibility and more control over their work. That is not something major corporations really ever considered offering in the last century.

That flexibility began in this century with many startups and smaller companies. It's easier to turn around a small boat than it is to turn a large ship.  Some of those smaller companies - Uber, Lyft, Handy, Airbnb, Task Rabbit - have become big and the flexibility was built into their culture. Changes have already happened more broadly in the way companies recruit, develop, and train talent. As the book says, growth for a company is more than just expansion. It also means maturation, adaptation, and evolution. 

During the pandemic, employees were freed from commuting and work travel. That has given them more personal time and greater flexibility in balancing the work-life balance that has been part of attracting new employees for the past twenty years.

For employers, this shift means they can access new pools of talent without considerations of the location while saving on their real-estate costs.

I have had several jobs that were done virtually with only a few visits to the actual company offices. One of my sons started a new job during the COVID-19 summer and he has never been to the company offices. He did his interviews by videoconferencing and has met his co-workers only online and on phone calls.

I don't think total isolation from the office and co-workers is ideal, and there has been speculation about the effect these shifts will ultimately have on "office culture" - morale, company loyalty, camaraderie and other difficult to assess elements.

Almost everyone is looking to return to some reopening and return to whatever the new normal turns out to be. Though President Trump had predicted it would be "by Easter" or "when it gets warmer," no one really knows when we will return. Before a vaccine is available, the office experience of January 2020 will not return. those few offices (and schools) that have reopened require masks and have redesigned workspaces to ensure physical distancing. Companies are restricting movement to avoid typically congested areas (like elevators, break rooms, dining areas, conference rooms). The classic "hanging out at the water cooler" of the 20th century may be gone forever.

But we know that there is value in the social capital that comes from those informal conversations, meetings, and social engagements, not only with co-workers but with clients.

That panel I referenced asked questions that we don't have answers to at this time. Will corporate cultures and communities erode over time without physical interaction? Will planned and unplanned moments of collaboration become impaired? Will there be less mentorship and talent development? Has working from home succeeded only because it is viewed as temporary, not permanent?

Important questions. No answers yet.

 

MORE 

Another webinar on "Reimagining Work in the Pandemic and Beyond" from Harvard Business 

A report on "Reimagining work in the era of COVID-19"




* I used a parody home office toy as an illustration above but Fisher-Price does actually offer such a toy - but no crying baby or wine included.

Checklist for That Video Conference

video conf screenIt seems almost all of us have been involved in more video conferences the past five months because of the pandemic. Offices and classrooms are closed and a lot of paid work is being done. The learning and workspaces have definitely moved online for many of us. But there are also teleconferences with friends and family that are purely social. I have used Zoom, Google Meet, Webex, Slack and Microsoft Teams for formal presentations, courses, social calls and team meetings.

We are also seeing newscasters and celebrities broadcasting from home with surprisingly varied results and quality. I am no longer surprised to see a well-known person who has the resources and motivation to look good on screen look really bad. There are some basic video tech tips that everyone should follow, but before I get to those I want to list some non-tech items that fall under the heading of being prepared.

  1. Prep your desktop. Do you need notes or a way to take notes? If you use papers or another device make sure they are off-camera and won't block the camera or your microphone.
  2. If you're using a phone or tablet, put it horizontally so that you get a full video frame. Have you ever watched a movie or TV show that was in a vertical format? Of course not - think movie screens.
  3. Hang a "Do not disturb" sign on your office door or at least warn people that you're going to be on air and to give you some privacy. Mute other phones nearby. I've been on several calls where someone's other phone rings or the cell phone rings while they're on their laptop.
  4. How you dress depends on the formality of the conference but avoid pinstripes and checks, which can create distracting moiré patterns on camera, and try not to wear bright white or deep black clothing, because many webcams have automatic exposure settings and will adjust to the brightness or darkness of those colors. 
  5. When you position your camera, try to have it at your eye-level. You might be able to adjust the chair you use for that. You should be sitting straight up not slouched back on a couch. Low and high angles are unflattering. Leave those for horror films. Pros and semi-pros use a tripod to hold their camera or phone and you can get those relatively inexpensively, but there are also less expensive tablet and phone stands.
  6. On the more tech side of preparedness, I would say lighting is at the top of the list. Bad lighting can ruin a video. Most people don't have a studio lighting kit to work with or knowledge of three-point lighting schemes, so here are simple things to do. Do have the main light source behind the camera and pointed at you. That's true when using a sunny window or any kind of lamp. Do not have the light behind you or you might be a silhouette. A single bright light on one side of you might make for a dramatic photograph but not a good video. The light, like the camera, is best at eye level because higher or lower create unflattering shadows on your eyes, nose and chin. Again, leave that to the horror films. I sometimes use a sheet of white poster board to bounce the light on my face for a softer look. You might also point a bright lamp at a plain wall or ceiling to get softer light. If you have a smaller desk lamp around that you can point in different directions (such as a gooseneck one), that can work pretty well. If there are shadows on your face and you're using natural sunlight as your main source you can add the artificial light source to fill in the shadows. If you wear eyeglasses, try to avoid glare and reflections on them. You may have to adjust the angle of the light.
  7. It's a video meeting but being heard clearly is actually more important most of the time. There are people who connect by phone without video sometimes so all that have is your audio. Being in a quiet room. Try to avoid echo which shows up in empty rooms, halls and bathrooms (Yes, I know you sound great singing in the shower but...) Many people just use the microphone built into their laptop, phone or tablet which can be fine if you're close enough to it. If being close enough means you end up with a giant closeup of your face on the video then the microphone is an issue. Many people buy a special headset of higher-quality but also try out the earbuds that came with your phone (the optional wireless ones are great)
  8. Position yourself a distance from the camera that gives viewers a head and shoulders shot. Further back is better than too close. (Do consider that microphone though) When talking, look at the camera rather than at the screen of that iPad or laptop so that there is eye contact.
  9. People get concerned about the background in their video and may choose a location based on that rather than on the more important lighting considerations. Zoom and other apps actually allow you to put in a fake background. Newscasters might use a fake studio set and friends might put themselves on a beach or on the Moon. I'm not a fan of that and sometimes doing that causes odd halo effects that are very distracting. My suggestion is to avoid extremes. A blank white wall is not flattering but either is a busy background of shelves filled with clutter. I know that many academics and writers like to use bookshelves as their setting. 
  10. You should practice with the setup and application you are using. All of the applications have websites with help on how to test your video (such as this one from Zoom). You should be aware of what tools are available and how to use them well before you go on air. Too many people don't know very basic things such as how to mute/unmute, change their ID on the screen, ask a question, use the chat function, etc. Practice may not make perfect but it certainly will make better. There are also many videos on YouTube with tips about the tech side of things and for specific applications. Some application help videos are even specific to certain users. The two screenshots shown here are from a Zoom training video that is for educators. Educators will want to use some of the more advanced tools in the apps, such as screen sharing, breakout rooms, whiteboards, etc. 
  11. Finally, you want to look your best whether this is a job interview or saying hello to your granddaughter. The pros use makeup so that they look good under the bright lights, but for most of us, your ordinary makeup, groomed hair and a video-safe shirt or blouse is enough. If there is some shine on your face from the lighting a simple wipe with a soft cloth might be enough.

Zoom session

Learning, Working and Podcasting Spaces

microphone
Image by Daniel Friesenecker from Pixabay

I recently changed one of my categories here, "Learning Spaces," to "Learning & Working Spaces" because I'm seeing greater overlap in those two places. We know learning has always been occurring outside of traditional spaces, such as classrooms, but it is more formalized now than ever before.

Spring 2020 certainly moved a lot of learning online from pandemic necessity. But other learning spaces have emerged in recent decades.

Co-working spaces are formal places for people needing office space but not wanting an office full-time. WeWork is one of the better-known commercial spaces. Colleges are opening virtual campuses, micro-campuses, but informal work and learning is happening in Panera Bread stores, Starbucks, and many local cafes and coffee shops.

I saw recently that Staples stores have been giving some of its retail space over to podcast recording booths. They partnered with Spreaker for recording spaces in six Staples stores in the Boston area. These booths are part of a new Staples Connect model, in which the retail stores offer coworking and community event spaces. The soundproof Staples Connect Podcast Studios are being developed in partnership with iHeartRadio. They provide professional equipment (RODECaster Pro control board, RODE microphones and SHURE headphones) and space for up to four people.

I don't know if most people would consider podcasts as a learning space but a lot of informal and some formal learning is happening through podcasts. 

When I started podcasting at NJIT back in 2006, our initial audience was prospective students and we were clearly doing marketing. But that potential audience quickly grew when we saw that downloads were coming from a more general audience that was interested in research from the university.

In 2007, NJIT became part of the original sixteen colleges to launch Apple's iTunes U. That's when we started thinking about podcasts as a learning space. (The term "coursecasting" was briefly being used by some schools.) 

Apple has changed how it offers podcasts but iTunes U still exists and as they state "iTunes U provides everything an instructor needs to bring the classroom together on iPad—build lessons with apps and your own materials, collect and grade assignments, start class discussions or talk with students to answer questions and provide feedback."

bookMy virtual friend, Kristen Meinzer, recently published So You Want to Start a Podcast, a very comprehensive how-to guide to getting started. There's a lot more to starting a podcast than buying a good microphone and installing some software. Though those things are necessary, having great equipment is hardly at the top of the list of reasons why podcasts succeed.

Kristen knows podcasting having been a commentator, producer, and former director of nonfiction programming for Slate’s sister company, Panoply. She has also hosted several successful podcasts, reaching millions of listeners and continue to create shows.

Is she an educator? Not in the formal sense of a teacher or professor, but you can certainly learn from the programs - and be entertained, which is a combination that some educators have not mastered. 

I would include podcasting as a learning and working space that should be considered by individuals, businesses and schools.

 

 

Higher Education 2040 Looks Very Different

Serendipity35 crossed over the 14 year anniversary on February 2 this year as people were predicting the American football Supr Bowl and predicting the remaining weeks of winter based on a groundhog or the traditions of Candlemas. Usually, I look back on the previous year on this blog's anniversary, but this year I decided to look ahead.

2024Looking ahead and making predictions is a December and January tradition. I feel like most of the time those predictions don't come true, but we often don't look back to check them. In education and especially in technology, it's hard to predict what is coming in the year ahead. That is why I had to look at an article I saw that was titled "Five Predictions About U.S. Higher Education In 2040."

2040? It's hard enough to see ahead to the end of 2020. So the author of that piece, Sally Blount, is either crazy, has Nostradamus DNA, realizes that no one is going to check back on her predictions in 20 years, or she has analyzed real data.

She is a contributor to Forbes, former dean of New York University’s Stern Undergraduate College of Business and seems to specialize now in careers. She analyzed the data and marketplace of the U.S. post-secondary education along with Larry Shulman, senior partner emeritus at the Boston Consulting Group and they came up with 5 "not-so-crazy predictions" about how the U.S. market for four-year bachelor’s degrees will likely look in 20 years.

One prediction is that half of those college degrees will be awarded to students who have spent three years or less on a college campus. How will that happen? More courses per semester? Trimester years rather than bimester years? No. It's based on the number of college-level courses (Advanced Placement), tests and enrollments in college-level online courses that have been expanding "outside credits" by about 5-10% per year over the last decade. 

Their second prediction plays off #1. With three-year bachelor’s degrees becoming more of the new normal, private colleges and universities offering 4-year degrees will close. Less time on campus means fewer tuition dollars. Add slowing enrollment growth and more pressure to hold down tuition costs and they calculate a 30-40% contraction among private non-profits over the next 20 years. If you consider that as many as 20 private colleges closed in the past year and that trend just stays flat, for the next 20 years, that's about 500 schools disappearing.

And the third prediction follows those two by saying that the for-profit market for college education will account for 20% or more of college credits (not degrees) each year. That ties into prediction #1 about outside credits. We thought back in 2012 that MOOCs would make this happen. They peaked, leveled off, dropped some and are now coming back in a less "open" and free fashion. Some of the alternatives the article offers are quality virtual education in key content areas (for example, core courses in the social sciences), and others offering very specialized experiential learning programs (gap years; semesters abroad) with the focus on credits, not degrees.

Blount points to these firms (not colleges) as not needing the same infrastructure and other overhead typical of traditional higher education. This is not news colleges want to hear, but it is news they need to consider.

Blount points to NCES data, saying that for-profit degree providers currently register about one million students (7% of U.S. enrollments) each year. Despite a downturn among for-profit educators after a growth spurt from 1995-2010, private equity firms have been acquiring both struggling providers and long-time providers like DeVry University and the University of Phoenix and will take advantage of the market opportunity in offering credits.

Another prediction is that the gap between elites and non-elites in the college marketplace will only grow wider. Though high-demand schools won’t face the same pressure to accept outside credits, the boards and faculty at many of these schools will explicitly move to a three-year campus residency standard to create more slots for students. 

Finally, they predict that former college campuses will be bought by companies to be used as sites for-profit education, senior living facilities, healthcare centers, corporate campuses, residential learning sites, camps, training facilities, etc. In March 2018 Bloomberg reported that Chinese companies have already purchased at least four campuses in New England. 

And 5 conclusions:

  1. The restructuring of the U.S. higher education system is in motion
  2. Parents preparing to send children to college should make use of all opportunities available for your students to earn college credits while in high school or through a gap year experience between high school and college. 
  3. Looking at a private college? Ask about their policies for granting college credit for prior coursework and early graduation options
  4. Schools should consider metropolitan settings for adjunct teaching talent and employment options for dual-career faculty couples, gaining scale and sharing costs through potential mergers, roll-ups and other consortia options.
  5. Be realistic about the coming headwinds and prepare to offer the best possible array of educational options for future students. 

 

Can You Order Lifelong Learning from Amazon.com?

graduatesJeff Selingo is saying that something to watch this year concerning continuous learning/universal learning/60-year curriculum/lifelong learning (I'm not sure what the term du jour is) is not coming from universities but from Amazon. 

This idea that we are always learning is hardly a new idea. But the idea that schools (at all levels) should supply that learning to non-traditional students who have left the school or maybe never attended the school is fairly new. Distance-learning began in the U.S. in the late 1800s. "Distance" meant that the learning was not in a classroom.

It went from the correspondence-course model to the broadcast airwaves to the combination of snail-mailed CDs and DVDs and finally online.

Selingo says that Amazon plans to spend more than $700 million to train 100,000 employees for higher-skilled jobs over the next six years. What's missing? Any college or university to design or deliver that training.

I also think that this idea is not brand new. Companies have been designing their own training for many decades. When I started at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2000, my department was helping design and provide training courses to companies. But as the decade progressed, I noticed more companies were designing the training and we were simply the delivery method. And now, it's more likely that the company might design and deliver.

What might be different in the case of Amazon is that if it follows their past path in cloud computing this will have a different result. For the cloud, they built their own platform internally (Amazon Web Services - AWS), worked out the bugs and then licensed it to scale. Might they eventually do the same thing with their higher-skilled training?

The rate of change in the skills and training needed now is far beyond the rather slow course-creation process of higher education. Selingo says that the legacy undergraduate and graduate degree programs at traditional universities and even the certificates that came into vogue in the 21st century don't make it.

Why is that? Because they take too long, cover more than is needed, and cost too much. I helped develop corporate training and certificates, but the university always had an eye on trying to lure those learners back to the university for a degree. That's not a valid approach anymore.

"Amazon University" doesn't exist yet, but many lifelong learners are already turning to YouTube, Khan Academy, MOOCs, LinkedIn Learning, General Assembly and other sources for continuous learning opportunities.

Selingo concludes that colleges and universities need to shift their thinking from serving students to the needs of learners.

MORE

From The Warehouse To IT: Amazon Offering 100,000 Workers Tech Training (NPR)

The idea that college education is over after four years, or even eight or 12 is so — yesterday - but 60 Years of Higher Ed — Really?

Getting Beyond Your Comfort Zone

A friend of mine recently retired and she told me that she wants to move "out of her comfort zone" and try new things. My first thought was that this was a good idea, but the more I thought about her plan, the less "good" it seemed.

After years of teaching and a few vacations in Italy, she decided she wants to live there for a year. She sold her house and her car, got rid of a lot of stuff, put the essentials into storage, and took off for Florence, Italy.

I realized that I had more fear about her trip than she had. It was too far out of my comfort zone.

The graphic below popped up on Pinterest and got me thinking about that confining comfort zone.

We all have a comfort zone in our jobs, in school and in life. As a teacher, I think I often intentionally tried to push students out of their comfort zone. Why? Looking at the graphic, I would say that I agree that the path to new learning and growth means pushing through your comfort zone.

There is an unsurprising plethora of sites with recommendations on how to break through your comfort zone. How many apply to education?

  • Acknowledge what it is that is holding you back. Literally write down your fears. Then rationalize each fear by flipping it over (a cognitive behavioral therapy technique) and deciding what the worst-case scenario would bring to you. 
  • Many sites advise starting small. Set yourself small targets to that desired destination.
  • If your first steps outside your comfort zone don't go as planned don't be quick to reverse course and run back into the zone.
  • Changing your routine can help. Work in a new place. Try a new approach. means going to the same places, which can stifle inspiration and spontaneity. New thought patterns encourage us to break away.
  • Connect with people who are already in the learning or growth that you aspire to achieve. Mentorship.
  • As the graphic suggests, getting out of your comfort zone may require acquiring new skills. Education is often not only a necessary element but may be a fear for some people. Older workers may not be comfortable going "back to school." The cost of education can be restrictive, but there are so many free MOOCs and other online learning options that can help with both fears.
  • Create challenges for yourself and celebrate victories with actual tangible rewards.

What Happened to Vocational Educational?

A friend who is not involved in education recently asked me, "Whatever happened to vocational educational?" He was thinking about when he was a kid in school back in the 1960s and there came a point before high school where he was presented with a choice. That choice was to go on to high school and prepare for college or go to a vocational school and prepare for a job. That choice is not so evident today in America.

Vocational education in the United States varies from state to state, but vocational schools (AKA trade schools) are both seen as an alternative high school experience and as post-secondary schools. In both cases, they teach the skills necessary to help students acquire jobs in specific industries. Both types of schools still exist.

The breadth of offerings has certainly increased since my friend's options almost 60 years ago, but some industries still are options, such as cooking, business courses, drafting, construction, auto repair, and some healthcare careers.

If we are talking about the postsecondary vocational training, much of that training is now provided by proprietary (privately-owned) career schools.

About 30 percent of all credentials in career training is provided by two-year community colleges.

We should also consider military technical training or government-operated adult education centers as part of this area.

I taught at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and quickly discovered that many people unfamiliar with that university interpreted the name (especially the "institute" part) to mean we were a vocational school. (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, doesn't seem to have this issue.)

The biggest difference between vocational schools and traditional colleges is the amount of time students need to complete their education. Most vocational schools offer programs that students can complete in about one or two years. Students attending traditional colleges often take four to five years to complete their education. Traditional colleges also require students to complete a liberal arts education. Students must enroll in a broad range of courses that are not necessarily related to their area of study. Vocational schools require students to enroll only in classes that pertain to their particular trades.

Manhattan trade school for girls

Manhattan trade school for girls, 1916

In the U.S., vocational education really moved forward in the early 1900s with an effort to introduce German-style industrial education. Educators were looking at the apprenticeship and continuation school models in Germany and were determining how they could be applied in an American context.

The industrial education system evolved more rapidly after World War I into what we call vocational education. On the timeline, the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917 was meant to reduce reliance on foreign trade schools, improve domestic wage-earning capacity, reduce unemployment, and protect national security.

The George-Barden Act after WWII expanded federal support of vocational education to support vocations beyond the 4 most common subject areas (agriculture, trade, home economics, and industrial subjects).

The National Defense Education Act of 1958 was focused on improving education in science, mathematics, foreign languages and other areas with a particular focus on topics related to national defense.

In the next decade, the Vocational Education Act (1963) was designed to give support for work-study programs and research. The Vocational Education Amendments (1968) was a modification that created the National Advisory Council on Vocational Education.

In 1984, the Vocational Education Act was renamed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act and amended six years later created the Tech-Prep Program to coordinate educational activities into a coherent sequence of courses.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, vocation ed and "trade schools" acquired a stigma of being below the quality of college and just slightly better than high school. In fact, many vocational programs were in high schools and had become standalone vocational high schools during that time period. 

This stigma even carried over to the 2-year colleges who were not aided by the use of the term "Junior College" that was once used before community and county colleges became the preferred terms.

Still, the "Stigma of Choosing Trade School Over College" persists, as that title from an article in The Atlantic notes. 
"When college is held up as the one true path to success, parents—especially highly educated ones—might worry when their children opt for vocational school instead." 


Vocational education in other countries https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocational_education#By_country   

https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/other/vocational-education-training/

Ghosting Jobs and Colleges

ghostsIt is still three weeks until Halloween, but this is a ghost story that appears all year. I wrote about professional ghosting last year. It started as a term about the dating world. Then it moved into the office world and finally into the world of higher education.

The labor market is tight and some job seekers are disappearing like ghosts from the hiring process. Indeed.com surveyed employers and found 83% had experienced applicants disappearing without letting the employer know why. Ghosting has dramatically increased in the last two years. The median age of ghosts is 34, so it's not just kids just out of college.

Ghosts disappear from a scheduled job interviewss and stop replying to recruiters or hiring managers. But the scary groups (about 19%) disappear after initially committing to a verbal offer but never signed the paperwork, and 22% accepted the offer and did not show up to work on their first day.

Why? 40% of those surveyed did it because they received a better job offer.  Poor communication with the hiring party was another major reason why candidates disappeared. About a quarter of the ghosts said they just were not comfortable telling the employer they changed their minds. 

How does this compare to ghosting students? Like the tight job market, applying to college is easier these days and schools are eager. Eighty percent of today’s college freshmen applied to at least three colleges and one-third applied to seven or more colleges, getting accepted and taking a pass isn't unusual.

Jeff Selingo reported that beyond prospective students ghosting a college, "Would-be students and their Gen X parents are no-shows or altogether skipping campus tours and open houses in the pre-application phase."

Student athletes are also ghosting colleges after acceptance when a better deal shows up. 

Some of the reasons are the same. A better offer, which can mean a better school or more financial aid. Poor communication with admissions or better communications from another school is also a reason. And, like those job ghosts, some are not comfortable telling the college that they changed their minds. 

For higher ed, the scary group is those that go through the entire admissions process including tuition and then don't show up for the start of the semester.

There are also just fewer possible students available. An admissions counselor writes
"This is my summer of 2019 takeaway: Higher education has fully entered a new structural reality. You’d be naïve to believe that most colleges will be able to ride out this unexpected wave as we have previous swells. Those who saw modest high-school graduation dips by 2020 as surmountable must now absorb the statistical reality: Things are only going to get worse."

Another version of ghosting is the practice of sneaking into college classes without officially enrolling. In my college days, auditing a class you weren't enrolled in was an accepted practice, usually with permission from an instructor. Steve Jobs is one of those famous ghosts before the term was used who dopped out of Reed College and then started dropping in on interesting lectures. Is it stealing an education or admirable ambition?

MUCH MORE 

What's Your Anchor Job?

anchor coffeeI retired a few years ago and then I unretired about a year later. I took on some part-time work and then I signed a one-year contract for some consulting. That runs out at the end of August and though I have no plans to do any steady work in the future, I plan to still do some consulting and design work. That work is very part-time and very selective on my part.

But what does that have to do with the title of this post? I'm reading about this year's IPOs. Just a few include Lyft, Postmates, Uber and Airbnb. One trend I'm seeing in that is independent contractors.

Lyft relies on its 1.4 million freelance drivers who earn, on average, $17.50 per hour with no benefits or organizing power. That has got to influence the U.S. workforce. This is called the gig economy, shift work, side hustles and other things. Something connected to this that I have also noticed is the idea of having an "anchor job."

The gig economy is supposed to be empowering as a professional choice. It allows you options. You do the work you want to do. You work when you want to work. It gives you lifestyle choices.

Of course, the downsides are no regular salary, probably less income, no benefits or security.

And so, we get the anchor job. That's the other job that provides benefits and stability. But it has to allow for the flexibility to allow for "side hustles."

I wonder how different this is from someone 50 years ago having a full-time job and then taking on other part-time work. My father did that. He wasn't fulfilling some creative dream. he was trying to make extra money. My side hustles have been only partially done for extra money. Luckily, I was also doing them because I found some enjoyment and the chance to use my creative side. That makes me think that there is some privilege involved in this latest version of extra part-time work.

Although making some money is important, the key to the side hustle is that it is at least partially enjoyable and fulfilling. Are your gig jobs ones that for whatever hours you do them you are willing to give up socializing and leisure time.

Why has the side hustle in addition to the anchor job grown rapidly in recent years? Is it the global economic climate or the ability to use social media to easily self-promote viral marketing? Is it because many of us find that anchor job to be unfulfilling?

Learn More:

Read newamerica.org/new-america/policy-papers/shift-commission-report-findings/

Listen to marketplace.org/shows/make-me-smart-with-kai-and-molly/109-now-lyft-public-what-happens-drivers/