This HEPI guest blog has been written by Obinna Okereke , Project Manager – Student Experience at Coventry University.
In today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, there is increasing pressure on the UK higher education sector to produce highly-skilled global ready graduates. However, the conversation on skills shortages, international students’ employability, and graduate outcomes overlooks an underutilised resource a lot of UK universities have access to, LinkedIn Learning.
As part of digital resources, a lot of universities pay for, and then offer students free access to LinkedIn learning via a university account. There are however a few questions that need to be answered; Do students see this as integral to their future success or merely an add-on? Are university students taking full advantage of this resource? Is this actively communicated to students outside of engagements with career services as a useful resourceful?
I am not suggesting LinkedIn learning is a silver bullet, but the expert-led material on the platform runs the gamut from business to technology-related to creative skills relevant for the world of work.
Why LinkedIn Learning?
New data from coursera, states that 87% of UK students believe they will need entry-level skills certifications to help land a job, while almost 80% of employers look beyond traditional education, to relevant skills on candidates’ CVs to verify they are equipped for the job. There clearly is a gap that needs to be filled which presents an opportunity for universities to rejig their approach to the LinkedIn Learning offering.
University careers teams do a brilliant job signposting students to LinkedIn Learning. At the same time, a university-wide pro-active approach is needed. Such as, embedding LinkedIn Learning courses in the curriculum thereby giving students in-demand knowledge, and subsequently, increasing the skill level of graduates leaving universities. To do this, we can get some pointers from higher education institutions that have embedded LinkedIn Learning into the student experience such as Lambton College in Ontario, which drove student usage of LinkedIn learning in four impactful ways by:
- Taking full advantage of the LinkedIn Learning champions programme which incentivises students to advocate LinkedIn learning to their peers;
- Working with faculties to curate playlists to supplement classes;
- Promoting it to at-risk students as an alternative way to learn thereby giving students ownership of the learning process; and
- Advertising LinkedIn Learning on campuses relentlessly, this can be mirrored in the UK with a top-down faculty to school to course level approach.
Further, the discourse on poor-quality courses can be turned on its head if more SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts for People and the Economy) graduates left university with additional hard and soft skills. A recent British Academy report “Shape Skills at Work” highlights how SHAPE graduates are contributing a diverse range of skills to the world of work. A very striking example is that of a theology graduate directing hospital strategy during a pandemic.
Again, LinkedIn Learning is used at Merrimack college as a lever to unlock employability in two ways:
- To helps students decide their major, this is especially helpful for students who are not certain of the career they want to pursue; and
- To help students upskill in their first job and become lifelong learners.
A benefit of LinkedIn Learning is its availability to all students. Despite this, it would require addressing the digital poverty gap that exists among students through laptop loan schemes to level the playing field. Additionally, the platform has an accessibility rating of 3.6 out of 5 according to an accessibility report from NNELS (National Network for Equitable Library Service NNELS).
The wider context
To put things in perspective, LinkedIn Learning’s value extends beyond equipping students with skills when viewed through the lens of regulatory frameworks, such as the OfS’ (Office for Students) on-going conditions of registration.
For example, a summary of the OfS’ B2 and B3 conditions states that: ‘The provider must take all reasonable steps to ensure students registered on a higher education course receive resources and support to ensure: a high quality academic experience for those students…’
‘The provider must deliver successful outcomes for all of its students, which are recognised and valued by employers, and/or enable further study.’
Moreover, the nagging issue of international students’ employability can be addressed to an extent through acquired skills. While the graduate route has been a plus to international students, this can be complemented with skills to develop the human capital of graduates returning to their home countries.
Finally, with the number of workers who consider themselves digital nomads and the creator economy on the rise, universities can be well positioned to produce the next generation of digital nomads with requisite skills such as digital marketing, computer programming, etc.
In conclusion, universities already have this resource, it is time we deployed it on a larger scale.