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Recruiting Intelligence

Career Development 301: Get Your Students Collaborating Across Borders

Technology is your friend. Even when it frustrates you.Imagine your students collaborating with students overseas to produce a presentation on supply chain management. Imagine them overcoming the annoyances of time zone differences, language and cultural differences and yes, technology frustrations. Is this an experience that will help them later in their professional careers? The latest research says "absolutely." And the research says we're not doing a good enough job teaching these 21st century workplace skills.

The report 21st century skills and the workplace produced by Gallup in partnership with Microsoft Partners in Learning and the Pearson Foundation explores the relationships between 21st century skills developed in the classroom, student aspiration in schools, and perceived quality of work later in life. According to the authors, twenty-first century skills are advanced skills that prepare and equip youth for the challenges and demands of work in the 21st century. These skills included: collaboration, knowledge construction, problem solving and innovation, self-regulation, the use of technology for learning, and skilled communication.

Our attention focused quickly on the low level of global awareness and online collaboration as displayed in Graph 1 (below). The study raised a number of fascinating questions:

  • Do recent graduates credit their formal education with developing the skills they now use on the job?
  • Are students developing the 21st century skills cited in the study before they get to college level study?
  • How does the development of 21st century skills relate to self-reported work quality later in life?
  • Which 21st century skills provide the most support for future success in the workplace?

The authors summarize their findings as follows:

  • The majority of respondents (59%) reported that they agree or strongly agree that they developed most of the skills they use in their current job outside of school.
  • Developing 21st century skills in the last year of school is positively correlated with higher perceived work quality later in life.
  • Across the 21st century skills included in this study, real world problem-solving is the significant driver of higher work quality.
  • Unfortunately, less than two-thirds (63%) of respondents reported developing real world problem solving skills. When you isolate the responses to high school graduates (no college) that number drops to less than half (39%).
  • In their last year of college, those who often used 21st century skills are more likely to have had greater student aspiration and engagement; and student aspiration and engagement is also positively correlated to work quality later in life.
  • This finding, we found particularly interesting in light of the MOOCs discussions: Across the student aspiration conditions, good teacher-student relationships is a primary driver; students who feel their teachers care and support them are more likely to perceive themselves as successful and valued in their jobs later in life.
  • Although a wide majority (86%) of respondents say they used computers and technology to complete assignments or projects in their last year of school, only 14% report they used technology for collaboration, indicating that students are not developing the type of advanced technology skills that would be used later in the workplace.
What's a university to do?We believe that universities have a huge opportunity to prepare students for their future careers and foster global awareness:
  • Enroll a diverse student body,
  • Encourage study abroad, and
  • Leverage technology to engage in online collaboration with international partner schools and students.
Why not establish and require online courses with partner schools around the world? Technology opens up the tremendous opportunity to create such cross-border collaborations. We can envision many benefits:
  • U.S. universities provide a global perspective to their students,
  • Student study partners happens to be a student in Uganda, Vietnam, Mexico or India;
  • Students learn first hand, how to cope with time zones, language barriers and cultural perceptions and expectations.
Those of us in this field of international recruitment know that our professional lives require these skills. More and more industry jobs from fashion design to accounting to bio-medical/pharmaceuticals have become global operations that demand staff with international collaboration skills.The inter-university partnerships we envision will help universities increase their brand recognition abroad and create opportunities for their scholars. There's a true win-win situation: improving your academic offering while supporting international enrollment opportunities.

These kinds of international collaborations take time and effort to set up but cost very little to implement. The benefits to the students and institutions are clear and collaboration technology is readily available. We love to create win-win situations.

Graph 1


Topics: Insights