Student affairs has lots of forms, opinions, problems, successes, paths, futures, and work to do. One thing in particular that Eric Stoller, who consults, writes, presents, and wizards, has been harping on, along with others, that has resonated with me in particular is the lack of technology education in higher education and student affairs programs. While many of these programs have greater problems that may need to be addressed first (are the students we are pushing down this path really suited for it, or are we continuing to be the catch-all profession?), I think in today’s higher education scene, technology and student affairs is a key issue that needs to be explored.
Digital identity development (along with a good hard look at how some of our development theories are still sticking today), managing online education systems, and the role of MOOCs in our field should all be part of the curriculum in some way in our grad programs, because these are the things that we are faced with daily in our profession. Eric puts out a call for this in many of his posts, including one on internships in tech firms/orgs for student affairs professionals. I had been mulling the idea of more tech prep earlier on for our field so that we wouldn’t get stuck in this rut of non-change down the road, and thought back to my job search this last summer/fall, when Eugene and I moved out to Boston.
The current state of higher education HR is poor, and applicants, many solid and well qualified, are getting lost in the jumble of 500 resumes for an entry level position while HR departments don’t even set an automatic email acknowledgement of your application or a way to track your application’s status (when you are getting “No thanks” letters in the mail 7 months after you applied, that’s not a problem, that’s a disease). The greatest frustration that I faced, in looking at mostly entry level positions still at that time was the required qualifications section for many different functional areas. If you looked at International Affairs, you needed experience in SEVIS… Scheduling, you needed experience in Virtual EMS… and so on for numerous pieces of software that lets the many areas of student affairs get their daily work done.
These required knowledge sections (and we can argue about whether HR/hiring departments hire without those required pieces and give applicants the chance to learn) pigeonhole, or at least make trying to cross into new functional areas harder to do. Unless you had an assistantship in the Office of International Affairs, you probably won’t have that Day One working knowledge of SEVIS. If you didn’t GA in Admissions, you probably have no experience in their essential software platforms. And maybe I wasn’t praticumizing in the correct way, but I never got into specific software in my practicum experiences.
So, why do we pigeonhole and how can we not do that? Basically, we need to offer a Mavis Beacon (you remember that from your middle school typing elective right?) type of opportunity to learn about these platforms. Either higher ed programs catch on to the technology wave (that has already crested past us) and begin offering crosstraining themselves with their various assistantship office partners, or student affairs lends itself a helping hand and creates a MOOC that offers this crosstraining experience. Utilizing the expertise of the companies that manage the software and the on-the-ground experience of student affairs professionals that know every nook and cranny of the platforms, a MOOC course can be crafted that levels the playing field.
This second option is more powerful, because it takes grad programs that do not embrace tech education out of the picture, it takes senior student affairs administrators who are not embracing innovation and change out of the picture, and it involves professional associations and higher education partners together. Every higher education and student affairs graduate student, every new professional, every current professional has the opportunity to advance their knowledge of student affairs tech and software from a variety of functional areas in a free, easy way.
The next kicker is getting HR departments and hiring committees to recognize the validity of such a MOOC and its ability to educate and prepare our colleagues to effectively use these systems.
And based on the current way the MOOC conversation is going in our field right now, that may be a completely new bridge to cross. We’ll make it happen though.
All gifs taken from the show Black Books, which can be laughed at currently on Hulu (and Netflix, I think).