An Educated Guest

Ep. 15 | Designing Education Toward the Future of Work 


Guest: Kathleen deLaski, Founder & CEO, Education Design Lab

 

Todd Zipper, President of Wiley Education Services, welcomes Kathleen deLaski, Founder and CEO of Education Design Lab. Todd and Kathleen discuss building new education pathways that better serve students. Listen to their conversation on your favorite podcast platform.

Topics Discussed:

  • The emergence of “the new majority learner” 
  • The biggest challenges of a skills-based economy 
  • The reason why only 17% of community college learners working towards a four-year degree attain it
  • The benefits of the micropathway approach
  • How the COVID-19 pandemic helped providers understand and meet the changing needs of learners 

Guest Bio

Kathleen deLaski is the Founder and CEO of Education Design Lab, a non-profit that designs, tests, and implements unique higher education models that address the rapidly changing economy and emerging technology opportunities. She is a social entrepreneur who launched or co-launched four non-profits over the last two decades, all centered on improving the quality of education for students. Kathleen also serves as the president of the deLaski Family Foundation, a leading grant maker in education reform.

Previously, Kathleen created Sallie Mae’s award-winning college access foundation, co-founded Building Hope, a non-profit dedicated to providing facilities, financial, and operational services to charter schools, and helped Michelle Rhee create StudentsFirst, a national advocacy movement to improve school options and quality. She also worked as a journalist and was named by President Clinton as Chief Spokesman for the Pentagon, where she oversaw the military’s worldwide public information team. 



View Transcript

Speaker 1:
You’re listening to An Educated Guest, a podcast that brings together great minds and higher ed to delve deeper into the innovations and trends guiding the future of education and careers, hosted by the president of Wiley education services, Todd Zipper.

Todd Zipper:
Hello, I’m Todd Zipper, the host of An Educated Guest. On today’s show, I speak with Kathleen deLaski, founder and CEO of Education Design Lab. Additionally, Kathleen served as the president of the deLaski Family Foundation, a leading grant maker in education focused on equity and education, environmental stewardship and the arts. Kathleen has an impressive background launching or co-launching for nonprofits over the past two decades, all centered on improving the quality of education. In addition, she previously served as chief spokesman for the Pentagon, overseeing the military’s worldwide public information team. The key takeaways from our discussion today, first, 60 to 70% of the student population represent the new majority learner where college was not originally designed for them, and that number is quickly becoming closer to 80%. Second, one of the biggest challenges of a skills-based economy is how to create competency maps that roll into new kinds of credentials representing the 20 century skills framework.

Todd Zipper:
Third, only 17% of learners who start out in community college in hopes of attaining a four year college degree do so, which represents 12 million people. Fourth, the micro pathway approach is a newer model to help track learners to a specific role in the short term, but also to longer term livable wage job goals. And lastly, pre-pandemic consumer demand was already changing for in demand education. The pandemic has helped providers understand the importance of meeting the changing needs of learners and doing so quickly. Hello, Kathleen, and thank you for being here today on An Educated Guest.

Kathleen deLaski:
Thanks for having me on the show, Todd.

Todd Zipper:
All right. So you are someone who has a true passion for higher ed and one who continues to advocate for advancement and innovation. You have launched or co-launched four nonprofits in the past two decades and all are related to improving the quality of education. So set the table here for our listeners. Tell us about your journey and your latest venture, Education Design Lab and about its mission.

Kathleen deLaski:
Well, thanks. It’s kind of hard to sum up. I’m getting up there in years and so the short answer to my journey is that I spent a number of years in different aspects of the economy, ranging from [inaudible 00:02:38] journalist for a number of years, which I think really helps you ask the questions and challenge reality or try to understand reality, right? I spent a couple of years in government, which was very eye opening. I spent a number of years working for a Fortune 500. It was actually Sallie Mae, where I learned a lot about education finance. And I was also at AOL in the early days. So a learned a lot about what consumers want in the digital world, and that was in the nineties, so back when people were just figuring that out. And so then when I went into the nonprofit world, which was around 2000, I knew that I saw education as the lever for social mobility from all the different vantage points I had already touched.

Kathleen deLaski:
And I really saw nonprofit as the way that new nonprofits needed to be created to move among and be the boundary spanners, as Michael Crow has called them, to bring change about or at least get different types of stakeholders who are sort of in their silos to work together. And I’ve done this from a couple different vantage points now, first in K-12 in the education reform movement in the 2000s and early 2010s, and then really moved to the higher ed sector, really because of my experience with Sallie Mae and seeing who gets left behind from the education finance model. We’ve been trying so hard to bring new groups into even seeing what their federal financial aid rights were and just people who were taking advantage of those programs were not necessarily the people who needed them most. And so between education finance and I was on the board at George Mason University for about eight years, which was really trying hard to become at that time an innovative model for non-traditional students, what we got now called new majority learners.

Kathleen deLaski:
And just sitting from that seat, I saw how hard it was for colleges and universities to actually do the kind of innovation that they wanted to do. And so that’s when we started the lab. This was 2013, just as [inaudible 00:04:42] were coming on the scene, and we decided to try to be that boundary spanning organization that looked, that started with the learner and tried to figure out, well, what does college need to be for people that it’s not being today.

Todd Zipper:
Putting the learner at the center of the higher ed equation is someone novel, right? You would think. So I know you put design in the title of your company name and design thinking is a lot of what you do for your customers, if you will. Can you just kind of define what design thinking is and maybe talk a little bit more about the types of institutions that you all work with?

Kathleen deLaski:
Sure. Yeah. So design thinking is gained popularity. Actually, it’s dating back to like the 1950s as a way to do user research for products, right? Whether it was cars in the early days or buildings or desks or whatever the product that people might be needing to have it meet the needs of users. But about 20 years ago, people really started thinking about, wow, this process could be really useful in social design and systems design to solve problems, whether it’s around how users in the medical system could more easily utilize or better utilize the medical system, hunger, poverty, sort of the big issues, the audacious problems that were becoming more important for us to try to solve. And we were sort of the first group to take this on in the higher education space. And so what it looks like for us is to create a process, really a discipline process that pushes people to first understand the needs of users, not what the institutions are offering, but what the users actually need.

Kathleen deLaski:
So to understand them and their motivations, their behaviors, and then to mine those insights that you gather from that through a process that has you looking at what are the barriers that are stopping them from meeting their needs. And then you begin really an ideation and prototyping process that takes you to hopefully elegant solutions that are higher order solutions than you could have come up with if you just said, okay, we’re doing this, it’s not working, let’s try this. So it’s a more disciplined creative process that also is quite democratic. That’s what was so interesting in employing this in higher ed for the first time as we started around 2013 is that everyone had the same goal, which is they’re all there for students, and yet the silos and the regulations and the tenure system, right? Didn’t allow designers of programs and designers of education at the higher ed level to actually design for students or with students.

Kathleen deLaski:
And so by kind of forcing themselves into this process, particularly around the big questions which we can get to in a minute, it really created for them a new mindset that could lead to not only change management, but also actual designs to prototype and begin to test in the world.

Todd Zipper:
We are going to definitely get into some of those solutions you’re working on, but you mentioned a term that I need to highlight, which is the new majority learner. So you’ve described a large portion of the student population as this, and I’ve seen that you’ve broken it down into five different categories. Can you really talk through with the definition of what does the new majority learner look like in each of these categories?

Kathleen deLaski:
Sure. So the new majority learner for us, the definition is really all learners for whom college was not originally designed. And by that, originally in our case in the US instance would be 500 years ago, you think of the universities that were created for the landed gentry, the sons of landowners, right? And they would go off to the ivory tower and the professors would teach them the great works and give them a liberal education, right? That’s the model we know. And interestingly, that model has not changed very much in those 500 years, and it even goes back further in Europe in the middle ages, et cetera. And so what’s changed over time, particularly in the 20th century is that more groups have been allowed in, but it hasn’t been changed very much to meet the needs of the new users. And we would say at this point, we call them the new majority because depending on how you break it down, it’s between 60 and 70 and heading towards 80% of all students and learners.

Kathleen deLaski:
And so the types of people, the categories of learners that we’re talking about really range from learners of color, of all types, right? Learners of low socioeconomic status, ESL learners, undocumented learners, single moms, veterans who are trying to return back into a education situation, but also people of other statuses like single parents. 10% of all learners are single moms which is kind of a surprising number. Also, part-time or working students, which is actually the census says that there’s 10 million part-time and working students, right? And college was not designed for them, for sure. So that gives you a sense. It also includes categories like neuro divergent and even learners who might be gender queer, transgender, gender non-binary, college wasn’t really designed for them either. And so those are the categories of people that we’re talking about.

Kathleen deLaski:
And when you add them up, I mean, there’s a lot of overlap in some of these groups so it’s hard to get to an exact number, but it is a majority of students, particularly when you look at the cliff of the 18 to 24 year old that’s coming like 2025 of the traditional student. That student will be in, not just the minority, but kind of the extreme minority if you include lifelong learning learners, which is why we use the word learner instead of students, because students, you kind of associate with young people. But the five, you mentioned five categories, Todd. The five categories for us are the categories of needs that we have identified across all of these types of learners I just described. And we’ve probably interviewed and designed with at this point several thousand of these different categories of learners, and obviously there are specific needs for specific groups, but we’ve highlighted five categories of needs that we ask colleges, universities, job centers, employers, whoever’s doing learning providing to think about.

Kathleen deLaski:
And I could just list those quickly, and if you want, we could go into them later. But the first one has been on the college access agenda for years, which is affordability and that’s obviously an obvious one. The second one really hit home during COVID, which is flexibility, right? In terms of mode delivery. The third one, portability has been interesting as we look more and more at the proliferation of credentials and micro credentials, how do you know that the credential you’re attaining can follow you to another learning provider so that it has meaning beyond the place you are. That’s a key one. Relevance is one that has come up a lot, particularly if people were looking at the future of work and you look at the curricula and the majors that are in colleges, and there’s a lot of back and forth about are we actually preparing people for the workforce of the future?

Kathleen deLaski:
And then the fifth one is one that we are particularly bullish on that is, I think, emerging and that’s visibility. And that one probably requires a little more explanation because what we mean by that is as the skills based economy comes into focus and it becomes more viable and it is beginning to really happen, and by skills based, we mean that employers are hiring based on skills and learners are selling their skills rather than where I went to college or my major, everything needs to be machine readable and coming in both directions so that learners can be discovered and employers can discover them and there needs to be translation tools. And so this visibility piece of your skills becomes critical in this next era of learning and hiring.

Todd Zipper:
Yeah. You just unlocked a few thoughts. There’s not a month that doesn’t go by that there’s a new study about whether the degree still matters, right? Which from my perspective, I definitely think it does and has a lot of purposes, whether it’s undergraduate or graduate. But I think what you’re trying to say here or you’re saying is that that was kind of the center of the universe, the earth that everything revolved around and that’s not necessarily the future. And so we’ve had a couple of companies that have come out like Hilton and Penguin, Random House to say, hey, we’re going to drop the degree requirements. I don’t know if that’s a sensational headline or whether that’s true or not, but this idea, this skill is based economy that we’re going to hire you based on your competencies ultimately and what you can actually do and not just a diploma of some kind, can you kind of walk us through what that looks like and is this going to create a new class of credentialing out there? What are your thoughts here?

Kathleen deLaski:
Yeah. I mean, the short answer is yes. It will both create a new class of credentials, way more opportunity for new majority learners because if we do it right, you’ll be able to be hired based on not where you went to school or what your degree is or whether you could actually do a degree financially or time-wise, but based on the skills you’ve been able to demonstrate and what that mean, let’s say for a frontline worker, we’re doing experiments in this work with Goodwill, for example, is that if you can demonstrate that you have, let’s say 21st century skills like collaboration or communication or collaboration and you demonstrate this in the workplace, you get a credential that makes you eligible for a promotion to supervisor. This is some of what we’ve seen in the prototyping and testing and pilots that we’ve done, where you get the employers to break down what does competency need to look like for this job, and it’s very sort of role specific.

Kathleen deLaski:
And then you get the learner to do either an assessment or other demonstrations of those skills. And they don’t have to go back to college or go to college to become the supervisor in logistics in San Antonio, which is one of the places we’re working. They have other ways to demonstrate it that are machine readable. So it can be visible to not just their employer, but other employers. And that’s what the excitement is about from both employers and advocates for new majority learners is that this visibility will create opportunity. A lot of things could go wrong and the timing for this, I would say, yes, a lot of employers are starting to make proclamations that they will… Like IBM recently said 50% of our jobs now, of our professional jobs do not require a degree. And I would say maybe a company a month is coming out and saying this. And part of it is to demonstrate that they’re looking for talent wherever they can find it and part of it’s coming from shortages.

Kathleen deLaski:
They’re not able to meet their labor needs and they’re willing to train on site because they have to, but it’s been an interesting phenomenon. And I think COVID sped it up for sure, this movement and the talent shortages-

Todd Zipper:
And the lack of talent. Yeah. So help me reconcile something where for better or for worse, the college degree and the brand that the college degree is coming from and the subject matter signals something, right? It sort of puts you in a class for better or for worse and allows employers to make decisions. And maybe that’s not the right way to do it, but that’s how it’s operated. In this new world order, if you will, we’ve got a few thousand colleges, half a dozen accreditors, it’s a pretty standard model, right? That the student is graduating or coming into the workforce with a certain type of credential. Here you got millions of employers, right? Obviously you have the big ones and you just mentioned one of them, IBM, you have all the big tech guys running around. Help me make sense of this, right? Is that if you don’t necessarily have to go to college and you’re someone that wants to move forward in your career, how do you signal all of this to the employer as you go through your career?

Kathleen deLaski:
Yeah. I think you’ve identified what is probably the biggest challenge of the skills based economy because every employer really is a snowflake. And when you talk to them about the roles that they want to hire for, they think about it through their lens. But there are initiatives that are trying to systematize those credentials, like the new credentials. We are doing work in this area, for example, where you identify a role, but it’s a role that a lot of employers would have. Let’s say, cloud associate. This is one that we’re doing or logistic supervisor. And we are working at the association level, like with the manufacturing institute or the cybersecurity groups, right? That are at least able to kind of be the translation arbiters across their companies. And that is one of the big pieces of work to be done here is to, the term is competency mapping, that we need to create the competency maps that roll into new kinds of credentials.

Kathleen deLaski:
So we are trying to sort of push parties to adopt frameworks, not just to across companies, but across states, across country. And in the area of 21st century or power skills or soft skills, whatever you want to call them, we’ve actually identified, we’ve been working on this for like six years. So we are putting forward our own framework and trying to get everyone to adopt it so that this problem, this Tower of Babel problem, most people will call it for the biblical reference, it mitigates that problem. And we’re not going to completely solve it because lots of people want to have their own 21st century skill framework, but AI and machine learning will help on these things in the background, right? And this is why it’s possible now, whereas it wasn’t fine years ago even is that we’ll be able to map what’s called the rich skill descriptors or what they call the actual descriptions underneath the skill.

Kathleen deLaski:
And those have intelligence or the systems have intelligence that can translate without us having to go through and do it in a bespoke fashion. But you do have to figure out a way that the humans involved in these transactions, the learner and the job applicant and the employer actually, they have to understand the translation as well. So AI can’t completely solve this problem.

Todd Zipper:
Yeah. I mean, the source of truth issue is a problem here or a challenge, I should say. It feels like this is where universities can come in, partner with employers to kind of start to create this universal sorts of truth around all these different competencies that hopefully can be universally used. There’s a couple of stats I want to hit on right now and just get your reaction to. One was from the opportunity work, and this kind of hits on what you were talking about with the portability, estimates that as many as 30 million workers have the skills to earn 70% more, but lack a credential to prove it. That’s really powerful. How do we fix that?

Kathleen deLaski:
Right. You’re hitting on one of the ones that gives us the most pain. I mean, the way to fix it is it’s easy to understand, but it’s hard to execute, and that is we have to figure out a way to translate the skills people have to job requirements in a way that gives the employers comfort to hire them without the degree. And so the effort that we have, this is one of our biggest laboratory projects right now, we call it X credit, which stands for experience credit. It has nothing to do with college credit. It’s how can a learner or an earner, how can a person be hired for what they can do? How does that get validated by an employer in a way that de-risks that hire, absent the proxy of a degree? And this has been really interesting. We’re one year into the project. And I want to give a shout out to walmart.org, which has been our funder for this project.

Kathleen deLaski:
We’re actually doing a military use case in the first year because the military is the furthest along really in identifying the competencies of the skills of service members through what are called the MOSs, the military operations specialties. It’s very well delineated. If you are at this level, you have this level of mastery of this competency, and it’s been pretty well translated in some areas in a sort of a scalable fashion. So we were starting with the military, as someone who’s transitioning out of the military and is trying to get credit for, let’s say, skills they had as a military cook, where they were very active in working on maintenance for large scale kitchen equipment and that translates very well to a lot of smart manufacturing jobs in the private sector. How does the person demonstrate that they have validated skill without having to go back to school or go and earn a credential where they have to sit through learning this thing again, that they already know how to do.

Kathleen deLaski:
That’s the stat that opportunity at work is talking about. When you interview learners, they’ll say, yeah, I can do that. I just don’t have the piece of paper.

Todd Zipper:
Right. Do you see connecting the X credit to actually degree granting credit? Because sometimes you might need to round it out to become that licensed practitioner of some kind.

Kathleen deLaski:
Yes. We have a number of colleges who are offering to be our articulation partner in this, but I mean, it’s a great business, right? Because obviously the learner would pay for the credential, but they’re only paying a small amount to get the credential issued as opposed to the tuition to sit through the course, right? So yes, we have a number partners. We’re also looking to link up with, ACE has sort of a certification process. Some of our employer partners are telling us that, oh, that would actually help. That’s a signal for us. But we even feel like there ought to be signals in, let’s say customer service. If you’re an Uber driver and you have a 4.9 customer service ranking score and you’ve done 8,000 rides, that should count for something as a business skill in customer service if you want to go be a call center manager or a call center something, right? Technical sales, that should count for something. And how does that translate in a way that you could demonstrate it in your wallet or your portfolio of skills or your resume, your smart resume.

Todd Zipper:
Sounds really exciting and should increase job opportunities for people everywhere. I mean, really exciting. Another that you recently referred to, and again, you’ve been hitting on this idea is that you referenced how college isn’t working for 60% of the market, which is a crisis I would argue. And when you see things like student debt now above 1.7 trillion, you can sort of triangulate on that number. Can you unpack that a little for us because it’s pretty powerful number I think as people part of education, citizens, whatever, we need to really understand that this system is not working as well as it could.

Kathleen deLaski:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. And this really gets to this question of whether you try to fix college around the edges, whether you work on scholarships or let’s try and get more people in to the old system, the traditional system versus like some people will say, blow it up, and it needs to be something else for a majority of people. And I think we would argue, no. I mean, it’s a great system mostly for those who can afford it without going into super debt and who can have that lovely coming of age experience, not broken for them and we should continue on with it because it also has a lot of other economic benefits for society around research and development and GDP, et cetera. But we say that it’s not working for 60% of the addressable market because of adults. I mean, 50% of people who go to college overall graduate, but those numbers are a bit lower for learners of color.

Kathleen deLaski:
And over time, we’ve put a lot of philanthropy and federal money into trying to improve those graduation rates and it’s not getting markedly better. And one of the statistics that moved us to begin to do design work for transfer students, if we’re trying to transfer from community college to four year colleges, is that 17% of the learners who start out in community college saying that they hope to attain a four year degree, only 17% do. And that’s not a system that’s working and that’s 12 million people who go to community college. These are big numbers. I mean, of black students, African American students, only two out of five who start college will graduate. Half of Latinos who start will graduate. This is a system that you can’t just work on around the edges. And yet when we say, oh, well let’s do, and I can talk to you about some of the ways that we’re looking at new models.

Kathleen deLaski:
When you describe these new models, people say, oh, but they’re nostalgic, right? And they don’t want to give up. They want everyone to have the experience like you and I… I mean, I don’t know if you had a nice leafy campus college experience, but I did and it was lovely. And there’s a guilt around, we need to provide that for everyone, but it’s not working. And so we don’t want to track people, but what’s the third way?

Todd Zipper:
Yeah. I’ve interviewed a few folks from the community college community and there was a ton of enthusiasm around this very important part of our system really a year ago or so when Biden was elected and obviously, his wife was a professor for many years in this area and so it brought a lot of attention to it. You’ve made it clear that community colleges can do a lot to serve the new majority learner through things like apprenticeships and whatnot. Can you talk a little bit about these micro pathways and even define that and how this market can actually use them, and again, make the 60% number a lot less?

Kathleen deLaski:
Yeah. So we started working with community colleges maybe four or five years ago because we really saw them, they have their ear to the ground in their communities to serve the part of the population that largely is new majority learners. They have the trust with that community. They have the affordability. Affordability, community college credit is like $140 a semester for a credit. So affordability is not a crisis there. And so the issue is then what’s wrong because people are leaving community college. They’ve lost like a million learners over the past decade after numbers were going up. And in the past two years, it’s dramatically falling off. And so something is wrong with the community college model or there needs to be an additional model. And I think interestingly, community college leaders see that and are very hungry for sort of transformation work and for becoming more of the sort of a talent engine in their communities. So we, in doing design work with them, have kind of landed on a strategy which is showing a lot of early promise.

Kathleen deLaski:
And that is this idea that you start, that you can offer someone to start in community college with a micro pathway. And what that is really is, it’s a track towards a specific job role goal that takes one year or less and that gets you specifically to a living wage role. So in other words, we’re not doing it for be a short order cook or jobs that are dead end, and that it’s all done through kind of data driven exercises about where are the jobs in this particular community and what are the growth areas? So the micro pathway creates a way for the college to capture the requirements for a short term pathway that largely are on what they call all the non-credit side of the house. So in other words, a lot of learners are just going and taking a course over here on the credit side, it’s not covered by financial aid, it’s not covered by any advising or it doesn’t track towards a degree.

Kathleen deLaski:
And so they’re coming and taking a course and then they’re leaving. And so a way to bring them into the system is to create a micro pathway that actually has as its goal to articulate into the college and to be able to demonstrate through that visibility I mentioned, what is the path for a degree? So you can take this one micro pathway and you’re very hireable immediately, and you can also see how you would carry on and then go to the next level. And we’ve created 30 of these with our first round of 11 colleges that we’re working with around the country, including the whole state of Indiana, the whole city of New York. And we’ve created 30 of these and they’re just showing a lot of promise because learners are signing up and some of the colleges are saying things like, well, this was a great way, people could dip a toe in. What we were finding is a lot of these learners were not willing to commit two or more years or two years to taking a degree in a community college.

Kathleen deLaski:
It was too much time, too much money and the financial aid process was complicated, but they were very willing to come in and do this often part-time course that takes them to this job because it’s focused on what’s the job you’re going to get and it’s sanctioned by employers because the employers are designing them with us. So the model, like for instance, the community duty college chancellor in Pima, which is Tucson, Arizona, has described this as a new approach that he wants to use for his whole college, which is a universal design. So that you are thinking about these micro pathways as like Lego links that link you to the future that you want to see in the long run, but with each Lego stack, you’re very employable in the short term. And that’s one of the design criteria that we are hearing again and again, people want to short term gain financially for their families, not something that might work out at the end of two years when they go and figure out, what am I going to do with this degree?

Todd Zipper:
Can you give any couple of examples of just how this comes to life, especially when you think about the idea that skills are changing constantly, jobs that exist today won’t exist tomorrow. So yeah. Great, they go for nine months or 12 months and get a livable wage. Are they going to need to come back into the educational system? Is that sort of mapped out for them? It would be of just put it to life with something like nursing or teaching or anything that you guys are working on, we’d love to hear about.

Kathleen deLaski:
Yeah. I’ll give an example. I would say out of the 31st round of these pilots that we’re doing, they’re in allied health, they’re in business, information technology, advanced manufacturing, building trades, and about out a third of them are brand new roles, right? Where the college has never done a role like this before. I mean, one of them I can mention that Seattle is doing is called an Epic associate. And Epic, it’s a healthcare IT play that they’re actually developing with Seattle Children’s Hospital. And the children’s hospital is paying, once they started designing this with the Seattle community college, they offered to pay for learners to do the pathway and guarantee them an interview because they were so desperate for people to be administrators for this… Epic is a hospital IT system that not enough people know how to operate. And we’re able to lay out the pathway for the learner to get the Epic associate administrator certificate and then continue on on an engineering path.

Kathleen deLaski:
Or they can take different sub-paths to either in more of a business route around administration or an IT route to gain skills there. And we’re able to show them the salary levels as they go up. And another example would be a digital manufacturing technician. I’m not even entirely sure what it is myself, but this is one that Indiana’s doing where it’s a brand new ask from their manufacturing employers. And it breaks down becoming a manufacturing engineer. It breaks it down into middle skills jobs where you can do the first six months, get hired and then continue from there. We’re even able to show people, I’ve just got the numbers here for the wages. They’re able to go from earning, for example, the electro mechanical manufacturing technician, which is the first job that you can do right after this few month pathway, $23 an hour. You can then scale up by going with another micro pathway to make $26 an hour as a technician, as a digital manufacturing technician.

Kathleen deLaski:
And then if you get your AAS degree in smart manufacturing digital integration, right? You can go up to $39 an hour. So you get the point. But we’re able to lay that out for people.

Todd Zipper:
Yeah. It’s so tightly integrated. A couple just follow up questions here. One is how do they connect to supply and demand? So this hospital in Seattle needs 20 a year or a hundred a year. Are they making those calculations then going to their partner and saying, hey, don’t recruit more than a hundred students because then we won’t really have places for them. How do you think about connect in that supply and demand in this model?

Kathleen deLaski:
Yeah. I mean, we have to have that feedback loop and that’s going to be very important and we’re careful not to bring in employers who have one off needs. Cloud associate is one of them that we’re doing, I mentioned earlier. There’s employers all over the country who have that need, and that is actually two or three of our different colleges in different parts of the country are doing that one. I think we’re going to be creating a community of practice, if you will, for employers and the colleges to be able to sort of track supply and demand for these because I think that’s a critical missing link, but we’re starting with the most heavily needed roles. I mean, the Epic administrator, the nice thing about that one is that’s a need all over the country. And so other colleges are looking at the one Seattle created and saying, oh, we have hospitals. Let’s ask our hospitals if they also need this, and that’s starting to happen. We’re starting a second cohort of another 12 colleges in January, including another statewide effort. So we’re excited about that starting to gain momentum.

Todd Zipper:
Very exciting. It’s really fascinating to see the approach, which is very sort of local, regionally based employer and job sort of up into the education. Whereas we’ve seen over the last several years this explosion in these direct to learner models like the [inaudible 00:36:23] of the world and edX and MasterClass and so on and so forth. How do you think about that in terms of working within your view of the future?

Kathleen deLaski:
I think even from the first [inaudible 00:36:35] that we saw coming onto the scene 2012, 2013, the issue was always completion. And also the issue was what about the learner that is not self directed or an autodidact, the learner who might need their confidence boosted in order to sign up for something or might have time poverty like single moms, right? And so we would argue that a pretty significant part of the addressable market for new ways of learning is either not going to sign up for a course [inaudible 00:37:09] because it’s just out there hanging by itself out of context or they need structure. They need it to be part of something they’re already doing either for time reasons or confidence or understanding the why. Those courses are great. Those things are great. And what you see a lot of community colleges doing is then trying to bring them in, bring those things in.

Kathleen deLaski:
We don’t have any data scientists here to teach data science stuff, let’s figure out a way to bring those learnings in, but in a human touch kind of model. And I think that’s one of the hot areas that you see coming online now.

Todd Zipper:
So we’re getting close to wrapping up here. I’d love to get your perspective on the pandemic as an instrument of change. We’re still unpacking the numbers from the fall 2021 cohort. It seems like similar to fall 2020 where undergraduate was down considerably, especially community colleges, graduate enrollments slightly up. How do you think the pandemic has sort of pushed certain changes hopefully in good ways around education?

Kathleen deLaski:
What we’ve witnessed in colleges, a Herculean entrepreneurial spirit of people of figuring out how to pivot on a dime and deliver what learners needed and often in kind dangerous circumstances for their own health of professors and administrators. So I’ve just been really impressed. Just generally, that has to be said. And as far as how it’s helped accelerate the pace of changes that needed to happen anyway, it certainly has. And I think it’s partly because consumer demand was already changing where people wanted faster results. They wanted just in time learning, they wanted career and job focused training as opposed to let me go off to college for a while, at least for the particularly working adults. And it’s helped I think the providers understand that they have to meet changing needs and they have to do it quickly. And what they’ve realized is they can. That’s perhaps the most exciting part is the confidence about innovation that I see coming from a lot of colleges.

Kathleen deLaski:
I mean, they’re worn out because they’ve been turning on a dime for two years now, but they can do it and they’re excited about doing it and there’s no choice, but to do it because enrollments are down.

Todd Zipper:
Exactly. Necessity is the mother of all invention. So let’s talk about five years from now. What do you hope Education Design Lab has accomplished and where do you see the higher ed industry as a whole?

Kathleen deLaski:
Well, what we have as our North Star goal that the models, because we design and test new models for higher education, right? That meet the needs of new majority learners. And our five year goal is that we have improved economic mobility for a million new majority learners. And not just for a million for the sake of a million, but to us, that’s sort of the tipping point for adoption and escalation of this mindset that the old model is not going to serve any, but a smaller and smaller minority of learners, mostly traditional age learners. And if there are 20 million learners in higher ed today, if we can get 10% of them or even 5% that are starting to have success in these new models, that becomes a snowball from which we can build and make it better because I’m not saying that we have the answers, I just think we are trying to push the pace of change to serve the learners that are not getting served.

Kathleen deLaski:
And we’ll be able to, I think, pull in the good parts that the nostalgia has us hanging onto. Those are elements of design that hopefully we can hang onto as we move to a fully new model of higher education.

Todd Zipper:
Yeah. I think if we can move a bit faster, I’ll see your one million and raise you to 10 million.

Kathleen deLaski:
That’s good. Yeah. I mean, maybe we’re not thinking big enough because we set that goal a few years ago.

Todd Zipper:
Well, it’s certainly a big number, but when you bring, get down to your one college that you’re working with in Tucson or Seattle, you start to see, wow, it’s tough to get there. But when you think about how big our population is, how much this type of learning is needed to keep people advancing in the economy, I think we’re going to have to get to a much bigger number. So what is the one thing you would like to ensure our listeners walk away understanding from our conversation here today?

Kathleen deLaski:
I fear that some people listening will think that we are advocating for the traditional model of college two to get blown up or to go away. And I don’t want to leave people with that thought. We Revere all the wonderful things that make the higher education system in the US, that sort of we had been the envy of the world up until this point. I think we still are in this regard. And those need to be built upon, but we can’t hang on to the nostalgic past that those of us lucky enough to go through that system and remember it so fondly are sort of hanging onto in a way that is actually hurting future learners and a majority of them.

Todd Zipper:
All right. So I ask this of all my guests, part of what we love about education is that we all have learning to champions. Who has been a learning champion for you and how has that person helped you in your life?

Kathleen deLaski:
I’d probably go all the way back to high school for me. I had an English teacher in both 10th and I had her again in 12th grade. I went to one of those huge public high schools where you felt like nobody was paying attention, nobody cared. And I had this English teacher who I think in 10th grade taught me how to write because I was not a writer. And by 12th grade, she made me feel like I could write and I could maybe get into a good college and be an English major, which I was. I became a writer. I became a journalist. I was a journalist for 15 years. Yeah. I really attributed it to Mrs. Smith. I tried to find her recently because I couldn’t tell how old she was when I was in high school. But I think I’m afraid that I didn’t get to go back and thank her because I think she was gone by the time I was really appreciating her enough and I feel really bad about that.

Todd Zipper:
Well, that’s a wonderful story. Thank you so much, Kathleen. I really appreciate our time talking here today. I’m so exciting what the design lab is doing, what is next, the X credit, the micro pathways. This is really exciting. So until next time, this has been An Educated Guest.

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