Opinion
Education Opinion

How Cengage Supports the Shift to Competency

By Tom Vander Ark — May 25, 2018 3 min read

Boston-based Cengage is the largest U.S.-based higher education and technology company. With about 5,000 employees, Cengage reaches 11 million higher education students. With more than half their revenue coming from digital products, Cengage is managing the shift from publisher to tech company.

Cengage recently announced Skill Map. “Instead of starting with a general education,” says Jonathan Lau, Senior Vice President of the Skills Group at Cengage, Ed2Go is designed to “start with an outcome, a job, a sense of what jobs are available, what’s interesting, or what’s in demand--especially locally.”

“With Skill Map, we’re making it easy for job seekers to figure out what jobs might be right for them, and then get the right skills and education for that job,” added Lau. “It’s also a great tool for those working with job seekers, like workforce boards, to help get people moving along the career journey faster.”

Ed2Go was acquired more than 10 years ago. It now has a catalog of more than 600 courses focused on career journeys. Cengage partners with employers and colleges to reach students. They work with many community colleges, often supporting continuing education with on-site and online courses.

The Cengage team has mapped skills from each course. Using the Skill Map, job seekers can find high demand local jobs and identify what courses to take.

Lau said his team would like to move to smaller units of learning, to create more modular content based on customer use cases and improve links to certification exams.

The opt in platform allows learners to share information with prospective employers about the work they, their location preference and academic progress. For example, about 40,000 students have taking courses on heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Employers view student profiles and contact high potential candidates.

Learning Objects

Launched in 2003, Learning Objects was acquired by Cengage in 2015. It powers the Ed2Go platform and enables learning experiences that better track and showcase learner knowledge, skills, and competencies.

The Learning Objects platform gives learners insight into what they know and suggests next steps. It diagnoses gaps and tracks progress to mastery. Adaptive assessments provide continual feedback.

Deborah Everhart, VP of Design and Innovation at Learning Objects, says that increasingly, employers care less about course grades and more about soft skills development.

Some Learning Objects programs use the LEAP (Liberal Education America’s Promise) VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) rubrics for work and life skills including Inquiry and Analysis, Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Written Communication, Oral Communication, Quantitative Literacy, Information Literacy, Reading, Teamwork, Problem Solving, Civic Knowledge and Engagement. The VALUE framework is widely used in higher education but is not well known in K-12.

Learning Objects supports higher education customers like EdPlus, the division that powers ASU Online and Continuing Education. They also support smaller occupationally oriented community college programs.

Everhart led the IMS advisory group that developed the Open Badge v2.0 specification. She was also involved in the development of the IMS Comprehensive Learner Record (formerly the Extended Transcript). For those of us interested in the shift to competency and more descriptive learner records, these are important advances.

High School As a Benefit

As recently noted, more companies are sponsoring degree pathways. In retail, that often starts with high school completion. Cengage offers the Career Online High School in partnership with Smart Horizons Career Education. They partner with McDonald’s, Walmart and Hilton to offer the program to their employees.

Enrolled students are paired with an academic coach who assists with developing an individual career plan, offers ongoing guidance and encouragement, evaluates performance, and connects the learner with the resources needed to demonstrate mastery of the course material. Graduates get a high school diploma when done, not a GED, and many students earn a credentialed career certificate. More than 80% of graduates report that they have enrolled or plan to enroll in post-secondary education.

It’s a show what you know world. New career and degree pathways are extending affordable access to millions of learners.

For more, see:


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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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