How Academic Institutions Can Keep Their Educational Process Relevant

Prof. Ami Moyal is the President of Afeka – Tel Aviv Academic College of Engineering.

The world is changing at an accelerating pace, with significant implications for any organization—including academic institutions. If society, the workforce, and students change faster than educational processes, then academic degrees are in danger of losing their relevance. On a global scale, this trend is shown strongly in higher education enrollment rates. The US National Student Clearinghouse Research Center revealed that total postsecondary enrollments decreased by 4.1% in spring 2022 compared to spring 2021.

As president of the Afeka Academic College of Engineering, I have first-hand experience with the need to maintain and even grow the relevance of the education that the college provides to its students. We want to transform engineering education to better prepare a new generation of students for success in the world of work. So we look at the relevance of our educational process to determine how we can create more value for students.

How to Redesign the Education Process

To transform the Afeka process, we need to understand the knowledge, skills and values ​​that are integral to our students’ success in the world of work. We call this our “graduate profile.” Once we have established this profile, we use it to guide the transformation of our educational process. We ended up following the same development strategy that often appears in product engineering design: inquire, imagine, plan, create, experiment, and improve.

1. Ask

It is important to start by asking two main questions regarding the inputs and outputs of the educational process to determine if there are gaps in the process.

1. Do we have a deep enough understanding of the industry needs that our graduates will join?

2. Do we accept new students based on the criteria that are most correlated with academic success?

Asking these questions allows you to clearly define each element of the graduate profile. Then, go one step further and define what the different levels for each skill are like (that is, basic, intermediate, and advanced). This will help create the best profile to guide the rest of your process redesign.

One way to find the answer is through surveys and data analysis. For example, we surveyed Israel’s high-tech industry to pinpoint the skills junior engineers feel are lacking. This allows us to re-evaluate our course. Then, we conducted an analysis of student data to determine which admission requirements best predict student success.

2. Imagine

Before actually implementing any change, an important step is to envision the ideal characteristics of a more effective and successful process. This will give you a goal to strive for, even if you don’t end up capturing every characteristic with your plan.

Also, you shouldn’t base these ideals exclusively on your own perceptions. Take inspiration from various sources. For example, research global reports and surveys to assess the latest trends in higher education and the job market. You can also meet leaders from other academic institutions to learn about their strategies and best practices. These are all useful data points for designing a unique vision and strategy that fits your educational process goals.

3. Plan

Of course, systemic reinvention of your educational process cannot occur without careful planning. Compare the graduate profile you created with the skills you have been given. Determine what changes are needed and where in the curriculum the changes should be made. Then map out how and when you want to make these changes.

An important part of planning is support from all internal stakeholders, such as faculty, administrators, and board members. So make sure they are really involved in the process. Defining the elements of a graduate profile and then defining them in detail together with the relevant management team leads to the commitment of all involved to achieve the desired results.

4. Create

With graduate profiles acting as a compass, make and implement changes to your educational process. At Afeka, we made five major updates.

• Adding personal skills as learning outcomes to the curriculum, focusing on the most sought-after skills that high-tech employers are looking for in emerging engineers.

• Support a variety of extracurricular activities that offer practical experience and impart skills, which provide opportunities for students to pursue personal interests.

• Encourage pedagogical innovation to support skills acquisition across all programmes.

• Redesign campus physical spaces to support all forms of teaching and learning.

• Adapt organizational infrastructure and culture by expanding on existing activities, developing new foundations dedicated to furthering specific goals and forming ecosystems with education systems, non-governmental organizations and industry to create opportunities for collaboration and shared learning.

5. Experiment and Improve

Every change is a continuous learning process involving constant experimentation. This is especially true when trying to change the entire structure of education, which can take years to fully implement. So encouraging trial and error and embracing every failure is important. Being able to adapt and improve when possible will lead to faster and better results in the long term.

In today’s rapidly changing world, higher education institutions must do what they can to stay relevant. Broad curricular changes are only one way. When the educational process is optimized for graduate success, the demand for higher education will increase, and increased enrollment will be a natural consequence.

Forbes Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Am I eligible?