|[ Teaching and Learning Forum 2001 ] [ Proceedings Contents ]|
One response to this problem is the increasing trend to include a product specific training component in university awards. By example it is possible to graduate with an additional professional qualification in a major product such as Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. One Australian university now offers a Bachelor of Computing in which a private training provider teaches a substantial part of the curriculum. However, questions must be asked if such developments are training or education. There are considerable opportunities for closer collaborations that include: 'thick' and 'thin' sandwich courses, workplace experience, guest lectures, commercial training at HECS prices, etc. Only by addressing these issues will the curriculum meet the needs of commerce. This paper reviews the advantages and disadvantages to these developments, suggestions of how to prepare a forward looking curriculum and concludes with a summary of the responsibilities and expectations of both a prospective employer and student seeking employment.
Although graduates come from diverse backgrounds and ages, the predominant reason why they had gone to university was to get skills, knowledge and a qualification which would assist them in either gaining employment or enhancing their prospects for promotion or a more rewarding job. (Campus Review, 1996)However, a market based analysis of potential employers within Western Australia was conducted by Maj who found a significant lack of relevance of university curriculum within the field of computer and network technology (Maj, Robbins, Shaw, & Duley, 1998). The same evaluation was completed at two European universities with comparable results (Maj, Veal, & Charlesworth, 2000). Students are taught network modelling, design and management but they do not physically construct networks. The results clearly demonstrate that students lacked knowledge about PC technology and the basic skills need to operate on computer and network equipment in a commercial environment. This is despite the fact that most students thought such knowledge would be beneficial. The survey indicated that any practical knowledge students have of hardware is largely a result of experience outside the course. At the second university the results demonstrate that these students had a broad, hobbyist's understanding of the PC but no knowledge of health and safety law. Significantly, the students interviewed identified that their skills and knowledge of PCs and networks came from self study or employment, not from courses at university. Again student responses indicated that such knowledge would be useful (Maj, Fetherston, Charlesworth, & Robbins, 1998). The results of these surveys would suggest a possible failure of universities to ensure the relevance of curriculum within the field of computer and network technology. According to Lowe, cited by (Armitage, 1995), universities risk becoming 'corporatist factories dispensing irrelevant degree programs to gullible students', and further that some universities show 'an attitude toward their students bordering on the contemptuous' by recycling 'tired old courses'.
In order to obtain practical skills, many university students, on graduation, go on to study at TAFE. According to (Donaghue, 1997) the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee's Credit Transfer Working Party found that 'while 12,700 VET students moved to the university sector in 1993, 10,400 university students moved to VET'. Furthermore, Donaghue reported findings of the recent Werner report that 'Personal development' followed by 'to gain practical skills not obtained in my higher qualification' were the most likely reasons for undertaking a TAFE course.
Furthermore, students without commercial experience may not have a clear understanding of employer expectations and accordingly may depend entirely on universities. Havard, Hughes and Clarke have noted the general lack of information given to students regarding employer expectations:
On completion of their academic programme the graduate was given no way of knowing how their skills compared to the requirements of industry (Havard, Hughes, & Clarke, 1998)
From the fifteen applicants seven were invited for an interview. The main reason for not choosing the other applicants was that they did not provide any evidence that they had knowledge of Oracle. This was despite the fact that at least three of the candidates not selected did have an adequate knowledge of Oracle. It is perhaps not understood by students that employers often conduct a preliminary evaluation of applicants by means of a simple checklist of requirements. No mention of Oracle in a resume results in a score of zero for those criteria - resulting in an automatic rejection. All applicants selected for interview were given the list of ten questions to be addressed during the interview. In effect they all knew what questions they were going to be asked. One applicant was unsuccessful because of their poor ability to communicate during the interview. In the final analysis two full time positions and two part time positions were offered. Various questions must be considered. How effective are the career services in communicating employment opportunities to students? Do students make use of the career services? Are students taught presentation and communication skills? Should universities teach what are considered by commerce to be essential knowledge? Should employers not take a more active role in training in specific skills?
the popular wisdom among practicing professionals is that the knowledge they acquire from practice is far more useful than what they acquire from more formal types of education (Cervero, 1992).Cervero further argues that the 'goal of professional practice is wise action' and that 'knowledge acquired from practice is necessary to achieve this goal'. Both declarative and procedural knowledge are necessary for professional practice. Declarative knowledge is knowledge that something is the case; procedural knowledge is knowledge how to do something. Cervero clearly makes the point that:
A major difference between experts and non-experts in any field is that experts have far more procedural knowledge. That is, they know how to perform their craft.Whilst theoretical knowledge can still be taught it may be preferable to provide a more appropriate environment of the associated procedural knowledge. Even though all universities in WA teach database technology and programming, until recently only ECU specifically taught Oracle programming. At ECU the database theory is taught and Oracle is used as the vehicle for teaching database technology and programming. Furthermore all student workshops are based on Oracle technology. Students therefore acquire commercially relevant skills. Oracle is the de facto standard for Database technology not only in WA but also internationally. Such skills can be perceived highly by prospective employers. According to Goldsworthy:
skill refers to a person's ability to do something well. It relates to expertness, a practiced ability, a dexterity in performing a task. It is an outcome that flows from knowledge, practice, inherent abilities and an understanding of the task to be performed. (Goldsworthy, 1993)Such skills can reinforce the theoretical framework of the curriculum. Without a practical application and implementation theory alone may be inadequate. According to Ramsden, 'Many students can juggle formulae and reproduce memorised textbook knowledge while not understanding their subjects in a way that is helpful for solving real problems' (Ramsden, 1992). Rather then lowering academic standards Professor Lowe argues, 'the complexity of the real world is more intellectually taxing than living in imaginary worlds of friction-less planes, perfectly free markets or rational policy analysis' (Armitage, 1995).
Campus Review (1996). Educating the Workforce for the New Millennium. Campus Review, May 1-7.
Cervero, R. M. (1992). Professional practice, learning and continuing education: an integrated perspective. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 11(2), 91-101.
De La Harpe, M. (1998). ECU plans to make an entrance. Campus Review, May, pp. 6.
Donaghue, B. (1997). SA TAFE given top marks by higher end users. Campus Review, March 19-25.
Goldsworthy, A. W. (1993). IT and the competency debate - skill vs knowledge a major issue. The Australian Computer Journal, 25(3), 113-122.
Havard, M., Hughes, M., & Clarke, J. (1998). The introduction and evaluation of key skills in undergraduate courses. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 1, 61-68.
Maj, S. P., Fetherston, T., Charlesworth, P. & Robbins, G. (1998). Computer and network infrastructure design, installation, maintenance and management - a proposed new competency based curriculum. Proceedings of the Third Australasian Conference on Computer Science Education, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
Maj, S. P., Robbins, G., Shaw, D., & Duley, K. W. (1998). Computer and network installation, maintenance and management - a proposed new curriculum for undergraduates and postgraduates. The Australian Computer Journal, 30(3), 111-119.
Maj, S. P., Veal, D., & Charlesworth, P. (2000). Is computer technology taught upside down? Paper presented at the 5th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, University of Helsinki, Finland.
Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. London: Routledge.
|Authors: A Sutharshan, M Torres and S P Maj, School of Computer and Information Science, Edith Cowan University. Contact author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Sutharshan, A., Torres, M. and Maj, S. P. (2001). Education or training - meeting student and employer expectations. In A. Herrmann and M. M. Kulski (Eds), Expanding Horizons in Teaching and Learning. Proceedings of the 10th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 7-9 February 2001. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2001/sutharshan.html