Edtech and the Transition to Postsecondary

Published oct. 17, 2012

Why are discussions of postsecondary transitions so absent in edtech conversations? This is the question I found myself wondering about at the Wireless EdTech Conference last week in Washington, DC. I took part in some fantastic conversations about assessments, infrastructure, and how educational technologies can support learning outcomes. But I left the conference thinking:

  • Where are the postsecondary partners?
  • Why wasn’t there even a discussion on how to develop postsecondary partnerships?
  • Shouldn’t we be hearing from postsecondary institutions about their thoughts on the preparedness of students coming out of online and blended high schools and on how to link online and blended learning in high schools and colleges?

Granted, a day-and-a-half conference can’t be all things to all people. But the lack of discussion about postsecondary transitions persist in a majority of the edtech conversations I have participated in, or in the blogs and news articles I’ve read on the topic.

My perspective is very much shaped by the notion of “pathways”—JFF’s work supports learners from high school through postsecondary and onto a family-sustaining career track. Specifically, the work that is most urgent is the critical transition time—from high school, or a GED program, to a postsecondary program—especially for those who were formerly off-track, low-income, or first-generation students. They fall through the cracks as they move between two systems that have very different expectations. We should be asking:

  • How can these transitions could be smoother when students are coming out of a blended learning, or technology-enhanced program; and
  • How can educational technologies support “postsecondary bridging” activities?

I’m not going to attempt to answer these questions in full, but let’s brainstorm some ideas:

  • Support Dual Enrollment: Technology can enhance the support that secondary teachers provide in helping students meet demands of their first college course(s). Closed social media platforms give secondary teachers the opportunity to connect with postsecondary faculty, giving teachers a real-time understanding of where their students may be struggling and how to wrap specific skill reinforcements into their high school curriculum. (Also, students can connect with their teacher, professor, and peers).
  • Awareness/College Knowledge: Schools and programs should build dedicated time into their schedules to provide students with postsecondary awareness and “college knowledge” learning opportunities. Examples of cloud-based activities include: virtual tours of campuses of interest; use of college websites to learn more about program offerings; demoing the FAFSA application process for students and families; and simulated “practice runs” through typical college registration processes.
  • Planning: Platforms are available to help students develop portfolios for college planning. Completing career assessments, college website searches, utilizing labor market information to inform career decisions, developing career and life goals are crucial to developing resilience and grit in students as they start their postsecondary programs.
  • Attachment to College: Social media is a great way for high school students to connect with peers who attend a postsecondary program. Schools and programs can support an active alumni network on Facebook, or a closed social media site to connect students from similar background and ask questions.

Have other ideas about using technology to support transitions? Know of a school/programs that is doing it well (especially those serving off-track, formerly out-of-school youth)? Let us know! In the meantime, let’s make sure that postsecondary is at the table as we move quickly into an age of the Common Core, online assessments, and instructional technology design.