Real World Skills for the College Student

I’m very excited about a new opportunity I’ll be embarking on this Fall. I am going back to teaching part time at our local community college. I taught web design at the same college about 9 years ago, for the Continuing Education and Corporate Training programs, so some of this will be very familiar to me.

The major difference this time is I’m teaching for a diploma program. In fact, it’s the latest evolution of the same diploma program I graduated from in 1998 – Interactive Multimedia Developer. It was a 7 month program when I took it, now it’s 2 years. The fact that it’s a full time diploma program means that my audience is going to be fresh-out-of-highschool NetGenners. This is quite a dramatic change from the semi-computer literate adults I’m used to teaching. The young people that are going to be in my classes have been using computers since they were old enough to talk. It’s been embedded in their culture for their entire lives.

This has me thinking about how the Net Generation is going to fare once they are out in the real world. After all, college is not just about learning some new skills, it’s about figuring out how to apply those skills in a way that will enable your success once you are out in the workforce.

I’m teaching Video and Audio production (as it relates to New Media). I’m going to teach them how to operate a camera, set up 3-point lighting, do a paper edit, edit their stuff in Premiere, and export to various media. Given that most of the students will have plenty of computer and technology experience, I don’t forsee the vast majority of them having too much trouble catching on. But in order for them to be truly successful, there’s got to be more than just “push this button to make this happen”.

The real world is not just about knowing what buttons to push. The real world is hard. College is supposed to prepare you, as much as possible, for the real world. So, in addition to the button pushing, I think these are some things that should also be taught in college:

Communication
I’m not talking about IM, Facebook or SMS texting. I’m talking about how to write a business email or a resume that gets noticed. How to pitch someone on an idea. How to cold call. How to conduct yourself on the telephone. In the real world, these kinds of communications are a daily occurrence. You’ve got to get it right from the outset, because as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Networking
Whether you’re a CEO or an entry-level cubicle dweller, being comfortable with networking is a critical real-world skill. Whether you’re the new junior in the company or just want to meet and socialize with like-minded people, knowing how to introduce yourself, strike up conversations and even interact through social networks will have a tremendous positive impact on your personal growth and ability to learn. It will also open up a whole lot more opportunities.

Continuous Learning
Hands up. How many of you graduated from university or college and thought “Now I know everything! Are you ready for me, world?” How shocking it was to realize that after all that hard work and money spent, you really didn’t know much at all. The real learning begins the moment you walk out of the school corridors and into the working world. And it never stops. Students need to learn how to LEARN. After being spoon-fed knowledge throughout their high school careers, college needs to teach them how to think for themselves – to discover, explore and be curious all the time. They need to know that graduation is the START of learning, not the end.

Be Passionate
I’ve talked about passion before. It is perhaps the most important thing that we need to be teaching our young people. I’m crazy passionate about video. I’m crazy passionate about the Internet and new media. I’m extremely enthusiastic when I talk about both. And I want my students to share my enthusiasm and passion. If they go through this course with me and don’t feel as strongly passionate about these things as I do by the end of the semester, then they will need to seriously consider if this is the right path for them. They need to be excited and amazed every day by this stuff. Developing that passion will be a cornerstone to their future success.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think students are getting enough of this kind of preparation in college? Do you think it’s necessary? Or not? I would love to hear what you think.

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3 Responses

  1. This is a very cool post! As an English teacher, I’m continually looking for ways to incorporate my students’ knowledge of media, but I like the emphasis on knowing more than “how to push a button.” I would like to provide a link to this post on my blog, Christian Teacher Forum, if you don’t mind.

  2. Don’t forget Showing Up, Meeting Deadlines, and Following Through.

    The other local CC has a video production program, and they run it with a very real-world focus. The director has a sign on his door that reads, “In the production world, if you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re fired.”

    One of our web design profs has a zero-tolerance policy for late work. She doesn’t grade it, period, even if it’s only one minute late. Having chased down FedEx trucks in the parking lot to make a deadline, I can’t argue with that. Miss a deadline and you could lose the company.

    When I was a good deal younger I got my butt chewed by a senior exec because I didn’t follow through to make sure that somebody had done something. “But i sent an email AND left a voicemail!” I quavered in defense. He thundered back, “Those are PASSIVE! You were just HOPING that they’d get the message! You have to take POSITIVE action! You have to BE SURE!”

  3. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

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