Obtaining 21st Century Skills Via Online Learning

Now, more than ever, it is critical for Christian School Leaders to provide learning opportunities to their students that allow them to obtain and/or refine the 21st Century skills that are critical to their success in college and career.

Untitled 2.001

“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” – Karl Fisch, Did You Know Research.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that 2,700 colleges/universities in the United States are currently offering online course options. According to NCES, 90% of these colleges say they’re influenced by the needs of today’s employers and businesses.

Recently, International Data Corporation (IDC) and Microsoft teamed up to analyze data from the National Bureau of Labor Statistics in reference to the most sought after job skills employers will be seeking from job candidates in the High Growth/High Paying jobs in the year 2020. IDC and Microsoft analyzed the megatrends that will drive employer needs:

  • Trends show that employers are increasing the number of telecommuters and remote workers.
  • Globalization is creating organizations that are increasingly interdependent and complex but must also be flexible and nimble at the same time.
  • The digitization of work changes where work happens and it changes who performs the work. The work we do, how we do it, and who we interact with are perpetually evolving. The work day is no longer just 9 to 5, and coworkers and team members include more than those who we see daily. Telecommuting is now part of our everyday vocabulary.
  • Technology is increasingly making its way into a number of jobs that are not IT focused including logistics and inventory using handheld devices for tracking, recording, and quality assurance. Even in manual labor, measuring, designing and fabricating. Medical, auto and appliance repair are using technology whether it’s for monitoring, diagnosis, or record keeping. Hospitality and food service industries are using more technology for inventory, customer service and scheduling.

As reflected in a new survey and report from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), virtual teams and a far-flung global workforce are frequently becoming the norm for corporations, with 99 percent of organizations having remote or virtual employees making communication and collaboration for geographically dispersed teams a bigger issue than ever. Some 88 percent of companies say that the virtual workplace requires additional leadership effort.

Students must be provided ample opportunities to prepare themselves to excel in the workforce now and into the future. It is critical for our students to acquire the skills needed to compete in a global workforce from training, communication, and collaboration perspectives.

The International Society for Technology in Education, ISTE for short, developed a set of standards to evaluate the skills and knowledge students need to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly global and digital world. Simply being able to use technology is no longer enough.

Today’s students need to be able to use technology to analyze, learn and explore. Digital age skills are vital for preparing students to work, live and contribute to the social and civic fabric of their communities. Online learning opportunities provide students with the opportunity to acquire and/or refine the most common skills needed for future employment in the high growth/high pay positions in 2020.

-Attention to Detail -Online Communication and Collaboration -Critical Thinking -Independent Learning -Initiative, Self-Direction, Motivation -Organizational Skills -Problem Solving and Adaptability -Productivity and Accountability -Resourcefulness -Technology Proficiency -Time Management

In their analysis, IDC & Microsoft selected the most attractive job classifications according to 3 criteria:

1.Occupation Size: >100k positions 2.Growth: Either grow by 100k positions through 2020 or >15% from 2010-2020 3.Wage: Above the median wage in the U.S. in 2013.

Using these criteria to analyze High Growth/High Pay positions, a set of common core skills were identified across the employment spectrum that will be important to children that are currently in grade school, middle school, and high school when they are looking for employment in 2020 and beyond.

Once those skills were identified, the analysis demonstrated that they are relevant and not simply for the average job in 2020 but equally for those students that aspire for occupations with above average demand and above average salary expectations. In other words, the skill requirements identified will be most relevant to the most ambitious and conscientious students in addition to those that may have more modest aspirations.


Of the 20 most common skills listed on this slide, there are skills that are regarded as cross functional skills, the cross functional skills are the most important of the HGHP positions.

The most required cross functional skills are:

1. Oral & Written Communication 2. Attention to Detail 3. Customer Service Focus 4. Organizational Skills 5. Problem Solving Skills

The analysis focused on the 20 skills that represented the common core skills the labor force should attain and the conclusion was made that this set is more important than any technology skill, science, math or even great business skills. These skills are both important and widely required across most positions.

The importance of technology is indisputable. Advances in technology have drastically changed the way we interact with the world and each other. The digital age requires that we understand and are able to harness the power of technology to live and learn.

By using technology to advance education, we will successfully prepare the children of today to become the informed, engaged citizens and thought leaders of tomorrow http://www.iste.org/standards/global-reach

We must embrace opportunities that will prepare our students for the global workforce of the future.

Many kids are already comfortable using social media (Twitter; Facebook, Instagram, texting, etc…) as their preferred method for personal communication and it is our responsibility to ensure that they provided opportunities to translate these skills into their academics.

The world is changing rapidly. Our children are growing up in an information-based, technology rich, globalized world. Digital technology and the rapid rise of economies in Asia and other developing countries have led to increased academic and economic competition. Outsourcing and “rightsourcing” are now common place.

With the ability to produce and sell products and services anywhere in the world, today’s academic, professional, and business institutions can select the most skilled workers wherever they exist in the world.

Consequently, American institutions do not have to hire an American high school or college graduate if that graduate is not world-class.

The skillsets that high school graduates must offer employers must span a wide range of organizational needs and we are committed to supporting your school’s efforts in providng your students with opportunities to obtain the skills necessary to compete in college and beyond.

What do you think?  

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

For the past 5 years, John Pohlman has served as an online education strategic consultant to Christian school leaders around the World. During this time John has helped hundreds of Christian schools integrate online learning as an extension of their school operations in an effort to assist them in achieving their goals.

John possesses valuable experience and expertise when it comes to assisting school leaders in overcoming common academic challenges, curriculum expansion, student recruitment/ retention, expense reduction, and revenue generation among other things.

He has studied educational trends and is knowledgeable relative to the 21st century skills students will need to succeed in college and career.
Prior to joining Sevenstar, John held high level positions in the banking and pharmaceutical industries.