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President Aoun forecasts a range shifts in higher education landscape

Higher education learning models are shifting from the more traditional approach to one that is personalized for each student’s individual needs, and Northeastern University is uniquely positioned to embrace this shift, President Joseph E. Aoun told the Faculty Senate on Wednesday.

“Many higher education institutions are starting to look at personalization and customization of their offerings,” Aoun said during his annual address to the Faculty Senate. “It’s a shift from ‘what can I offer the students’ to ‘what can I offer you personally.’”

Aoun began by explaining that 85 percent of higher education students today are non-traditional learners—a group that includes part-time students, working professionals, and off-campus residents. Traditionally, colleges and universities have focused on the other 15 percent—primarily on undergraduates living on-campus.

Northeastern’s global leadership in experiential education, particularly through its signature co-op program, puts the university in position to pioneer in the area of customization, Aoun said. The cornerstone of the university’s experiential learning model, co-op combines rigorous classroom learning with real-world work experience.

More than 9,800 students were placed in co-op positions worldwide in the 2013-14 academic year. There has also been a 407 percent increase in global co-ops since 2006-2007, and the number of countries where Northeastern offered experiential learning opportunities has increased by 133 percent since 2006.

“You can view co-op as a form of personalization,” Aoun said. “The student is doing their co-op and living the integration of the workplace and the classroom. We need to take advantage of that.”

Aoun added co-op can also help Northeastern embrace a shift in higher education toward tracking student outcomes—in other words, what students do once they leave the university, rather than what they accomplished before starting college.

“Higher education has been reluctant to look at outcomes,” Aoun said. “You are seeing government and the public focus more on whether students have jobs or other opportunities when they leave.”

Ninety percent of Northeastern graduates from 2006-13 are either employed full time or enrolled in graduate school within nine months of graduation, and 85 percent of those employed full time are working in a field related to their major. Fifty percent of 2013 graduates received a job offer from a previous co-op employer.

“This is going to be a massive effort, and we have to lead it,” Aoun said. “In order to flourish, in order to further our leadership, we have to look at these opportunities and shape them.”

Prior to Aoun’s remarks, Vice President for Human Resources Management Katherine Pendergast addressed recent changes to faculty and staff health, dental, and life insurance benefits. Pendergast underscored that health insurance plan changes are in response to new compliance standards set by the Affordable Care Act. Some members of the Senate—and some faculty visitors—questioned the need for the proposed changes in dental and life insurance.

Visit the Human Resources Management website for more information about these benefits changes for 2015 and to find out when informational sessions will be held prior to Nov. 14, the final day of the benefits open enrollment period.

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