07/23/2013 03:29 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2013

Re-Engineering Education One Coach at a Time

By the time today's youth graduate from high school, they will have been exposed to more information than their grandparents were in their entire lifetime. Technology has forever changed information access and opened learning opportunities, despite a person's income level, location, or age.

In the information age, traditional learning institutions, like brick and mortar schools and libraries, must be reinvented in order to be relevant to a society that can access information from anywhere, at any time of the day. The traditional learning paradigm where teachers act as information gatherers and orators and students act as information consumers is outdated in the age of smart phones, MOOCs, and online schools. Even the definitions of "student" and "teacher" have changed, as retirees become students in their free time by taking MOOCs, and teachers become facilitators of deeper learning for students who are exposed to information nearly every waking moment.

So what does this shift mean for faculty, advisers and counselors? What does it mean for the students?

For faculty, it means that students with technology have the power to teach themselves. The teacher of yesteryear was the only person who dispensed knowledge. Not so in the age of technology. To motivate and inspire students, faculty will need to be coaches who can facilitate a class, providing ample opportunity for students to prepare in advance and come to class prepared for work in pairs, triads, and groups. This will mean for some faculty a great loss of control. The upside is that more students will be engaged and motivated to learn and contribute more than in the passive "write everything down" model of old.

On the other hand, while the information age has brought learning (and therefore control) to the student, the reality is that many students struggle with online learning. Here, more than ever, students need the support of academic coaches to master personal management skills, develop discipline, and learn strategies for accountability and follow-through required for academic success in the online world. They need to learn how to manage themselves and manage the learning process.

For advisers and counselors, it means promoting an inquiry-based interaction instead of "telling" students what to do and how to do it. Because of time constraints, most advisers and counselors will strike the delicate balance between asking powerful questions and providing some direction based on the students' own instincts. The key is empowering students to ask themselves questions and to listen to the answers instead of seeking them from without. Intrinsic motivation and confidence go a long way in establishing the ability to persist academically and in other areas of life -- even if it's a five-minute exchange.

For tutors, it means building a strong relationship with students beyond the content that needs to be reviewed. This involves coaching students on topics like how they are, how their other classes are going, and how they feel the college is doing to meet their needs. If students have a strong personal connection with tutors when they feel most vulnerable with content, chances are they will persist. If there is no connection or no one asking if they will see them next week, it is easier for students to stop coming to tutoring and lose interest in college.

What does this new responsibility mean for students? For some, it will mean the same discomfort that faculty might experience. Some will not want to do group work or participate in front of the class to lead a discussion. Others will be upset that they have to be part of team while they would rather work independently. For others who have what Carol Dweck calls a "growth mindset," it will mean opportunity to grow and learn new academic skills which will translate into needed professional skills.

For all players in the college environment, the shift away from traditional teaching is an opportunity to design learning that not only engages, but develops skills that reflect the demands of the world of work.

As the economy recovers, students who graduated in 2008-2012 are finding it even more difficult to find employment, as many have been out of work and recruiters are filling positions with "fresh" grads of 2013, according to a recent New York Times article. For unemployed or underemployed graduates who have been out of school the last few years, employers say they must stay current in their field if they're going to compete with new grads. "I don't think it's a bad idea to be a barista at Starbucks," said Dan Black, the Americas director of recruiting for Ernst & Young. "But we need some evidence that you are continuing to move toward that goal of entering the field."

Graduates, whether employed, unemployed, or underemployed, must have the self-management skills and growth mindset to seek professional development, keep up with their field, and grow in their career. Changes in industry move fast in our technologically dependent workforce. Only graduates who seek out informal mentors and coaches at their part-time job, volunteer work, or employment office or take an online course on emerging technologies in their field can stand a chance at competing with new grads who are trained in the industry's latest and greatest.

Academic Coaching is a tool that will not only help faculty reach and motivate more students, it will help students learn more about who they are, what their potential is, and how they can use that potential for success in college, career and life. It can make the difference between a college degree that pays off and one that students feel wasn't worth it. It can make the difference between a student who can connect classroom learning to life outside of class and one who can't. It can make the difference between a student who gets stuck and one who reaches out to others to self-advocate and problem-solve. It can make the difference between a student who blames others for options they don't have and one who takes responsibility for their choices, their trade-offs, and their learning.

Students, grads and college staff with initiative can shape the direction of their own learning in ever-expansive ways, interacting with faculty who can challenge, motivate, and inspire them. Whom would you rather hire?

If you would like more information on how Academic Coaching promotes academic, personal, and professional success, join me on Thursday, July 25 for the free webinar "Academic Coaching for Advisors and Student Success Staff" in partnership with NROC. Space is limited for this live event, but all registrants will receive a link to the archived video following webinar.