21st-Century Competencies in Higher Education: A Practitioner's Guide

21st-Century Competencies in Higher Education: A Practitioner's Guide

Crystal Neumann (American College of Education, USA), Kathleen M. Stroud (American College of Education, USA), Scott Bailey (American College of Education, USA), Krista Allison (American College of Education, USA) and Sarah (Sally) Everts (American College of Education, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6967-2.ch016
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Abstract

In 2020, a global pandemic changed many of the traditional ways in which we interact with people, communicate, care for children, and educate. Many businesses have been forced to find new revenue streams or face imminent closure. Evidence of the importance of 21st-century competencies for leaders in all fields has been highlighted during this crisis. As nations consider the best approach for dealing with a virus, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication represent four critical elements to ponder. Higher education plays an essential role in preparing the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed in the ever-changing world. Skills associated with reasoning, problem-solving, listening, flexibility, responsibility, innovating, and analyzing must be the focus of higher education institutions. In this chapter, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication within the higher education environment will be explored. Practical examples will be shared.
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Background

Institutions of higher education were not insulated from the effects of the pandemic. As these institutions play an essential role in preparing the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed in the ever-changing world, the continuation of their services was essential. Skills associated with reasoning, problem-solving, listening, flexibility, responsibility, innovating, and analyzing are typically an educational focus of higher education institutions (Germaine et al., 2016). Yet, during the pandemic, institutions had to pivot and utilize these same skills in their own practices to continue and succeed.

This chapter outlines how higher education institutions, like American College of Education (ACE), can leverage the four C’s for success and organizational engagement. As a result of using the four C’s, the college was able to maintain progress and growth--and even thrive--during the pandemic. American College of Education is a regionally accredited, online school specializing in education, leadership, healthcare, and nursing programs, with a stated mission “to deliver high-quality, affordable and accessible online programs grounded in evidence-based content and relevant application. We prepare graduates to serve, lead, and achieve personal and professional goals in diverse, evolving communities.” ACE considers itself a leader in online learning, online work, and online innovation. As such, ACE was well-prepared to lean into the four competencies of 21st century leadership to meet the challenges imposed by the pandemic. Practical examples of implementation of the four competencies and the promotion of engagement may serve as models of practice for other institutions. Examples include activities for students, staff, and other employees across the organization. Institutions can also implement innovative ways to promote new ideas, such as an Idea Bank or PROPEL teams.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaboration: Individuals or teams combining talents and expertise to accomplish a task or objective and promote engagement.

4 C’s: The four competencies required of leadership including: collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

Critical Thinking: Applying, analyzing, and synthesizing knowledge and information to tasks or problems.

Creativity: Innovatively solving problems or completing tasks by producing, locating, or acquiring new knowledge and resources or by utilizing existing knowledge and resources in novel ways.

Cross-Functional Teams: Workgroups consisting of members from different functional areas of the organization (e.g.: academics, marketing, and regulatory affairs).

Engagement: Deep connection to the purpose of the task or organization, fostered through clear and open communication and structured collaboration.

Communication: Structured and unstructured transfers of information strategically designed to build connections between team members and departments.

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