Is the Market Saturated for Graduates in Online Educational Leadership Programs? Holly Kathleen Hall, Thillainatarajan Sivakumaran, Annette Hux

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1 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 1 Is the Market Saturated for Graduates in Online Educational Leadership Programs? Holly Kathleen Hall, Thillainatarajan Sivakumaran, Annette Hux

2 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 2 Abstract Online master s, specialist and doctoral programs in educational leadership have grown exponentially. Most students pursue these degrees with the hope of attaining additional knowledge and to stand out in a competitive job-seeking crowd. With enrollment trends continuing to rise and more students attaining educational leadership degrees, are these students experiencing or about to experience diminishing returns on those degree programs? Are they still able to advance in their careers given that so many of their peers also have attained or are attaining the same degrees? The results of this study indicate as long as schools offer raises to teachers who receive a master s degree or credit hours above a bachelor s degree, online graduate programs in education will be in demand. While some schools report trouble in efforts to hire the right educational leaders for the job due to the difficulty in determining a candidate s real leadership ability in skills such as resource allocation and visioning ability, by obtaining a graduate degree, teachers still have an opportunity for career advancement. These factors should continue to keep teachers enrolling in online graduate programs in education. Key Words: Online educational leadership, graduate employability, market saturation, skills

3 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 3 Introduction Online degree programs continue to proliferate. Access to education is increasingly available. The combination of these factors leads to more graduates for available jobs. This is specifically becoming an issue for those graduating with online degrees in educational leadership, who are hoping the degree will help them be more attractive candidates in a crowded job marketplace. In this paper, the authors will explore what constitutes employability in higher education, the outlook for employability upon attaining an online degree in educational leadership and additional steps universities can take to successfully prepare their graduates for a competitive career arena. Literature Review The online education market is booming. Some estimates place the number of online students in 2010 at over 2.5 million in the United States or 10% of all students in U.S. higher education (Eduventures, 2013). The upsurge in access and interest in online education is occurring all over the world. In a competitive global economy, more emphasis is being placed on the outcomes of online higher education. Countries are looking to online education to provide the edge in increasing the capacity for economic development and affluence (Chetty, 2012). Elias and Purcell contended that even with the expansion of higher education, a degree enhances the probability of higher earning potential (2004). Though, Chetty argues there is a divide between the graduates the universities yield and what employers need in 21 st century employees (2012). Yorke (2006) defines employability as a set of achievements which constitute a necessary but not sufficient condition for the gaining of employment (which is dependent, inter

4 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 4 alia, on the contemporary state of the economy) (p.2). Upon examining literature regarding the skills and achievements needed for a 21 st century global economy, a consistent pattern of required skills beyond basic competencies is apparent: the need to be a continuous learner, a requisite level of flexibility and a predilection for goal-setting. Harvey (2000) describes the desired skill sets: The core interactive attributes are communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills. These are necessary to communicate, formally and informally, with a wide range of people both internal and external to the organisation; to relate to, and feel comfortable with, people at all levels in the organization as well as a range of external stakeholders, to be able to make and maintain relationships as circumstances change; work effectively in teams, often more than one team at once, and to be able to re-adjust roles from one project situation to another in an ever-shifting work situation. Personal attributes are attitudes and abilities including intellect, knowledge (in some cases) willingness and ability to learn and continue learning, ability to find things out, willingness to take risks and show initiative, flexibility and adaptability to respond, pre-empt and ultimately lead change and self-skills such as self-motivation, self-confidence, self-management and self-promotion. These personal attributes are important to allow graduates to fit into the work culture, do the job, develop ideas, take initiative and responsibility and ultimately help organisations deal with change (p. 8). It is the task for universities to develop programs to enhance and cultivate these skills, making their graduates more employable (Silva, Lourtie & Aires, 2013). For example, the Universidade Aberta (UAb) offers degrees at all levels using online learning built around the

5 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 5 core principles of student-centered learning, flexibility, interaction and digital inclusion (Silva et al., 2013). These are all aspects of skills tied to employability and they demonstrate the need of a workforce capable of adapting to change and growing in their positions. Silva et al. (2013) implemented a survey taken by students and teachers at UAb on their perceptions of skills seen as important by employers. Of the top ten skills identified by both students and teachers, four were consistent among both groups: problem solving, planning, decision-making and willingness to learn. Harvey, (2000), asserts the question then is not are we producing too many graduates, but rather the focus should be on the general upskilling of the work force and, with it, the broadening of opportunity because [s]tudents, in general, are not really aware of the need for transferable skills, and tend to work for money without considering skills development (p. 6). In the field of educational leadership specifically, leadership, after instructional quality, is the most noteworthy factor in what and how much students learn at school (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004). There have been conspicuous changes in recent years regarding what is needed from today s principals and superintendents. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) modified the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards in 2008, noting the different and important roles that school-level leaders play: Strategically allocate staffing and other resources to areas of high need. Closely monitor teaching and learning quality. Establish and maintain a vision and focus on a core set of organizational goals. Build trust and professional community among educators. Ensure that schools are safe learning environments for students and staff.

6 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 6 Use data to reflect upon and improve classroom and organizational practices (Clifford, 2012, p. 1, 2). Some schools report difficulty in hiring the right educational leaders for the job due to the difficulty in determining a candidate s real leadership ability, gauging those soft skills that are critically important in today s schools (Leithwood et al., 2004). A Stanford Educational Leadership Institute survey reported 80 percent of superintendents and 69 percent of principals think that leadership training in schools of education is out of touch with the realities of today s districts (Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, Meyerson, Orr & Cohen, 2007). So, what are the implications for graduates of online educational leadership degrees? Methodology Graduate students in the Fall of 2013 and Spring of 2014 responded to an online survey that addressed the research questions. The survey was administered at the end of the every 7- week term in the Fall 2013 and Spring The first set of survey questions addressed student demographic and employment status. The second set of questions focused on what factors that influenced students to enroll in the online program. The third set of questions addressed on students employment status (full time, part time, type of job, etc.) The fourth set of questions focused on students financial benefits upon graduation. The fifth set of questions addressed employment and career promotion opportunities upon graduation. Analysis A total number of 331 participants responded to the survey, with a response rate of 99.7% (330/331). Of those who responded, 80% (264) of respondents were female and 20% (66) were male.

7 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 7 Of the participants in this research study who responded to the degree program he/she was enrolled in, 99.4% (329/331) reported participation in one of five master s level degree courses or five specialist degree courses. These MSE courses included 7.9% (26) enrolled in curriculum and instruction, 14.89% (49) enrolled in special education, 16.11% (53) enrolled in educational theory and practice, 13.98% (46) enrolled in educational leadership and gifted, and 10.03% (33) enrolled in talented and creative. Among the five Ed.S. disciplines, 8.51% (28) were enrolled in superintendency, 17.63% (58) in principalship, 3.34% (11) in special education, 7.39% (24) in curriculum director, and 0.3% (1) enrolled in gifted and talented. 99.7% (330/331) of the participants responded to questions regarding primary motivation for participating in online courses instead of traditional in-class courses. Categories for the primary motivation for participating in online courses instead of traditional in-class courses included time, flexibility, family obligations, job obligations and other. The largest number of respondents, 86.06% (284) ranked flexibility as the primary reason for enrolling in online courses, while job obligations ranked second with 70.3% (232), time ranked third at 65.76% (217), family obligations ranked fourth at 49.7% (164) and other ranking last at 9.39% (31). Factors that influenced enrollment in this particular program included educational improvement, career advancement, financial incentive (pay increase), requirement for job, and other. This question received a 100% (331/331) response rate. The primary factor influencing enrollment in an online graduate program was reported as career advancement at 78.55% (260), with 65.26% (216) seeking financial incentives and 61.63% (204) seeking educational improvement following closely behind. Only 10.27% (34) reported enrollment in the program as a requirement for the job, and 6.04% (20) cited other reasons.

8 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 8 With regard to market saturation and employment, participants in the study were asked if about full time employment % (317) of the 99.7% (330/331) responses received were currently employed full time in a school district, while 3.64% (12) reported not being employed full-time at a school district. Of those who reported full-time employment, 60.9% (193) participants disclosed what capacity he or she was employed. Of the 60.9% (193) currently employed full-time, 77.2% (149) reported current employment as a teacher, with 7% (14) in administration and 15.8% (30) in another role (STD 0.19). Further, 99.4% (329/331) responded to what financial benefits were received upon graduation. Of those who responded, 83.03% (274) indicated he/she had received a raise, 11.82% (39) received a promotion, 14.55% (48) received no financial benefit, and 5.76% (19) reported other financial benefit. Finally, this survey sought to examine the outlook of opportunities for promotion upon graduation from this program. Of the 98.79% (327/331) who responded to this question, 42.2% (138) reported that to the outlook for promotion was very good, 48.93% responded the outlook was good and 8.87% (29) responded that the outlook was poor (STD 0.63). Conclusion In a 21 st century global economy and competitive job marketplace, universities need to explore strategies to place their graduates in the best position for career advancement. As the data indicates 78.55% of the students enrolled in the online graduate program for career advancement. Seventy seven percent of the students enrolled in the program are currently working full-time as teachers. By enrolling in the graduate program, it provides them an opportunity for career and financial advancements. (Eighty-three percent of the students

9 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 9 indicated they would receive a raise upon graduation). Forty-two percent of the students indicated that the job market was very good and 48.93% indicated it was good. As long as schools offer raises to teachers who receive a master s degree or credit hours above a bachelor s degree, online graduate programs in education will be in demand. In addition, by obtaining a graduate degree, teachers have an opportunity for career advancement. These two factors should continue to keep teachers enrolling in online graduate programs in education.

10 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 10 References Chetty, Y. (2012). Graduateness and employability in the higher education sector: A focused review of the literature. Retrieved from Clifford, M. (2012). Hiring Quality School Leaders - Challenges and Emerging Practices. Retrieved from Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., Meyerson, D., Orr. M. T., & Cohen, C. (2007). Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World: Lessons from Exemplary Leadership Development Programs. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, Stanford Educational Leadership Institute. Retrieved from Eduventures. (2013). Foundational insight: Online higher education market update 2012/13. Retrieved from Online-Higher-Education-Update-Summary.pdf Elias, P. and Purcell, K. (2004) Is Mass Higher Education Working? Evidence from the labour market experiences of recent graduates, National Institute Economic Review, No. 90, p Harvey, L. (2000). New realities: The relationship between higher education and employment. Tertiary Education and Management, Vol. 6, Issue 1, p. 3-17

11 IS THE MARKET SATURATED? 11 Leithwood, K., Louis K. S., Anderson, S., & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). How leadership influences student learning. New York: The Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from key-research/documents/how-leadership-influences-student-learning.pdf Silva, A., Lourtie, P., & Aires, L. (2013). Employability in Online Higher Education : A Case Study. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning. Vol. 14, Issue 1, p Yorke, M. (2006). Employability in higher education: what it is what it is not. Retrieved from Employability_in_HE(Is,IsNot).pdf

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