Should Managers Permanently Stop Requiring Degrees for IT Positions?

CIO magazine reports on “a growing number of managers and executives dropping degree requirements from job descriptions.”

Figures from the 2022 study The Emerging Degree Reset from The Burning Glass Institute quantify the trend, reporting that 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill occupations experienced material degree resets between 2017 and 2019. Moreover, researchers calculated that 63% of those changes appear to be “‘structural resets’ representing a measured and potentially permanent shift in hiring practices” that could make an additional 1.4 million jobs open to workers without college degrees over the next five years.

Despite such statistics and testimony from Taylor and other IT leaders, the debate around whether a college education is needed in IT isn’t settled. Some say there’s no need for degrees; others say degrees are still preferred or required…. IBM is among the companies whose leaders have moved away from degree requirements; Big Blue is also one of the earliest, largest, and most prominent proponents of the move, introducing the term “new collar jobs” for the growing number of positions that require specific skills but not a bachelor’s degree….

Not all are convinced that dropping degree requirements is the way to go, however. Jane Zhu, CIO and senior vice president at Veritas Technologies, says she sees value in degrees, value that isn’t always replicated through other channels. “Though we don’t necessarily require degrees for all IT roles here at Veritas, I believe that they do help candidates demonstrate a level of formal education and commitment to the field and provide a foundation in fundamental concepts and theories of IT-related fields that may not be easily gained through self-study or on-the-job training,” she says. “Through college education, candidates have usually acquired basic technical knowledge, problem-solving skills, the ability to collaborate with others, and ownership and accountability. They also often gain an understanding of the business and social impacts of their actions.”
The article notes an evolving trend of “more openness to skills-based hiring for many technical roles but a desire for a bachelor’s degree for certain positions, including leadership.” (Kelli Jordan, vice president of IBMer Growth and Development tells CIO that more than half of the job openings posted by IBM no longer require degrees.)
Thanks to Slashdot reader snydeq for sharing the article.

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Steep Declines In Data Science Skills Among Fourth- and Eighth-Graders Across America, Study Finds

A new report (PDF) from the Data Science 4 Everyone coalition reveals that data literacy skills among fourth and eighth-grade students have declined significantly over the last decade even as these skills have become increasingly essential in our modern, data-driven society. Phys.Org reports: Based on data from the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress results, the report uncovered several trends that raise concerns about whether the nation’s educational system is sufficiently preparing young people for a world reshaped by the rise of big data and artificial intelligence. Key findings include:

– The pandemic decline is part of a much longer-term trend. Between 2019 and 2022, scores in the data analysis, statistics, and probability section of the NAEP math exam fell by 10 points for eighth-graders and by four points for fourth-graders. Declining scores are part of a longer-term trend, with scores down 17 points for eighth-graders and down 10 points for fourth-graders over the last decade. That means today’s eighth-graders have the data literacy of sixth-graders from a decade ago, and today’s fourth-graders have the data literacy of third-graders from a decade ago.

– There are large racial gaps in scores. These gaps exist across all grade levels but are at times most dramatic in the middle and high school levels. For instance, fourth-grade Black students scored 28 points lower — the equivalent of nearly three grade levels — than their white peers in data analysis, statistics, and probability.

– Data-related instruction is in decline. Every state except Alabama reported a decline or stagnant trend in data-related instruction, with some states — like Maryland and Iowa — seeing double-digit drops. The national share of fourth-grade math teachers reporting “moderate” or “heavy” emphasis on data analysis dropped five percentage points between 2019 and 2022.

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Students Lost One-Third of a School Year To Pandemic, Study Finds

Children experienced learning deficits during the Covid pandemic that amounted to about one-third of a school year’s worth of knowledge and skills, according to a new global analysis, and had not recovered from those losses more than two years later. The New York Times reports: Learning delays and regressions were most severe in developing countries and among students from low-income backgrounds, researchers said, worsening existing disparities and threatening to follow children into higher education and the work force. The analysis, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior and drawing on data from 15 countries, provided the most comprehensive account to date of the academic hardships wrought by the pandemic. The findings suggest that the challenges of remote learning — coupled with other stressors that plagued children and families throughout the pandemic — were not rectified when school doors reopened.

“In order to recover what was lost, we have to be doing more than just getting back to normal,” said Bastian Betthauser, a researcher at the Center for Research on Social Inequalities at Sciences Po in Paris, who was a co-author on the review. He urged officials worldwide to provide intensive summer programs and tutoring initiatives that target poorer students who fell furthest behind. Thomas Kane, the faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard, who has studied school interruptions in the United States, reviewed the global analysis. Without immediate and aggressive intervention, he said, “learning loss will be the longest-lasting and most inequitable legacy of the pandemic.”

[…] Because children have a finite capacity to absorb new material, Mr. Betthauser said, teachers cannot simply move faster or extend school hours, and traditional interventions like private tutoring rarely target the most disadvantaged groups. Without creative solutions, he said, the labor market ought to “brace for serious downstream effects.” Children who were in school during the pandemic could lose about $70,000 in earnings over their lifetimes if the deficits aren’t recovered, according to Eric Hanushek, an economist at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. In some states, pandemic-era students could ultimately earn almost 10 percent less than those who were educated just before the pandemic. The societal losses, he said, could amount to $28 trillion over the rest of the century.

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Anti-Plagiarism Service Turnitin Is Building a Tool To Detect ChatGPT-Written Essays

Turnitin, best known for its anti-plagiarism software used by tens of thousands of universities and schools around the world, is building a tool to detect text generated by AI. The Register reports: Turnitin has been quietly building the software for years ever since the release of GPT-3, Annie Chechitelli, chief product officer, told The Register. The rush to give educators the capability to identify text written by humans and computers has become more intense with the launch of its more powerful successor, ChatGPT. As AI continues to progress, universities and schools need to be able to protect academic integrity now more than ever. “Speed matters. We’re hearing from teachers just give us something,” Chechitelli said. Turnitin hopes to launch its software in the first half of this year. “It’s going to be pretty basic detection at first, and then we’ll throw out subsequent quick releases that will create a workflow that’s more actionable for teachers.” The plan is to make the prototype free for its existing customers as the company collects data and user feedback. “At the beginning, we really just want to help the industry and help educators get their legs under them and feel more confident. And to get as much usage as we can early on; that’s important to make a successful tool. Later on, we’ll determine how we’re going to productize it,” she said.

Turnitin’s VP of AI, Eric Wang, said there are obvious patterns in AI writing that computers can detect. “Even though it feels human-like to us, [machines write using] a fundamentally different mechanism. It’s picking the most probable word in the most probable location, and that’s a very different way of constructing language [compared] to you and I,” he told The Register. […] ChatGPT, however, doesn’t have this kind of flexibility and can only generate new words based on previous sentences, he explained. Turnitin’s detector works by predicting what words AI is more likely to generate in a given text snippet. “It’s very bland statistically. Humans don’t tend to consistently use a high probability word in high probability places, but GPT-3 does so our detector really cues in on that,” he said.

Wang said Turnitin’s detector is based on the same architecture as GPT-3 and described it as a miniature version of the model. “We are in many ways I would [say] fighting fire with fire. There’s a detector component attached to it instead of a generate component. So what it’s doing is it’s reading language in the exact same way GPT-3 reads language, but instead of spitting out more language, it gives us a prediction of whether we think this passage looks like [it’s from] GPT-3.” The company is still deciding how best to present its detector’s results to teachers using the tool. “It’s a difficult challenge. How do you tell an instructor in a small amount of space what they want to see?” Chechitelli said. They might want to see a percentage that shows how much of an essay seems to be AI-written, or they might want confidence levels showing whether the detector’s prediction confidence is low, medium, or high to assess accuracy. “I think there is a major shift in the way we create content and the way we work,” Wang added. “Certainly that extends to the way we learn. We need to be thinking long term about how we teach. How do we learn in a world where this technology exists? I think there is no putting the genie back in the bottle. Any tool that gives visibility to the use of these technologies is going to be valuable because those are the foundational building blocks of trust and transparency.”

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Successful Strike at University of California Sparks Organizing Surge Among US Academic Workers

An anonymous reader shares this report from the Los Angeles Times:
The University of California strike is over, culminating last month in significant improvements in wages and working conditions after 48,000 teaching assistants, tutors, researchers and postdoctoral scholars walked off their jobs in the nation’s largest labor action of academic workers. But the effects of the historic strike still reverberate across the nation, helping energize an unprecedented surge of union activism among academic workers that could reshape the teaching and research enterprise of American higher education.

In 2022 alone, graduate students representing 30,000 peers at nearly a dozen institutions filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election. They include USC, Northwestern, Yale, Johns Hopkins, the University of Chicago, Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Caltech plans to officially kick off its organizing campaign this month, and other academic researchers are working to form unions at the University of Alaska, Western Washington University, the National Institutes of Health and such influential think tanks as the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute.

A confluence of several factors has propelled the burst of labor activism: disaffection with rising inflation, unaffordable housing, limited healthcare, growing student debt, university treatment of academic workers during the pandemic, and a more union-friendly Biden administration. But students and labor experts also point to the influence of the UC strike, which drew national attention by marshaling four UAW bargaining units on all 10 campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to pull off a massive walkout that shut down classes, suspended research, roiled finals and upended grading — ultimately winning some of the largest wage gains ever secured by academic workers.

In the article there’s examples of stipends recently increasing at other universities, either as a result of student strikes or the need “to remain competitive” in attracting top talent.

A Cornell senior lecturer/director of labor education research also cites some interesting statistics from a 2021 Gallup poll: 77% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 support unions — the largest level of support among all age demographics.

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Does Computer Programming Really Help Kids Learn Math?

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes:

A new study on the Impact of Programming on Primary Mathematics Learning (abstract only, full article $24.95 on ScienceDirect) is generating some buzz on Twitter amongst K-12 CS educator types. It concluded that:

1. Programming did not benefit mathematics learning compared to traditional activities
2. There’s a negative though small effect of programming on mathematics learning
3. Mindful “high-road transfer” from programming to mathematics is not self-evident
4. Visual programming languages might distract students from mathematics activities

From the Abstract: “The aim of this study is to investigate whether a programming activity might serve as a learning vehicle for mathematics acquisition in grades four and five…. Classes were randomly assigned to the programming (with Scratch) and control conditions. Multilevel analyses indicate negative effects (effect size range 0.16 to 0.21) of the programming condition for the three mathematical notions.

“A potential explanation of these results is the difficulties in the transfer of learning from programming to mathematics.” The findings of the new study come 4+ years after preliminary results were released from the $1.5M 2015-2019 NSF-funded study Time4CS, a “partnership between Broward County Public Schools (FL), researchers at the University of Chicago, and [tech-bankrolled],” which explored whether learning CS using’s CS Fundamentals curriculum may be linked to improved learning in math at the grade 3-5 level. Time4CS researchers concluded that the “quasi-experimental” study showed that “No significant differences in Florida State Assessment mathematics scores resulted between treatment and comparison groups.”

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Google Makes $100,000 Worth of Tech Training Free To Every US Business

Alphabet’s Google will provide any U.S. business over $100,000 worth of online courses in data analytics, design and other tech skills for their workers free of charge, the search company said on Monday. Reuters reports: The offer marks a big expansion of Google’s Career Certificates, a program the company launched in 2018 to help people globally boost their resumes by learning new tools at their own pace. Over 70,000 people in the United States and 205,000 globally have earned at least one certificate, and 75% receive a benefit such as a new job or higher pay within six months, according to Google.

The courses, designed by Google and sold through online education service Coursera, each typically cost students about $39 a month and take three to six months to finish. Google will now cover costs for up to 500 workers at any U.S. business, and it valued the grants at $100,000 because people usually take up to six months to finish. Lisa Gevelber, founder of Grow with Google, the company unit overseeing certificates, said course completion rates are higher when people pay out of pocket but that the new offer was still worthwhile if it could help some businesses gain digital savvy. Certificates also are available in IT support, project management, e-commerce and digital marketing. They cover popular software in each of the fields, including Google advertising services.

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MIT Grad Students Vote To Form Labor Union

Graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology overwhelmingly approved forming a union in a two-day vote this week by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. From a report: MIT is the latest Boston-area school where grad students have voted to join a union following pivotal federal ruling in 2016 recognizing grad students as employees with the ability to unionize. In all, 1,785 MIT graduate students voted in favor of unionization and 912 against, a figure confirmed by Jonathan Zong, a grad student organizer, and MIT. Three-fourths of graduate students voted, according to MIT. The vote seeks to join United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, or UE. MIT grad students were pushing for help with affordable housing, support for international students, dental insurance coverage, and a better emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We are grateful to the many members of our community, on all sides of the debate, who have engaged constructively and respectfully in this conversation,” Melissa Nobles, the chancellor, and Ian A. Waitz, the vice chancellor, said in the message to grad students. The memo continued: “Indeed, as we wrote to you during this campaign: We agree that there are areas where MIT can improve, and we share many of the same goals as the MIT Graduate Student Union. … With the election outcome now clear, we will continue to work alongside you to improve MIT for all of our students.” MIT’s Zong said being unionized will be a more democratic and formalized way of making grad students’ concerns heard compared to MIT’s Graduate Student Council. He described the council as more advisory to the school’s administration.

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MIT Reinstates SAT/ACT Requirement For Incoming Classes

“The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced it will once again require applicants to take the SAT or ACT, reversing a Covid-era policy that made the standardized tests optional and rejecting the idea that the tests hurt diversity,” reports CNN. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a blog post announcing the decision, writing: From the policy announcement, there’s an excess of delicacy — to the point where you might find it funny or terribly disturbing: “Our research can’t explain why these tests are so predictive of academic preparedness for MIT, but we believe it is likely related to the centrality of mathematics — and mathematics examinations — in our education. All MIT students, regardless of intended major, must pass two semesters of calculus, plus two semesters of calculus-based physics […]. The substance and pace of these courses are both very demanding, and they culminate in long, challenging final exams that students must pass to proceed with their education. In other words, there is no path through MIT that does not rest on a rigorous foundation in mathematics, and we need to be sure our students are ready for that as soon as they arrive.”

Did the entire admissions department threaten to quit? Or did the incoming class turn out to be morons? “Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT,” Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill wrote in the policy announcement.

“We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.”

A number of elite schools, including Harvard and University of California, announced plans to stop using the SAT and ACT college admissions exams. Last May, Colorado became the first state to ban “legacy” admissions and signed a bill that removes a requirement that public colleges consider SAT or ACAT scores for freshmen.

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