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ST. GEORGE — Dixie State University is partnering with a technology workforce development company to help students enhance their education with technology-based skills as it evolves into Utah Tech University.
Its new partnership with Pluralsight aims to enhance career and future trajectories for students, regardless of area of study.
"We are in a transition and we are looking toward the day that we will become a truly polytechnic university," said Chris Guymon, assistant provost for adult and professional education at Dixie State. "It became very, very clear that our students, in particular, but also our faculty and staff and our alumni, needed to have greater experiences around technology."
This name that we have chosen is much more than just a name. It's a descriptor of what we want to be and what we're going to become
Guymon said that there has been an increasing desire from students and others to provide more assistance with technology-based learning. Thus, the partnership with Pluralsight was born.
The new connection will give all current university students, faculty and staff unlimited access to Pluralsight Skills, an online platform aimed to help them learn the technology-based skills they need to succeed in today's digital world.
"Our users have access to the latest training on today's most important technologies, including cloud computing, cybersecurity, AI and machine learning, data and the most in-demand software development languages," said Gary Eimerman, general manager of Pluralsight Skills. "With Pluralsight Skills, they can learn in a highly personalized way using thousands of online courses, hands-on learning experiences, skill assessments, instructor-led training, learning paths and content to help users prepare for industry certifications."
Forming a partnership made sense because too often students are not prepared for all that will be asked of them after they graduate and begin looking for jobs, Guymon and Eimerman said. The new partnership is a way to bridge what they learned through their degree with real-world technology experience.
"In doing this, we not only would be preparing students for a really wonderful, exciting role that's waiting for them, but we would enable the students to even be more successful in university," Guymon said. "We felt that if we are going to place our students in an environment where they are going to have an impact in technology, we need to make sure that they have an impact on technology while they're in college."
"Pluralsight Skills will help students be even more prepared for their careers, regardless of area of study, by having a level of proficiency for the technology that runs today's world," Eimerman added. "Building these skills will give students a leg up on the competition as they begin their careers,"
The university surveyed students to evaluate the effectiveness before launching Pluralsight Skills across campus. The results sealed the deal.
"We discovered that when they (students) were going to internship interviews, when they were going to job interviews, as soon as they mentioned that we had exposed them to this learning through Pluralsight, it almost closed the deal right then and said, 'We want you,'" Guymon said.
Brooklyn Price, an applied and computational math major at Dixie State, is one of the students who participated in the pilot run. She said she used Pluralsight Skills to give her an edge as she began to explore her career options, especially learning how to use the programming language R.
After signing up for the tech education, she discovered that there were many courses for programming languages, something that wasn't immediately accessible to her through her usual course catalog.
"I think that there's a benefit to that because if you're missing something that you'd like to learn but you can't find a class at, like, a university, then it's good because it just supplements your education and can give you skills early," Price said.
After taking a course about R programming, Price said she eventually found a class that offered similar training. Having already learned the basics, she was able to jump in without the steep learning curve typically associated with R programming.
"You can use Pluralsight to kind of get a jump on your education as well as a jump on your career," Price said. "You might be able to learn skills on Pluralsight that will give you an extra edge in getting internships. Overall, if you have more experience in something, that just makes you better prepared for your future job. I think it definitely does set people up to do well."
Along with a full suite of courses for students, the partnership will also establish the Center of Excellence for the university's faculty. It's designed to provide staff and faculty with similar opportunities as the ones available through Pluralsight Skills and encourage them to implement aspects of Pluralsight Skills into their curriculum.
"The Center of Excellence will support university faculty and staff in integrating Pluralsight Skills into their curriculum, providing students with access to expert-created content, including business and leadership courses that are applicable to all students, regardless of their major," Eimerman said. "The center will also provide faculty with opportunities to be mentored and coached on best practices in blended learning, including curriculum advice, integrating self-paced learning, and creating meaningful capstone or hands-on projects."
Guymon said that the center wasn't part of the initial plans within the Pluralsight partnership; however, university leaders quickly realized that they couldn't just provide the option to students.
"If we were really wanting to have an impact across the university, we needed to also work with our faculty," Guymon said.
The university, in its pilot run with faculty, discovered that by implementing Pluralsight Skills in class syllabi, teachers were given more freedom to explore areas that they typically wouldn't have been able to without it.
"We think this is really, really wonderful that we can use this resource to teach things that can be taught that way and free up faculty to have a subsequent conversation about things that can have a really wonderful impact, can inspire our students and enable them to go on and become leaders," Guymon said.
Overall, Guymon said that he envisions the partnership placing the university as a leader within the state, and eventually, the region. Speaking to Dixie State's shift to Utah Tech University, Guymon said that the partnership will help them embody that name.
"This name that we have chosen is much more than just a name. It's a descriptor of what we want to be and what we're going to become," he said. "We're really excited about it. We think it's going to change students' lives, it's going to change the industry (and) it's going to enable us to be a model for what other universities can and should be."