The purpose of a college education is to prepare students to enter their chosen profession with the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for early career success. The need for well-prepared occupational safety and health (OSH) graduates is increasing in the United States. A 2011 report from NIOSH (McAdams et al. 2011) predicted the current need in many industries for qualified OSH practitioners, with little indication of change in the near future. Credible four-year OSH degree programs are continuously assessing and improving curricular content, based on changing demands (or requests) by hiring institutions, new research literature, and changes in the attributes of students. Although publications from ASSE (Hertz and Ramsay 2017) and ABET (2017) on degree program curriculum and student outcome measures are very helpful and informative, there are no current OSH publications addressing the changing expectations or learning approach by college students. The result could be college graduates entering the OSH field ill-prepared to handling complex and continuous problem-solving requirements that protect people, the environment, and employer interests.
The traditional approach to assessing overall student performance, and predict future career success, is the grade point average (GPA). A student's GPA is assumed to be a reflection of their knowledge, skills, and abilities within their degree discipline, and the predicted ability to learn and develop over time. This approach to assessing student performance has validity, and makes logical sense. However, administrative controls over degree programs and ubiquitous use of online/web-delivery of course materials (such as lecture PowerPoint documents) have created a discrepancy in how students approach learning, and prepare course assignments/exams that contribute to a course grade. In the book entitled, Academically Adrift, it was shown that four-year college graduates were not developing, but actually declining, in their creative and problem-solving knowledge and skills (Aram & Roksa 2011). These skills are essential to OSH practitioners, particularly at the beginning of their careers.