competencyworks higher education blog

Congress Should Prioritize Innovation in Higher Ed. Here are Three Ways it Can.

February 1, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on January 23, 2018.

Washington D.C. is slowly turning its attention to higher education. In December, on a party-line vote, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce released the PROSPER Act, a bill to update the Higher Education Act for the first time since 2008.

The Higher Education Act (HEA), first passed in 1965, outlines federal higher education policy, including federal financial aid eligibility, teacher preparation programs, and how the federal government holds colleges accountable. It has also historically been a barrier to innovation in higher education, something that the authors of the PROSPER Act are determined to remedy. (more…)

Competency-Based Education: Understanding the CBE Student’s Experience

January 29, 2018 by

Jill Loveless

When was the last time a student said this about the learning experience? “I do it all at once and immerse myself in the material. Having it available gives me the opportunity to do the immersion type learning. For competency classes, there is more exposure. Writing code on a board and writing notes is not the best way to learn writing code.” Or when was the last time students claimed that the learning experience gave “a greater sense of agency over my learning”? These are just a few of the ways students described the competency-based learning experience at two community colleges.

There are approximately 600 institutions of higher education either developing CBE programs or offering them. Ryan claims that “to create this student-centric environment CBE programs need to look at the student experience holistically.” However, many of these institutions need to reallocate limited funds to implement CBE programs that require a new set of design principles based upon theory more than actual outcomes. CBE course designers have recommended coaches, mentors, CBE advisors, as well as faculty, be included in the course delivery. In spite of the growth of CBE, very little research that focuses specifically on the students’ experiences in this nontraditional design from the students’ perspectives has been published.

Beginning in 2016, I began to explore the question, What is the community college student’s experience in competency-based education courses or programs? To answer this, sub-questions to understand the student experience included: (more…)

Minerva: The Intentional University

January 23, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on January 5, 2017.

As a venture-based Silicon Valley startup, Minerva has developed slowly over the last seven years. As a new form of higher education, progress from concept to enrollment was lightning fast.

In the narrowest sense, Minerva is great new leadership development option for the world’s smartest young people. More broadly, it is a reconceptualization of the ends and means of higher education.

The blueprint is detailed in a new book, Building the Intentional University: Minerva and the Future of Higher Education edited by Chief Academic Officer Stephen M. Kosslyn and CEO Ben Nelson and with a foreword by Senator Bob Kerrey. (more…)

What Are Your Institution’s Needs for an Enterprise Technology System?

January 22, 2018 by

Information management systems are vitally important to developing and sustaining competency-based systems in both K-12 and higher education. Bravo to Polk State College for lifting the discussion with a survey that describes the needs across institutions of higher education rather than having each college and university spend the time in negotiations with vendors. Here is the information from Polk about the survey so you can share your institution’s requirements:

As the landscape of competency based education (CBE) and learner personalization continues to emerge, there has been much discussion about enterprise systems and the technology integrations that support automation and scalability of these emergent programs. Polk State College is engaging in a design partnership with a vendor to create a system that is configurable to align to the majority of variables that currently exist in your programs. In order to accommodate the realities of the programs that you are developing or currently delivering, we ask for valuable expertise and perspectives by February 12, 2018. Click here to begin the survey. While a few of the questions may be duplicative of the other surveys that have been circulated, the majority of this content is specifically aligned to the variables in your CBE programs that would need to be integrated into an enterprise technology system.

Therefore, the survey incorporates questions that ask about flexibility with configuration opportunities within each element areas listed below:

  1. credit based versus module or competency based
  2. term versus non-term or date based and related registration policies
  3. level of credential transcription by course or competency completion; in other words, the official presentation of the CBE learning on a transcript and/or supplemental transcript
  4. system recognition of academic transaction event based on the individual student rather than the course/class
  5. Grading policies and repeat policies
  6. Faculty/staffing model to academic assignments in unique ways, and tuition per unit or subscription.

This survey does NOT attempt to gather information about enterprise system needs in regard to prior learning assessment or adaptive technologies; however, if you feel that we did not capture something that is pertinent to your institution, please email us with additional feedback and information. (more…)

A Paradigm is a World of Circumscribed Tools, Rules, and Problems

January 17, 2018 by

The task of this blog series, laid out in the first entry, is to analyze the struggles for educational change in a broader context of a revolutionary paradigm shift. This historic disruption of the old education paradigm is not like pulling a light switch. It is happening on many fronts in the education world. In this blog series, smaller events will be analyzed with the intention of ultimately being able to “connect the dots” of all these changes as part of the larger revolution in learning systems. In this blog, the impact of unstated and subconscious assumptions on this process is discussed.

To really understand the impact of these innovations we must identify the logical thought structures we have learned in the old paradigm that are no longer valid in the new paradigm. These deeply seated, old thought structures can cloud our ability to clearly see how the innovation will work in an era with new rules of engagement. In an iterative process, though considering new ideas in relation to old ideas we can grow to understand the actual impact of adopting new ideas.

So much of how we view education is internal and part of our belief system about how humans and the world behave. Just as the change from a geocentric to heliocentric world on the surface appeared to just be science, at its root were many more subconscious or not so subconscious beliefs as evidenced by the church initially weighing in against the new heliocentric view of the solar system. In education, there are many beliefs about how people learn and personal and emotional experiences with learning that inform people’s ideas and how they feel about the learning process. In any conversation about education, assumptions guide each person’s conversations, but the person is not aware of many of those assumptions. It might be similar to an iceberg, 10 percent of the iceberg is above water and 90 percent is below. The same may be true with education conversations. Yet, that 90% that is subconscious informs the position a person holds about education even if s/he is not aware of those beliefs.

Most often when education conversations become emotionally charged or disconnected, is when the participants believe they are talking about one thing but actually have at the core, much deeper issues driving the conversation. Because those underlying issues are not exposed, coming to an understanding or place to move forward is difficult or impossible. To move through this education revolution to a successful realignment will take hard work on all participants’ part to continually identify the hidden assumptions about education they hold that will color the solution processes in which they are engaged. Oftentimes solutions are shot down because the logic of the old system is being used to analyze the new solution. (more…)

We Are in the Midst of a Historic Paradigm Shift in Education

January 16, 2018 by

Craig Schieber

Why is it that the state of education today is so driven by discord and disagreement about how we should be educating our children? The discord is seen in the news, government, and at local PTA meetings. The often heated arguments are characterized by a wide variety of complaints and myriads of solutions. The educational positions range from wanting to go back to a day when the educational process was simpler to advocating for technology driven classrooms. There are those who argue for increased funding for public schools clashing with those wishing to eliminate public schools altogether. Given these topics it is no wonder the conversations become so heated and then shut down. Given these realities, is there some way we can find to start having open, generative, and productive conversations about the problems in our education system?

As with any difficult conversation, we can begin by listening effectively to each other. But other strategies for effective problem solving would be helpful. I am suggesting that putting these discussions into a larger context can add that additional support in freeing up conversations about how we view learning and learning systems. In this case, the larger context is understanding that we are in the midst of a major paradigm shift in education; a shift on the scale of questioning foundations of education that are several centuries old. The changes parallel evolving technological eras. Here are just a few of the kinds of changes we are witnessing in this era of networked technology.

(Graphic by Justin McKean Paradigm Shift: Learner-Centered Paradigm & Networked Age – https://justinmckean.com/paradigm-shift-learner-centered-paradigm-networked-age/)

In Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, he discussed the process in which change occurs in the scientific world. Popularizing the term, “paradigm”, Kuhn forwarded a process of change that is set in motion when anomalies in scientific research build to a point when there are too many conflicting results in scientific experiments that are not explained by the current paradigm or theory of action. At that point a revolution, of sorts, occurs and a new paradigm is adopted by the scientific community. (more…)

Upcoming Webinars on CBE in Higher Education

December 15, 2017 by

The Institute for Competency-Based Education at A&M Commerce will be sponsoring the Spring Webinar Series again this year.

Competency-Based Education: Power in the Numbers

Jan 31, 2018 at 2:00 PM CST

Carlos Rivers, Operations Research Analyst, Texas A&M University Commerce
Shonda Gibson, Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness; SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison, Texas A&M University-Commerce

This presentation will demonstrate a Data Dashboard created for the state of Texas first public, regionally accredited (SACSCOC) competency-based baccalaureate degree. The Institute for Competency-Based Education, housed at A&M-Commerce, has tracked program data and built key performance indicators for the program since its inception, so that it may serve as the beginning of a common conceptual framework. Session participants will engage in some investigation, looking for patterns and trends that grant glimpses of insight and assist in building value around the data. Coupling the data with narrative creates the opportunity for extended value by aiding in creation of powerful stories with the potential to influence stakeholder buy-in and drive innovative change.

To register for this webinar, click here. 

Measuring Student Success in CBE Programs: Progression Metrics in CBE

February 21, 2018, 2:00-3:00 PM CT

Kelle Parsons, Researcher, American Institutes for Research
Todd Nobles, Research Assistant, American Institutes for Research
Cameron Smither, Research Associate, American Institutes for Research

To register for this webinar click here.

CBE Course Demonstration

March 7, 2018, 2:00-3:00 PM CT

Dr. Amardeep Kahlon, Director, Fast Track to Success & Professor, Computer Science/Computer Information Systems, Austin Community College

To register for this webinar click here.

Expanding a Statewide Initiative: The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program

March 28, 2018, 2:00-3:00 PM CT  (more…)

What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education?

December 12, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicNews

Federal Policy

The Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board (CED) issued 13 recommendations for reauthorizing the federal Higher Education Act (HEA) including: Fully authorize competency-based education and allow student-centered models of higher education. See this press release for more, or read this Inside Higher Ed article.

Equity

New Resource

The Lumina Foundation released State Policy Considerations for Aligning State Competency-Based Education Efforts Across Education Levels in Arizona. (more…)

Collaboration Opportunity: Exploring Connections between Self-Direction and Student Success in Postsecondary CBE Programs

December 5, 2017 by

AIR has announced a research opportunity on examining connections between student self-direction and their subsequent progression through and completion of their CBE programs in higher education. They seek to understand the relationship between students’ self-direction – anecdotally acknowledged as important, but not yet studied – and their subsequent progression and completion. If you are interested in participating in this study or just want to learn more about it, please provide your contact information at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CBESelfDirection.

The following is information for potential project partners from AIR’s announcement.

Motivation

CBE programs are often considered to be “learner-centered” and self-directed, but, beyond the experiences of coaches and faculty mentors and single-program cases, we have little knowledge about what qualities or skills make students more likely to be successful in CBE programs. In addition, there has been little research to understand how programs might support students differently based on those qualities or skills.

As a first step toward answering these questions, we invite institutions or programs to collaborate on a research project to examine connections between student self-direction and their subsequent progression through and completion of their CBE programs. Together, we seek to understand the relationship between students’ self-direction – anecdotally acknowledged as important, but not yet studied – and their subsequent progression and completion.

Project Summary

This study will involve (1) administering a validated survey that assesses self-direction, particularly in adult learners, to a cohort of incoming students in CBE programs; and (2) connecting the results of that survey with student progression and completion outcomes. Focal outcomes include completion of the first unit of content,1 completion of a second unit of content, and, when possible, program completion. Where possible, AIR will work with institutions to re-administer the survey after program completion to better understand how participation in CBE programs affects self-direction. We will also consider differences in outcomes across different program types and student characteristics. Findings will be shared with the CBE community and, if possible, published in co-authored journal articles. (more…)

New Research Answers Whether Technology is Good or Bad for Learning

November 29, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on November 14, 2017.

For years educators and scholars have debated whether technology aids learning or inhibits it.

In the most recent issue of Education Next, for example, Susan Payne Carter, Kyle Greenberg, and Michael S. Walker write about their research finding that allowing any computer usage in the classroom “reduces students’ average final-exam performance by roughly one-fifth of a standard deviation.” Other studies have shown similarly dismal numbers for student learning when technology is introduced in the classroom.

Yet there are also bright shining stars of technology use—both in proof points and in studies, such as this Ithaka study or this U.S. Department of Education 2010 meta-analysis.

So what gives? Since 2008 I’ve, perhaps conveniently, argued that scholars and advocates on both sides of this debate are correct. As we wrote in Disrupting Class in 2008, computers had been around for two decades. Even 10 years ago, we had already spent over $60 billion on them in K–12 schools in the United States to little effect. The reason quite simply was that when we crammed computers into existing learning models, they produced begrudging or negative results. To take a higher education example, when I was a student at the Harvard Business School, far fewer of us paid attention to the case discussion on the couple days at the end of the term when laptops were allowed, as we chose to instead chat online and coordinate evening plans. In that context, I would ban laptops, too.

When the learning model is fundamentally redesigned to incorporate intentionally the benefits of technology, say, in a blended-learning model, however, you can get very different results. To use another personal example, I fervently hope that the public school district where my daughters will go to school will comprehensively redesign its learning environments to personalize learning for each student through the use of technology. As we disruptive innovation acolytes like to say, it’s almost always about the model, not the technology.

This finding isn’t unique to the technology of computers in classrooms. It was true with chalkboards as well.

As Harvard’s David Dockterman recounts, the blackboard was reportedly invented in the early 19th century. The technology was adopted quickly throughout higher education in a lecture model to convey information to all the students at once. The first recorded use in North America was in 1801 at the United States Military Academy in West Point—ironically the location of the study that Carter, Greenberg, and Walker conducted—and it spread quickly. (more…)

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