Competencies Over Calendars?

Traditionally, higher education has operated on a traditional semester schedule, although recently FHSU and other institutions have developed offerings in 8-week, 5-week, and even 3-week formats.

The Atlantic offers a different approach, cataloging a new method of competency-based education.  Students achieve learning outcomes on their schedule and move on to the next only after the have successfully achieved competency in each.

Should more institutions try such a method out?  The initial results are mixed:

But while there has been anecdotal evidence that CBE is working for certain types of students and serving them well, there hasn’t been much high-quality evidence or research to prove it. Early evidence suggests a mix of good and not-so-good outcomes, said Matt Soldner, a principal researcher at American Institutes for Research who described himself as these programs’ “critical friend”.

Workforce and employer needs are partially driving this new exploration:

A recent Ellucian-American Council on Education survey of more than 250 college and university leaders found that the majority of respondents, 68 percent, are looking to CBE to expand opportunities for nontraditional, diverse learners across age and demographic groups. The same percentage of leaders considered CBE a solution to address workforce needs.

Would such a model work for graduate education?


The Critical Role of General Education compilation

If you are reading this, you are obviously interested in general education and liberal education here at FHSU.  Many of you may be wondering how passionate the committee members are about their charge.  Rest assured- we are!  A bit of proof of that passion is the excitement I felt when I saw that Inside Higher Ed has a new compilation of articles on the critical role of general education.  These articles are now at the top of my “to-read” list- along with the upcoming webinar!

Learn more here:

Global Learning

Although this article refers to the impact of study abroad programs at the community college level, the implications are just as meaningful for four-year universities. This reminds us that global experience and learning is extremely important for all students, freshman through seniors. The Liberal Education Program seeks to inform students on this global level. Is there something you can do to provide more of this global learning and/or even provide a study abroad experience in your classes? Read the article here.

Blended Learning Today

Today’s Inside Higher Education features an article on the results of a pilot MIT study from 2013 where students spend much less time in the classroom.  Freshman year courses were all online and senior year was eliminated in favor of a series of continuing education courses.

The result is a report with some significant recommendations that are important for institutions revising their pedagogical methods and offerings. The four primary recommendations from the project are:

  1. Increase Interdisciplinary Collaboration Across Fields of Research in Higher Education, Using an Integrated Research Agenda
  2. Promote Online as an Important Facilitator in Higher Education
  3. Support the Expanding Profession of the “Learning Engineer”
  4. Foster Institutional and Organizational Change in Higher Education to Implement These Reforms

Perhaps the most important paragraph is:

But the report is as much about the shortcomings of online education as it is about its potential. Most importantly, it recommends online education play a supporting role as a “dynamic digital scaffold.” Online education can offer personalized pathways through course content with short lecture videos and well-timed quizzes that help students retain knowledge, the report reads, but it is most effective in a blended setting where students regularly interact with faculty members face-to-face.

What place does blended learning have in a Liberal Education curriculum?  How can faculty better integrate innovative tools while still maintaining traditional strengths of university pedagogy?

Warring over Learning Outcomes

A College of Charleston professor has been stripped of his teaching duties after a clash with administration over his learning outcomes, or rather, his lack thereof.

What is your opinion of Mr. Dillon’s use of Woodrow Wilson’s quote as his learning outcomes? Are they suitable for the purpose? Or should learning outcomes be more specific?

The object of education is not merely to draw out the powers of the individual mind: It is rather its right object to draw all minds to a proper adjustment to the physical and social world in which they are to have their life and their development: to enlighten, strengthen, and make fit. The business of the world is not individual success, but its own betterment, strengthening, and growth in spiritual insight. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” is its right prayer and aspiration.

Read more at: 

So What is Liberal Learning?

The process of revamping the Liberal Education program at FHSU is an experience that takes time and dedicated people. Maybe you haven’t had the time you’d like to keep up with this process or to even understand what the process entails. It is always important to keep the underlying goal in mind when moving forward so check out this piece from AAC&U  (1998) outlining the statement of Liberal Learning.