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?


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?

Working Together – a Core Baccalaureate Skill

One of the things many students  – and faculty, too – complain about are group projects in college classes.  The typical, and legitimate, concerns are all too common: one student does all the work and has to share credit; when groups do work together even distribution of work and credit are difficult; coordinating schedules is a significant complication; and the applicability of the group work seems lost on the students.  For faculty, the student complaints and difficulty in fairly assessing student work are confounding factors that often suppress the desire to build teamwork pedagogies into their courses.

Today in Chief Learning Officer, though, is an admonition that while universities believe that they prepare students for the collaborative work environment of the 21st Century, only 11% of employers surveyed believed universities did a good enough job of training their students for collaborative work.  As a result, many Liberal Education programs that have been recently redesigned include a teamwork component in them.

How do you integrate teamwork into your courses?


Telling Our Value-Add Story

As higher education increasingly adopts models that stress proficiency-and skills-based assessment, it is important that FHSU be able to tell our story using a data-driven process.  The Gates Foundation agrees with this perspective, suggesting not only a broader reliance on quantifiable assessment data but the public sharing of that data.

As higher education continues to experience challenges from inside and out, we must do our best to share the story of higher education’s value in a way that the public understands and specifically promote what a baccalaureate education does for the individual and society.



To badge, or not to badge?

A post today from work at UC-Sand Diego on micro-credentialing.  Up to now most have called it “alternative credentialing,” but this article suggests renaming ‘badges’ as “micro-credentialing”.

As we progress in reviewing the current General Education program, one element we are seeing more of is the micro-credential, or skills-based ‘badging’.  The underlying concept is that the granting of a Bachelor’s degree is a unitary item, one that does not represent or communicate the many particular skills that comprise the degree.  By breaking credentials out into skill-relative components, we allow better analysis – and improvement – of the skills and proficiencies we want from students.

Is micro-credentialing the future of higher education?  If so, as the author points out better defined skill-specific outcomes and assessment mechanisms will be necessary.