5 steps to help CBE topple the credit hour

New report details a framework that could help bring a unified system of competency-based education (CBE) across institutions seeking to act as a stronger bridge between students and employers.

competency-framework-helpColleges and universities weary of the barriers currently associated with the credit hour may find an alternative CBE solution within a new framework.

The adoption of competency-based programs has become increasingly appealing to higher education institutions, as CBE, done right, could provide better learning opportunity’s for today’s students and their bank accounts.

However, though a recent high-profile report from the Carnegie Foundation criticized the credit hour system for hindering innovation in higher education, and some early competency-based education programs have proven successful, the credit hour is so ingrained for most higher education institutions that it has proven highly difficult to make such a radical transition; especially since an implementation strategy for how CBE could work as a total replacement of the credit hour is fairly non-existent.

Yet, a new report released by Tyton Partners in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, titled “Evidence of Learning: The Case for an Integrated Competency Management System” proposes an integrated and transparent competency management framework.

The report stresses that institutions honor a student’s “Evidence of Learning,” or the body of knowledge, skills, and experience achieved through informal activities that an individual accumulates and validates during their lifetime.

“As the bridge between students and the workforce, postsecondary institutions are uniquely positioned to find and deliver the best tools and resources to capture and communicate Evidence of Learning,” said Adam Newman, co-founder and managing partner at Tyton. “Colleges and universities must rise to this opportunity or risk erosion of a core value proposition in linking learning and employment and lifelong development.”

The report also identifies gaps that deter alignment of processes and systems, and aims to help college and university leaders link disconnected solutions to better serve their own needs, the needs of students, and the needs of employers.

The report ultimately calls for colleges and universities to take an active role in developing a more transparent and aligned system that enables students to fulfill their college and career goals.

“Establishing this framework needs to be a combined effort from the whole institution; faculty, centers of student learning and advising, IT & systems management and beyond all need to be involved,” Newman said.

(Next page: 5 building blocks to a CBE credentialing system)


Net neutrality gains FCC approval

Vote ensures internet remains open, equally accessible through net neutrality policy

net-neutralityIn a momentous decision for the future of the open internet, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on February 26 approved net neutrality regulations to oversee online traffic and ensure internet service providers treat all legally-flowing content equally.

The 3-2 party-line vote prevents service providers from, for instance, charging websites for faster data speeds to customers. The vote regulates internet service providers in the same manner as public utilities, with a stricter set of regulations to make sure all customers receive equal service.

“There are three simple keys to our broadband future,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement. “Broadband networks must be fast. Broadband networks must be fair. Broadband networks must be open.”

The vote gives students the opportunity for “…enrolling in courses online to improve your educational, professional or entrepreneurial potential without worrying whether the university paid for a fast lane to ensure that the lecture won’t buffer for hours because the quality has been degraded or throttled,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

(Next page: Industry and education’s reactions)


Is faculty career flexibility the next disruptive innovation?

Group of university presidents say university lifespan now dependent upon faculty work-life balance options; give list of 10 issues to consider.

faculty-career-flexibilityThe first stage of a faculty career should last 30 years. Then all subsequent stages could come in five-year intervals, with reevaluation at every stage in order to allow for readjustment of career goals.

Sound radical? Not according to Charles Middleton, president of Roosevelt University, Ill., who said this idea would help fit faculty’s desired goals and accomplishments before entering the culminating stage of their career, finally transitioning into early retirement.

Middleton’s “radical proposal,” which the American Council on Education (ACE) says addresses the “poverty of imagination” often surrounding the status quo of academic life, was one of many ideas part of a leadership conference on how to restructure faculty roles and requirements to allow for greater flexibility.

The conference, hosted by ACE Institutional Group to further the National Challenge for Higher Education initiative, and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, brought together dozens of college and university presidents to discuss faculty career flexibility.

The need to redefine faculty career flexibility is derived from an urgency to not only innovate college and university offerings for students to remain competitive in higher education, but also support evolving faculty needs.

“Educational institutions will endure,” said Middleton, “and the forces which contribute to this continuity are found specifically in the work of faculty and the professional enterprise that they create. This continual learning and desire for improvement are at the core to the identity of a faculty member. Faculty are not only a workforce, but the best-educated workforce that exists within any industry.”

According to Middleton, faculty must have both control over the quality and content of degrees generated by their institution, and also great flexibility in connecting their role to today’s student learning and the ways in which it is delivered (i.e. MOOCs).

The conference, held last summer, aimed to be more than just suggestion box, said Molly Corbett Broad, president of ACE. Therefore, the organization this week released a list of 10 issues every institution should consider for faculty career flexibility, as well as “how to make these commitments sustainable amid the ongoing changes affecting academic institutions today.”

(Next page: 10 issues regarding faculty career flexibility and best practices from institutions)


Tech expenses could be allowed under 529 spending

New bill, which moves to Senate for approval, would allow for purchase of computers, internet access

college-expensesComputers and technology equipment would become qualified expenses in 529 college savings plans under a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 25.

H.R. 529 also designates computer software and internet access as qualified expenses while students are enrolled in school.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), highlights the importance of technology for today’s students and recognizes that computers, internet access, and technology tools are essential parts of learning, supporters said.

“This is a good, sensible bill to improve a critical college savings tool…I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to quickly approve this legislation,” Jenkins said in a statement.

(Next page: More details from the bill)


How is Obama’s plan affecting community college practice?

Community college leaders say aligning daily practices with Obama’s two years free plan furthers mission to help all students excel.

community-accessPresident Obama’s proposed “free community college” plan sounds great in theory, but how does this proposal affect community colleges? Will key characteristics like mission, administrative duties, and even curriculum, need to change?

According to Obama’s plan, U.S. students would get two free years of community college if they attend at least half-time and earn good grades. Rather than see this call-to-action as a challenge, many higher education leaders, like Dr. Karen Stout, say the plan actually helps their institutions further their missions.

Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pa., said the proposal–which, if passed, would provide $1.36 billion to the America’s College Promise proposal–is “At the heart of our community college mission, which is access and affordability. The America’s College Promise proposal hits both of those.”

Stout said the college will continue to work on programs that reflect Obama’s call while waiting for more details on the plan in order to coordinate a “full-force response.”

(Next page: 3 ways campuses are taking Obama’s call-to-action into practice)


University moves past the myth of fits-all analytics

CIO uses customizable analytics engine to make data usable for the University’s specific goals.

analytics-university-LoudCloudAnalytics technology, like MOOCs, soared in popularity within the last few years. But just like MOOCs, many institutions have found that the key to success is not in the technology itself, but in harnessing the capabilities of that technology to promote the university’s unique mission and goals.

The concept of analytics has become an interwoven fabric of the higher education tapestry. For years, institutions have amassed myriad data on student admission and retention, student GPA, and demographics; but, outside of data being used for budgetary consideration, or as a competitive metric against other institutions, higher education has only recently begun to harness the true power of predictive analytics and big-data mining for the purpose of improving the academic success rates of their students.

That’s because in 2010 there was excited talk of looking to data-driven predictive analytics models of large companies like Amazon and retooling them for a higher education context. The ubiquity of online courses and testing, e-textbooks, and social media meant that institutions were sitting on a mountain of capture-able digital data. At issue, though, was if it made sense to take something from businesses which, at their core, spring from a common culture and speak a similar language, and apply it to higher education—a space comprised of disparate institutional cultures that does not lend itself to a one-size fits all big data model.

Analytics are not a one-size-fits-all solution, say software experts and innovative colleges and universities. Every institution, through its missions and goals, is unique. So why aren’t metrics within analytics solutions as diverse as its users?

There is more benefit to building an analytics model from the ground up within a unique campus environment than in forcing an institution to conform to a standard model, says one innovative University CIO.

Enter LoudCloud and Grand Canyon University.

“We base our work on the philosophy that there is no one magic formula that can predict retention across all levels,” explained Greg Harp, chief marketing officer of LoudCloud. “A Harvard University student is going to have different learning characteristics than, say, a student at a community college. However, using technological and behavioral analytics, we can create a system that indicates, and helps support, unique outcomes.”

(Next page: Measuring everything and the importance of slimming it down)


“Sloppy” red tape requirements costing universities millions

Study says Vanderbilt University spends $150 million, or 11 percent of its expenditures, annually, complying with federal rules and regulations–not the only university.

tape-regulation-universitiesAccording to a new report released by college and university leadership, government red tape requirements are costing colleges and universities not only millions in administrative tasks, but depriving students of lower tuition costs and hindering university research and innovation.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate education committee, yesterday said a report released by a task force of college and university leaders—and commissioned by a bipartisan group of senators—shows colleges in a jungle of red tape that “should be an embarrassment to all of us in the federal government.”

At a hearing on the report, Sen. Alexander said: “These should not be excused as normal, run-of-the mill problems of government. These examples, and others like them, are sloppy, inefficient governing that wastes money, hurts students, discourages productivity and impedes research.”

Sen. Alexander, along with Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), commissioned the report from the group in November 2013, seeking specific recommendations on reducing, eliminating or streamlining duplicative, costly or confusing regulations before the committee began work on a ninth reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

According to Sen. Alexander, over a year ago, Vanderbilt University hired the Boston Consulting Group to determine how much it costs the university to comply with federal rules and regulations.

The answer: $150 million, or 11 percent of the university’s total non-hospital expenditures last year.

Vanderbilt Chancellor Nick Zeppos says that this adds about $11,000 in additional tuition per year for each of the university’s 12,757 students.

(Next page: Where the costs come from for colleges and universities)


Op-ed: 3 reasons online learning institutions fail

Key challenges online educators face in their quest for mainstream industry and marketplace acceptance—and solutions to help succeed.

fail-online-institutionsOnline learning technology has the potential to expand quality education to a growing number of students; however, pairing online learning technology with the same face-to-face method is not enough to ensure success, as many online institutions are coming to find.

This year (2015), working adult students, in particular, are turning to the Internet in pursuit of more cost-effective classes, certification programs and entire degrees in droves. However, while there are numerous proven benefits to an online education–such as flexible learning schedules, budget-friendliness and access to industry-leading curriculums–the industry is not without its challenges, as many online institutions face enrollment decline

Indeed, online educators face three key challenges in their journey toward mainstream industry and marketplace acceptance:

Challenge 1: Establishing a relevant curriculum

The learning dynamic we’ve grown accustomed to with traditional, face-to-face courses varies greatly from a technology-based online learning environment. Thus, in order to succeed, the development of an online curriculum must address these differences and prepare students for the unique challenges they will face in an Internet-based environment.

A study conducted by Colombia University in 2013 confirms that a well-planned curriculum is paramount to ensuring the successful learning outcome of online students. The study showed that factors such as clearly communicated goals and learning objectives, successful use of technology, and opportunity for personal interaction with instructors and other students were the main distinguishing factors in predicting the success of online students. In the past, some institutions have rushed to develop distance-learning education programs, and it has resulted in substandard programs that failed to keep up with current business trends and standards. Many times, academics who create these courses have not worked in that industry for many years and are not up to date with the expectations that students will face while entering the competitive job market.


Online curriculums should be kept constantly up-to-date with the current trends happening in each respective sector, and preferably be designed around the people who have found great success in the business world. A primary example is “The Daymond John Certificate of Entrepreneurship” targeted at aspiring entrepreneurs, junior and mid-level managers. . This program, created by FUBU founder and ABC-TV Shark Tank star, Daymond John, is ideal for students seeking practical business skills, such as identifying market trends, bringing a new product or service to the market, and learning strategies to start and grow a business. The program is designed for real-world applications, and is backed by one of the most iconic and successful entrepreneurs in the country.

Another example of an industry-leading online curriculum designed by an industry insider is the MBA program at Strayer University, created by Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of General Electric. The program is redefining the traditional Master of Business Administration degree by making each course available entirely online, and taking advantage of technology-based tools, such as video conferencing, to better connect with students. Welch’s program also allows professionals to pursue an education, and advance their career without quitting their current job.

 (Next page: Skill sets and motivation)