Most Popular of 2015, No. 5: College presidents predict new institutional models

leblanc200An unbundled learning eco-system

By Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University

Competency based education (CBE) and micro-credentialing (giving credits and financial aid for learning that is less than a degree) will combine to change the face of higher education over the next ten years. We are shifting to outputs (the claims we make for student learning and how we know for sure), and when we make that final shift we will worry a lot less about how we get students there and more about what they actually know and can do with that knowledge. Then, a host of new delivery models, providers, and credentials will emerge. With clusters of competencies adding up to credentials of various levels, we will see portable, stackable, and just-in-time learning that often precedes (but leads to) a traditional degree and that frequently adds to a traditional degree as people continue to retool and learn at every stage of their lives.

Think of it as a new learning eco-system in which traditional higher education becomes unbundled, students construct their learning pathways (or have someone do it for them) in highly individualized ways, and those pathways draw upon various providers, forms of learning, and  include a wider array of credentials all mapped to competencies.

Dr. LeBlanc is president of Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH

Mendenhall200Disaggregated faculty roles

By Robert Mendenhall, president and CEO of Western Governors University (WGU)

Over the next decade, there will be an increased emphasis in measuring learning rather than time and increasing accountability for learning results. Instead of progressing according to set course times, students advance as soon as they can demonstrate that they have mastered course subject matter. This model provides shorter times to graduation, saving students time and money. In addition, there will be an increased focus on tying competencies to industry needs. There will continue to be an increasing emphasis on ensuring the employability of graduates, and institutions will need to work closely with employers to create job-relevant programs.

Technology will take a leading role in the delivery of instruction. As competency-based models allow students to go at their own pace and in their own time, technology-based learning is the only option to individualize and personalize learning. As great technology-based courses are developed institutions will be able to share great courses to not only save money but create more consistent learning outcomes. Utilizing technology to deliver curriculum will also impact faculty roles: Rather than teaching a class of thirty (or 300), faculty will serve as mentors, answering questions and leading discussions. Faculty roles may be disaggregated into specialized expertise as few faculty members would be experts in instructional design, curriculum development, assessment development, and mentoring students.

Dr. Mendenhall is President and CEO of Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit online university founded by 19 U.S. governors in 1997. Now with more than 55,000 students in all 50 states, WGU says it is the leader and pioneer in competency-based learning.

spencer200“Purposeful Work” for liberal arts

By Clayton Spencer, president of Bates College

Preparing students for lives of meaningful work has always been a powerful dimension of the liberal arts education we provide at Bates. However, in today’s world liberal arts institutions need to pursue this goal with greater intentionality and effectiveness. That’s why Bates has created the Purposeful Work Initiative that embeds questions of work and career into all aspects of our college experience, beginning with first-year orientation and continuing through senior year. Almost every college provides career counseling and helps students find internships, but Purposeful Work at Bates goes well beyond. Purposeful Work is developmental in its approach, incorporating cycles of exploration and reflection regarding questions of work and meaning, and touches upon all aspects of the student experience, including the curricular and co-curricular, athletics and residential life. During our five-week spring mini-semester, we offer courses taught by practitioners in such fields as digital innovation, entrepreneurship, urban planning and music production. We have a set of core employers who offer internships targeted at our students across a broad range of fields such as finance, communications, healthcare, and technology. This semester, more than 30 professors have incorporated exercises into their regular courses that allow students to explore the relationship between the course and work and career. The result is an approach to work that grounds practical experiences within the framework of the liberal arts so that our students graduate with the knowledge, skills and values they need to be effective and contributing members of society.

Dr. Spencer is the president of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.