Higher education is in a state of change, and as many higher-ed leaders are realizing, bold moves are necessary to navigate this change and sustain innovation.

From gaming-based research to new learning delivery models and new ways to look at education, some universities and colleges are forging paths designed to move faculty and students into the next phase of higher education.

Below, we’ve gathered a sampling of some of the boldest and most innovative university moves, projects and policies in the past few years. If you know of an innovative university program, let us know in the comments section below.

1. Purdue University moves to acquire Kaplan University

In a move that is the first of its kind, Purdue University moved ahead with plans to acquire the for-profit Kaplan University. Purdue plans to create a new kind of public institution, which is is calling “NewU” for now. The university plans to maintain Kaplan’s existing programs while rolling it into the Purdue system.

(Next page: Three more innovative university moves)

Speaking on a panel about innovation at public universities, Purdue President Mitch Daniels said the move is Purdue’s “ticket into the future,” according to the IndyStar.

Some experts have called the move bold and innovative, while others have said they’re worried about Purdue taking on a for-profit at a time when for-profits are on the decline.

2. A holistic department

A number of recent initiatives at some of the country’s most prestigious institutions and higher education organizations are focusing on the buzzword “holistic.”

According to Valparaiso University, faculty workload was becoming so burdensome–thanks to the additional duties in recruiting, marketing, and fundraising–that the university decided to address the problem by creating holistic departments.

The university notes that a holistic department “emphasizes a more team-oriented approach to departmental organization rather than the traditional hierarchical approach, and supports and rewards faculty for contributing to goals at the level of both the institution and the department in ways other than teaching and scholarship.”

Revamped college admissions also are going holistic in three ways, including by focusing on tasks that highlight skills crucial for college and by crafting application portfolios that highlight a student’s individuality.

3. The University of Michigan’s GradeCraft program

Engaged learning is a big focus for universities, and some are crafting programs specifically targeting student engagement.

According to the program’s website, GradeCraft is “a web application in support of learning environments reimagined to better support students’ intrinsic motivation. GradeCraft supports gameful instruction, a new approach to course design that emphasizes the need for students to make meaningful choices about how they will make progress within a course, be enabled to take on work that constantly challenges them, and feel connected to both their peers and instructional staff . These courses are designed to encourage students to take risks and make self-aware choices regarding how they best learn.”

This approach to teaching gives students the chance to choose their paths to learning, according to The University Record. Some parts of the course are required, but it offers a large amount of flexibility for students to choose multiple routes that encourage risk taking.

“This is not about making learning fun. It’s about making learning engaging,” said Barry Fishman, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Education and professor of information, who leads the team that developed Gradecraft.

4. The Austin Community College ACCelerator at Highland Mall

Austin Community College (ACC) President and CEO Richard Rhodes has won a seat on the League for Innovation in the Community College based on his leadership and initiatives, and among them is an ambitious plan that converted a run-down mall into a campus with an expansive computer lab and self-paced learning center, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

ACC also outfitted some stores inside the mall with “state-of-the-art advanced laboratory equipment to create a bioscience incubator,” according to Community Impact.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura


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