The New Media Consortium (NMC), a not-for-profit organization focused on education innovation, is releasing the Scaling Solutions Across Higher Education Toolkit: The NMC Horizon Project in Action, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
With the US on track to produce approximately 11 million fewer certificates and degrees than the economy will require by 2025, postsecondary institutions must better serve student populations who are at risk of dropping out. With step-by-step implementation support, the NMC’s Toolkit empowers campus leaders to convene “Scaling Solutions” workshops that address major threats to learner equity and access.
In 2016, the NMC hosted an exemplar workshop at the OLC Accelerate conference, bringing together 45 leaders, practitioners, and students from 38 institutions and organizations to engage in problem-solving activities. The Toolkit aims to extend the efficacy of that format to campuses across the country by enabling colleges and universities to replicate and adapt the model in their own environments. Activity guides, checklists, sample emails, sample evaluations, and more are included to help campuses to plan for and execute the workshop from start to finish.
“The NMC cares deeply about scaling solutions to turn promise into practice,” says Eden Dahlstrom, Executive Director of the NMC. “We know that influencing large-scale change takes effort, which can be mitigated by working together to address challenges as a community. The Toolkit provides the champions of change with a practical guide to inform, inspire, and motivate their community to tackle Higher Ed’s greatest challenges.”
Four challenges were the subject matter of the original workshop, initially described in the NMC’s 2016 stage-setting strategic brief, Scaling Solutions to Higher Ed’s Biggest Challenges, outlined below. Several challenges depict how faculty need greater support to effect real change for students. The Toolkit guides postsecondary professionals through activities where they first discuss the challenges and potential solutions, and then organize in taskforces to put those solutions into action.
Integrating Student Data Across Platforms. Institutions are capturing a deluge of student data that often resides in departmental silos, missing the potential to be a holistic tool that informs decision-making and predictive models.
Scaling Evidence-Based Methods Across Disciplines. Teaching and learning models in one discipline do not always translate to others, and approaches to scaling effective pedagogies too often favor anecdotes over data-driven evidence.
Supporting Adjunct Faculty through Tech Deployment. Adjunct faculty often teach introductory and online classes, but institutions do not always provide them with access to the same supporting resources as full-time and tenured faculty.
Financial Aid for Competency-Based Education. Leaders are challenged with designing CBE programs that map student progress into traditional credit hour equivalencies so students can qualify for federal financial aid.
Next, the Toolkit helps postsecondary leaders navigate the process of facilitating taskforces that focus on scaling the solutions across their campuses. The three recommended taskforces described in the Toolkit are as follows:
Framework/Rubric Design Taskforce. This taskforce designs an institutional readiness and impact framework that helps higher education leaders prepare for and measure the progress of solutions.
RFP/Grant Program Development Taskforce. This taskforce designs a prospective Request for Proposals for a program that supports institutions as they implement long-term technology and student service solutions to the challenges.
Marketing/Outreach Taskforce. This taskforce devises outreach activities and campaigns that enable the faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders to better understand the challenges, where the potential solutions lie, and evidence of progress.
Toolkit users are also provided with inspiration for creative activities to conduct in the taskforces, along with sample outputs. Further, postsecondary leaders who host their own Scaling Solutions workshops are encouraged to share their experiences with the NMC; these stories will be housed on NMC.org with potential to reach a global community of educators.
Scaling Solutions Across Higher Education Toolkit: The NMC Horizon Project in Action is published under a Creative Commons license to encourage broad dissemination.
Download the Toolkit (PDF)