A great example of why community colleges are 2015’s rock stars

Washington state community colleges are launching an online CBE degree program using OER in a self-paced environment.

OER-WashingtonWashington state community college students seeking an associate degree will soon be able to opt for a competency-based online business transfer degree that uses open educational resources (OER) in all courses.

The courses are under creation in partnership with Lumen Learning. In addition to eliminating textbook costs, the self-paced courses are designed to adapt content and activities based on a student’s prior knowledge or areas in which they need to demonstrate course objective mastery.

Faculty members from participating Washington state community colleges are collaborating with Lumen Learning on course design as they define learning outcomes and related competencies for the 18 courses in the degree program. After waiting for approval from the accrediting commission, the full program is expected to launch for the July 1 term. Progress is detailed here.

(Next page: How the courses are structured to promote OER use)

The Lumen Learning team collected textbooks, videos, images, and other OER and organized them into a course structure intended to help students demonstrate mastery. The content includes embedded assessments that, after gauging a student’s progress, can generate personalized learning pathways.

“Competency-based education lets students progress at their own pace as soon as they’ve learned the subject matter,” said Connie Broughton, project director for competency-based education (CBE) programs at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), when the program was announced in September. “We expect this competency-based option to a business transfer degree will save students time and money because they can move rapidly through material they have already mastered with prior learning and work experience.”

Students in the competency-based program will access their self-paced courses through the Candela Mastery Platform, which is an adaptive learning platform co-developed by Lumen Learning and Difference Engine.

“This program is an unequivocal win for students ready for this innovative kind of education,” said Jan Yoshiwara, deputy executive director for education for SBCTC. “There are no textbook costs. Students complete the program at their own pace through well-designed, convenient online courses. A motivated student could complete a 2-year transfer degree in just 18 months. All this adds up to quicker completion at a lower cost, while achieving the same learning outcomes required for traditional courses and programs.”

Thirteen Washington community colleges signed up to participate in the pilot, and additional SBCTC colleges are expected to join after the pilot year. Later in 2015, Lumen Learning plans to make the OER-based courses available to other institutions as open mastery courses that can be used in traditional or hybrid settings in addition to self-paced online delivery.

In another move to make OER more user-friendly, SBCTC in December launched the OPEN Attribution Builder, an application that helps OER users cite their sources properly.

The application is part of SBCTC’s OPEN Washington site, which is intended to help faculty learn about, locate, and use OER efficiently and effectively.

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Laura Ascione

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