Thoughts & Commentary

Federal Financial Aid and CBE

Hello All!  If you didn’t know, I had a brief break from blogging about my dissertation (I’m sure the entire internet noticed;)

I have joined the team at Southern New Hampshire University as their Assistant VP for Academic Technology and Course Production.  SNHU is an amazing organization focused on quality and innovation in online education, and I am thrilled to be working with an amazing team there.  (I’m using “amazing” quite a bit with regards to SNHU, however I am not planning on toning that down.)  I will definitely miss Tri-C and all the dedicated colleagues I had the good fortune to work with over the years; we did good work together for the students of Cuyahoga County #MissionDriven!

So I needed to buy a house and sell a house and all those many involved things that take up a lot of time, and are (generally speaking) fairly stressful.  We’re embracing them with an air of adventure and confidence that there is an end-point to this transition.  For the time being I’m calling a great Airbnb place as my home, and have set up my Surface Pro on the dining room table where I’m diving back into it.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

I’ve found most of my cultural references are Shakespearean.  I’m definitely the life of the party, that’s for sure!

In any case, check out this latest section on my (revised) understanding of the U.S. DOE’s distinction between “Direct Assessment” and what we’re commonly calling “Credit Conversion” (I’ve also seen “Credit-Based CBE,” so any norming on that language would be helpful.)

All comments and feedback welcome!  There may be elements I haven’t captured, so any help in making it better is greatly appreciated:)  Big shout out to Kathe Kacheroski, who also joined the SNHU team as the Associate VP for CBE/SNHU Accel for her counsel on this – though any errors are decidedly my own.

Federal Financial Aid for CBE Programs

            Federal financial aid has historically only been available to students at institutions who use traditional Carnegie credits.  As noted in the Dear Colleague letter, GEN-13-10, from 2013, the majority of CBE programs currently operating are “offered in credit or clock hours and can be accommodated under the current title IV, student financial aid regulations as non-term programs” (para. 2).  Programs that fall into this “credit conversion” category, whereby Carnegie credits are used to track progress towards degree, but where students gain those credits in a competency-based, often time-variable manner, do not need to do anything additional to make their programs eligible for financial aid.  An example of this type of program is that offered by Western Governors University, which had been operating under this “credit conversion” model since its inception in the latter 1990s.

In 2005, Section 8020 of the Higher Education Reconciliation Act (Pub. L. 109-171) for the first time enabled direct assessment CBE programs to be eligible for title IV funding.  This type of program is indicated by students progressing upon completion of assessments, and progress being tracked solely by those competencies “in lieu of measuring student learning in credit hours or clock hours ” (Dear Colleague Letter, GEN-13-10, 2013, para. 3).   For programs that wish to be considered as Direct Assessment programs, in order to receive federal financial aid (title IV funding,) they must utilize a provision made available in the 2005 HERA, and apply to be approved as an experimental site for CBe.

Experimental Sites

The federal government recently expanded federal financial aid eligibility to institutions that use solely CBE as a select number of experimental sites.  These focus of four specific types of experimentation:  (1) entirely CBE programs, (2) hybrid programs with a blend of CBE and traditional credits, (3) PLA- programs, and (4) work study for near-peer counseling (Competency-Based Education Network, 2014).

In a Dear Colleague letter from 2013, the U.S. Department of Education invited colleges and universities to apply to participate as an experimental site status in order to receive federal funds for programs that utilized CBE instead of credit hours.  In order to apply for this status, however, colleges must, in their application for experimental site status, provide an equivalency for how many credits the competencies represent and how it determined the equivalencies.  The Department then uses these to determine eligibility and award funding.

Before the Department will approve such a program, though, certain other criteria must also be met, including approval of the program by the institution’s accreditor, which must also have reviewed and approved the equivalencies.  Certain types of learning are expressly not eligible for funding through this experiment, including PLA, programs at foreign schools, any coursework prior to the program admittance that would be considered prerequisite, programs related to teaching credentials at the K-12 level, and remedial coursework (Dear Colleague Letter, GEN-13-10, 2013).

As applications followed, Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America program became the first to be formally approved as an experimental site for direct assessment; additional colleges were interested at the time including Capella University, Northern Arizona University and Brandman University (Fain, 2013).  Each of these schools was on the preliminary list of participants for experimental site status as of April 2015 (Preliminary List of Participants, 2015).

For the subsequent 2 years, however, there were few developments from the U.S. Department of Education (Laitinen, 2015).  Though colleges have asked for guidance from the department on how to proceed, and the department had committed to having guidance out by the beginning of June, 2015 (Laitinen, 2015).  Finally, the Competency-Based Education Experiment Guide was published by the U.S. Dep artment of Education in September of 2015 in order to give colleges specific requirements, policies and procedures in order to implement their programs.

Figure X:  Title IV Federal Financial Aid CBE Decision Tree
 federal-financial-aid-cbe-approval-process-9-8-16

Federal Financial Aid Decision Tree.PNG

The decision for an institution to proceed either with “credit conversion” or full direct assessment is one that requires analysis, as the requirements for experimental site status enable the institution to gain flexibility around dispursement and direct/indirect cost, but still require the institution to design the program with credit equivalencies.  Those credit equivalencies are used to justify the robust nature of the program to both the accreditor and the U.S. Department of Education  (Dear Colleague Letter, GEN-13-10, 2013).

Another experiment that may have implications for CBE is the Education Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment whereby higher education institutions are invited to submit for approval to be Experimental Sites for partnerships with non-higher education institutions to provide content and learning through third-party providers (U.S. Department of Education, 2015) .  Currently, programs are not eligible for federal financial aid if more than 50% of the degree program is delivered by a third-party provider.  These Experimental Sites will not be subject to that restriction, and it will enable experiments with alternate educational providers that are emerging, particularly in IT fields.  The pilot program would utilize third-party quality assurance entities to ensure the quality of these programs, and is thought to support access to boot camps, MOOCs, and other short-term certificates (Field, 2015).

Thanks for reading!  I’ll post an expanded citation list in the next few weeks.  The literature review feels like one of those old-fashioned sponge toys I’d get as a kid in my Christmas stocking or for my birthday.  Do you know those?  They’re super-small, almost like pills, but they are really these super expanding sponges, and they make a giant sponge character when you soak them in water.  They just keep growing.  That’s where the lit review is at right now.  But I’m going to cut that down to size – we need to get this show on the road!

-Sasha

 

 

 

The Great LMS Review Adventure

Thrilled to have had the opportunity to guest blog for WCET! Check it out!

WCET Frontiers

Who wants the best LMS?  We all do!  How do you pick the best LMS?
*cricket chirp, cricket chirp*

A choice of a Learning Management System (LMS) is a critical one for colleges and universities on so many levels – it is the most important academic technology system in the majority of higher education technical infrastructures and has tentacles into every facet of learning and teaching.  This brief post will share some lessons learned from a 14-month long LMS review process at Cuyahoga Community College.

Picture this – a large community college with approximately 23% of FTE attributed to online courses, and another 8% attributed to blended or hybrid courses.  With an annual student population of 52,000, this Midwestern college has a strong shared governance structure with a well-established faculty union.  Now picture this – the college has used Blackboard since 1997.  It’s a “Wild Wild West” model of online courses…

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2015 Recap of Online Learning: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Check out this post I wrote for Tri-C’s eLearning and Innovation page!

Online Learning and Academic Technology (formerly Office of eLearning & Innovation)

2015 has seen some interesting developments in online learning.  Here is a recap of some key trends, as well as critical components for higher education to consider in innovating online learning to improve student success in online programs and courses.

Some large surveys have revealed important data about student preferences and perceptions, as well as that of faculty and administrators.  There is a strange symmetry in these results. 

What Students Want Online

An important answer for any institution to know is if students would come to an on-campus class if their program wasn’t available online.  Of online learners, 30% said they would probably or definitely would not attend face-to-face.  Also important to note is that online learning is growing at a much higher rate than higher education overall – the IPEDS data release recently for Fall 2014 indicated that overall enrollments in colleges and universities were down 2.2% over…

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Reference List as Promised for #CBE Dissertation OR Serenity: A Tale of a Dissertation Lost in Space

If you’re not a sci-fi fan, that second part won’t make sense, but don’t sweat it.  It’s just me getting my geek on post-Thanksgiving.

As promised, find below the reference list for my dissertation to date.  It is like Audrey Jr. from Little Shop of Horrors – it continues to grow as you feed it (blood, sweat, tears and very late nights in this case.)

If you’re not on Scribd, find below Google doc links for the PDF and Word versions:

PDF of Reference List.

Word Version of Reference List.

 

#CBE Storybook Tales of a Dissertation: Episode 6 Ongoing Initiatives

More from the Neverending Story of the Literature Review (dating myself?  Anyone?  Anyone?)

Thoughts, feedback, criticisms, it’s all welcome!  If I’m missing any that you think are mission critical, please let me know.

AND, a giant thank you to everyone who has been willing to talk about my research!  I am indebted to Larry Good for the great conversation last week.  And anyone I met at CBExchange or CBE4CC, a gentle reminder that I may be calling on you for some feedback on the concourse when I’m implementing the actual Q study!  (As per usual, please don’t cite this:)  It’s all “draft” format.)

Initiatives in the Field

There are many ongoing initiatives in the field of CBE that have supported and accelerated the development of CBE programs.  Some are government funded, like the U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT grants, while some are funded by large and influential foundations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation (Johnstone & Soares, 2014; Competency-Based Education Network, 2014).  Several of these large initiatives are highlighted here to provide some context surrounding the important projects that have received both support and attention nationally.  Though there are many ongoing initiatives that could have been included here, such as ACE’s CREDIT initiative, those selected here cover a wide array of concerns related to systemic implementation of CBE outside of more traditional methods of credit transfer or PLA.  Described initiatives include TAACCCT grants, EDUCAUSE’s Breakthrough Models Incubator, Connecting Credentials, the Credential Transparency Initiative, and IMS Global’s Technical Interoperability Pilot.

TAACCCT Grants

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (or TAACCCT grants as they are commonly known), were signed into law by President Barack Obama as part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, 2011).  These large grants focused on community colleges and other higher education programs who could train workers in less than two years in order to enter the workforce in “high-wage, high-skill occupations” (para. 2).  The TAACCCT grants announced in September of 2014 included 270 community colleges with a total award amount of $450 million dollars.  The grants were targeted to colleges training in high-demand careers like “information technology, heath care, energy, and advanced manufacturing” (ETA News Release:  Vice President Biden announces recipients of $450M of job-driven training grants, 2014, para. 4).

Many early adopters of CBE in this second wave of popularity utilized TAACCCT funding to design and develop their programs, including Broward College (Myers, 2014).   Other TAACCCT grants included West Virginia Community and Technical College System, Vincennes University Logistics Training and Education Center, Cape Cod Community College, Texas State Technical College, a consortium project made up of Polk State College, Santa Fe College and Seminole State for the “Training for Manufactured Construction or TRAMCON Consortium,

EDUCAUSE Breakthrough Models Incubator

EDUCAUSE’s Breakthrough Models Incubator (BMI) was created to build on the concept of Breakthrough Models in higher education (EDUCAUSE, 2015).  EDUCAUSE, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the League for Innovation in the Community College created the Breakthrough Models Incubator as a way to support the leadership teams of institutions in exploring and launching new learning models using student-centered design, exploiting technology and with an emphasis on sustainability (EDUCAUSE, 2015).  Cohorts 2 and 3 of the initiative (2014 and 2015) are centered on developing CBE programs in colleges and universities (EDUCAUSE, 2015).  Participating colleges in the 2014 and 2015 cohorts include University of Maryland University College, the University of New England, Ivy Tech Community College, Central Arizona College, Rio Salado Community College, Austin Community College, Empire State College and Excelsior College (EDUCAUSE, 2015).  In Appendix A a more comprehensive list of colleges and universities engaged in CBE can be found; institutions from the 2014 and 2015 cohorts are noted there.

Connecting Credentials

Connecting Credentials is an initiative sponsored by 80 organizations including the Lumina Foundation, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, and CLASP (Connecting Credentials, 2015; Connecting Credentials, 2015).   The initiative was designed to create a credentialing system that is more “student-centered and learning-based” (Connecting Credentials, 2015, para. 1).  The impetus for this initiative comes from the fragmented nature of credentials throughout higher education, industry, and professional certificates and licenses.  The wide array of invested parties involved represent the actual producers and users of the credentials; convenings and summits were hosted in order to start the conversation (Connecting Credentials, 2015).

From this initiative, a Beta Credentials Framework was created (Connecting Credentials, 2015).  The Beta Credentials Framework organizes competencies into two domains:  knowledge and skills; the second domain – skills – is then further delineated into three sub-domains of specialized skills, personal skills and social skills (Lumina Foundation, 2015).  In order to describe the level of sophistication of competency, or rather their “relative complexity, breadth and/or depth of learning achievement, rather than subject matter” eight levels are described for these skills (Lumina Foundation, 2015, p. 2).  As of November 2015, next steps in the further refinement of the Beta Framework are categorized into four components: (1) mapping credentials using the framework in order to validate it and/or make improvements, (2) having a technical team review the Framework’s internal structure as compared to international qualification frameworks and other industry and human resource professionals as well as educational psychologists, (3) apply in real-world situations to determine proof-of-concept, and (4) improving the Beta Framework through continual conversations for thorough stakeholder feedback (Lumina Foundation, 2015).

Figure 3 illustrates the complexity of the current credentialing system as described in CLASP’s Call for a National Conversation on Creating a Competency-based Credentialing Ecosystem.

Figure 3:  Credentialing System in the United States
 Credentialing System in the US from CLASP

CLASP. (2014). Call for a national conversation on creating a competency-based credentialing ecosystem, (April), 1–10. Retrieved from http://www.workcred.org/Documents/Developing-a-Competency-Based-Credentialing-Ecosystem-032814.pdf p. 4

Credential Transparency Initiative

The Credential Transparency Initiative is another Lumina-funded project, a partnership between George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy, WorkCred, and Southern Illinois University (Credential Transparency Initiative, n.d.).  The outcome of this project will be a national, searchable registry that will allow stakeholders to transparently determine what the bearer of the credential should be able to know and do as a result of having achieved it.  Additionally, the project will include the development of apps and create a common set of terms with which to describe credentials.  The project is designed to accommodate all types of credentials, including anything from formal degrees from institutions of higher education to micro-credentials (Credential Transparency Initiative, n.d.).

IMS Global’s Technical Interoperability Pilot (TIP)

IMS is working on several initiatives related to the integration of learning technology systems, including several related to CBE.  In partnership with C-BEN, IMS is creating an ecosystem around the many technology systems based on their LTI standards.  The focus behind this is in order to support a focus on outcomes from the technical infrastructure that makes up the back-end of a students’ online learning experiences in a CBE program including the Student Information System (SIS), the Learning Management System (LMS), online instructional materials, assessments, financial aid, data, support services, and others (IMS Global Learning Consortium, 2015).

The Technical Interoperability Pilot (TIP) will support colleges and universities in five “solution use cases” including (1) managing competencies, (2) evaluating results, (3) managing program information for use in systems that support institutional needs like financial aid, (4) measuring interaction (through a new data analytics tool Caliper,) and (5) CBE eTranscript publishing (IMS Global Learning Consortium, 2015).  Initial results were shared in Fall 2015.   Figure 4 delineates the complex systems of which IMS is attempting to facilitate integration between through common languages.

Figure 4:  Reference Education Enterprise Architecture with IMS Global Integration Points
 IMS interoperability figure

IMS Global Learning Consortium. (2015). Enabling better digital credentialing. Retrieved from https://www.imsglobal.org/initiative/enabling-better-digital-credentialing

 

Does Online Learning Work?

A brief recap of general conclusions about the effectiveness of “traditional” online learning in higher ed.

Online Learning and Academic Technology (formerly Office of eLearning & Innovation)

Though many within the online learning field have considered this question to be a bit of a “been there, done that” moment, some recent studies have indicated new evidence on the impact of online learning for students.  What does online learning “do” to student success?  What does it “do” to graduation rates?

So the short version is that many studies have indicated that in terms of meeting course outcomes, online courses are at least as effective as face-to-face courses.

But many studies at the community college level have indicated a difference in student success rates (generally considered to be A-C) of anywhere from 5% – 10%.  The Community College Research Center’s investigation also revealed this in a 2 state study.

The Paradox

Students who take online courses at community colleges get good grades in lower percentages, but (and this is a big but) they graduate sooner and…

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A Brief History of CBE

Feedback welcome!  Segment of lit review on CBE.  You know – for a little light reading!

A Brief History of CBE

The dominant model of higher education – and the model by which students receive federal financial aid – utilizes the Carnegie Unit as a proxy for student learning.  The Carnegie Unit was created in the early twentieth century when Andrew Carnegie established the first pension system for college professors through a donation of $10 million to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  In order to determine what colleges and professors were eligible to participate, institutions needed to meet specific criteria, one of which was the completion of a high school course of study (Silva, White & Toch, 2015).  The Carnegie unit was born of the effort to codify what the completion of a high school course of study would entail (Freeland, 2014).  One Unit was determined to be a year of study in a field for five days a week (or 120 hours of contact time); fourteen units was determined the minimum preparation encompassing four years of English and foreign language, three years of history, science, and mathematics (Silva, White & Roch, 2015).

The result of this was that time itself became the core metric for the measurement of learning; this became known as “seat time” (Freeland, 2014; Ordonez, B. 2014).  This interpretation of time as equivalent to learning became the default system in higher education as well.  The Carnegie Unit in colleges and universities is dependent upon the number of “contact hours” per week per semester.  For a typical, four-year bachelor’s degree this translates to a student earning fifteen credit hours per semester for around 120 total credits (Silva, White & Roch, 2015).

Criticism of the analogy of the equivalence of time and learning came within decades of the creation and implementation of the Carnegie Unit by none other than the Carnegie Foundation itself.  The Carnegie Foundation conducted a study on the results of an assessment given to college students at the conclusion of each year of study in college.  It indicated that students’ level of knowledge remained constant throughout the four years of education, rather than increasing each year (Laitinen, 2012.)  In response, the then-president of the Carnegie Foundation Walter A. Jessup wrote that “the passing of the system of units and credits, which, useful as it was … is not good enough for American education today” (Laitinen, 2012, p. 5).  This critique of the effectiveness of the Carnegie Unit came in 1938.  Nearly eighty years later, the Carnegie Unit is still the overwhelming mechanism serving as a proxy for learning in higher education and in high schools, despite Walter A. Jessup’s exhoriation that colleges should base student development on “the attainments of minds thoroughly sorted and competent” (Laitinen, 2012, p. 5).

Even before that study, in 1934 the then-president of the Carnegie Foundation – Henry Suzzallo – wrote in the annual report that educational systems should allow for more flexibility and individualism in learning while being more transparent about the standards of performance to be achieved in as little time as possible (Silva, White & Roch, 2015).   In the meanwhile, however, the initial encouragement of the Carnegie Foundation for colleges and universities to utilize the Carnegie Unit beyond the classroom as a mechanism for the improvement of “administrative efficiency of schools and colleges,” aligning to the focus on the historical development of “scientific management” during the early 1900s entrenched the use of the Carnegie Unit in the administration of colleges and universities themselves (Silva, White & Roch, 2015).  Previous U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in remarks delivered to the American Enterprise Institute, stated how “A century ago, maybe it made sense to adopt seat-time requirements for graduation… But the factory model of education is the wrong model for the 21st century” (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, para. 22).  Seventy-five years earlier, two previous presidents of the Carnegie Foundation agreed.  More recently, in the report The Carnegie Unit published by the Carnegie Foundation, concluded that “American education’s reliance on the Carnegie Unit is indeed an impediment to some of the solutions sought by today’s reformers” (2015, p. 11).  The authors specifically note the challenges to innovation in educational systems based on the use of the Carnegie Unit by the federal government for financial aid for students.

Though gaining ground in discussions, experimentations, programs and policy, CBE itself is not a new concept.  Some of this interest can be traced back to the Higher Education Act of 1965 when college became accessible to a wider student audience (Larsen McClarty & Gaetner, 2015; Klein-Collins, 2013).  Many of the characteristics of these newly developed CBE programs are the same as programs originally was developed and implemented in the 1970s.  The U.S. Department of Education through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) funded the creation of many CBE programs in an attempt to serve the needs of post-traditional, adult learners who were not well served in the typical college structure and research the effects (Larsen McClarty & Gaertner, 2015; Klein-Collins, 2013).  Additional elements contributed, including education being viewed as more individualized, the concept of “mastery learning” gained momentum, and “aptitude” being redefined (Hall & Jones, 1976, p. 8).

Some of the rationale behind those initial experiments will sound familiar to those aware of the contemporary expansion of CBE programs.  Hall and Jones (1976) reference four unrelated factors in the original development of, and focus on, CBE, particularly related to the field of teacher education:  (1) a surplus of available K-12 teachers, (2) questions about the need for, and value of, a college degree, (3) taxpayer calls for accountability in educational spending and (4) research and development (R & D) efforts supported by the federal government.  Funding for educational research included not only teaching methodology, but also instructional media.  Twenty educational laboratories and eleven research and development centers were built from the mid 1960’s forward and supported some of these efforts (Hall & Jones, p. 4-5).

A consortium of Minnesota community colleges received one of these FIPSE grants in 1973.  The evaluation of student performance determined that those educated in the CBE program demonstrated “improved performance for beginning teachers, and higher levels of teacher and student satisfaction” (Larsen McClarty & Gaertner, 2015, p. 1).  Other initial recipients of FIPSE grants for CBE included Alverno College, DePaul University School for New Learning, Empire State College and Regents College (since renamed to Excelsior College); the work of these institutions were foundational in the development of CBE (Brower, 2014; CAEL, 2013; Klein-Collins, 2013; Book, 2014; Council of Independent Colleges, 2015; ).

Alverno College began working with CBE programs in the late 1960s, introducing their first CBE degree program in 1973 (Larsen McClarty & Gaertner, 2015; Council of Independent Colleges, 2015; Klein-Collins, 2012).  Alverno College is a Catholic women’s college founded by the School Sisters of St. Francis in 1887 (Alverno College, n.d.; Council of Independent Colleges, 2015).  In the late 1960’s a faculty survey was sent out that solicited feedback from faculty on what learning outcomes were seen as the most critical for both departments and courses  (Klein-Collins, 2012; Larsen McClarty & Gaertner, 2015).  Initially, four global learning competencies were created (Klein-Collins, 2012); these were expanded through further discussion to eight core competencies (Klein-Collins, 2012; Larsen McClarty & Gaertner, 2015; Alverno College, n.d.).  The language used by Alverno College for these competencies is “abilities;” they call the approach an “Ability-Based Curriculum” (Council of Independent Colleges, 2015).  These eight core “abilities” are communication, analysis, poblem-solving, valuing, social interaction, developing a global perspective, effective citizenship, aesthetic engagement (Alverno College, n.d.).   They have been revisited over 13 times since the creation of the original four competencies (Klein-Collins, 2012; Larsen McClarty & Gaertner, 2015).

The progress of students in their achievement of the abilities “is articulated as a series of developmental levels through which individual students progress over the course of their college careers” (Klein-Collins, 2012, p. 17).  Alverno College does not award grades, rather they provide students with a “narrative transcript” – which “showcases growth, painting a detailed picture of your accomplishments for parents, graduate schools and employers” (Alverno College, n.d., para. 1).

Empire State College – part of the SUNY system – was established by the SUNY Board of Trustees in 1971 (SUNY Empire State College, 2015).  Heavily influenced by the desire to serve underrepresented groups in higher education, the pedagogy of the College from its conception has been highly individualized, enabling students to design their own degree programs in partnership with faculty mentors in one of 12 broad areas  (Benke, Davis, & Travers, 2012; Laitinen, 2012; SUNY Empire State College, 2015).

The learning paradigm there was significantly different than that embraced by the vast majority of higher education institutions.  At Empire State College, “co-developed learning contracts presumed that learners had unique goals and interests and were active partners in the design of their own learning” (Benke, Davis, & Travers, 2012, p. 145).  Though not yet developed as a learning science at the time, this foreshadowed the formalization of heutagogy, rooted in andragogy and highly leveraged by the advances in distance learning technologies, whereby learners self-direct their own education with a great amount of autonomy; individualized learning contracts are indicative of this process (Blaschke, 2012; Hase & Kenyon, 2001).  Empire State College also has a defined process for implementing PLA (Prior Learning Assessment) in order to enable students to obtain credit for prior learning, which can account for up to 75% of their bachelor’s degree (Benke, Davis, & Travers, 2012; Laitinen, 2012; SUNY Empire State College, 2015).  This personalization is now more commonly referred to as “mass customization” whereby “students can approach the degree programs entrepreneurially, designing their own degrees and taking advantage of different methods of instruction and content delivery” (CAEL, 2013, p. 9)

Empire State College has offered online courses since the 1980s (Laitinen, 2012), and is currently “redefining and repositioning the college as an “open university” in a digital age” (Benke, Davis, & Travers, 2012, p. 146).  Most recently the college has innovated through the use of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), further expanding on their “open” philosophy; students could gain college credit for the MOOC after paying a fee (Benke, Davis, & Travers, 2012).

Also established in the 1970s was Thomas Edison State College (Council of Independent Colleges, 2015; Laitinen, 2012).  Their focus is also on meeting the needs of adult learners “whether it is for professional advancement or personal fulfillment” (Thomas Edison State College, 2015, para. 2).  They employ a variety of methods for structuring, enabling, and documenting learned knowledge and skills including PLA, credit transfer and credit by exams (Laitinen, 2012; Thomas Edison State College, 2015).  They were also early adopters of online courses, piloting their use in 1987 (Laitinen, 2012); they are highlighted currently on the college’s website (Thomas Edison State College, 2015).  In addition to online courses they have an independent study program called “FlashTrack” wherein students receive course materials on a flash drive along with exam software.  Students can currently engage in a fully online degree program at the college  (Klein-Collins, Sherman & Soares, 2010).

Excelsior College is an example of an institute dedicated to CBE and founded during the previous investment period in CBE.  It was founded in 1971 by the New York State Board of Regents under the name of Regents External Degree Program or REX.  The Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation originally funded the creation of the college, which in 1998 became a separate functioning private, nonprofit college.  Previously it had functioned as a program of the New York Board of Regents, and in 2001 it changed its name to Excelsior College (Excelsior College, 2015).

Charter Oak State College was established by the Connecticut legislature in 1973 (Brower, 2014).  “Degrees Without Boundaries” was designed to meet the unique needs of women who were returning to college.  Credit-by-exam and prior learning assessment enabled these underserved women to successfully complete degrees, with instruction being added in 1998.  With approximately 2,000 students, the majority now utilized online courses (Laiten, 2012).  Charter Oak State College is among the institutions that require a three-credit portfolio review course (Klechen, 2015).

DePaul University’s School for New Learning (SNL) was established in 1972 as a liberal arts-focused institution for working adults, age 24 and older (DePaul University, 2015; Klein-Collins, 2012).  Still their largest degree is their Bachelor of Arts with Individualized Focus Areas.  It enrolls about 2,000 students.  Their framework includes 50 competence (or “competency”) statements in three main areas:  (1) Lifelong Learning Area, (2) Liberal Learning Area, and (3) Focus Area (Klein-Collins, 2012).  DePaul University’s SNL utilizes a combination of competence-based and course-based learning experiences (DePaul University, 2015).

Little within the confines of CBE programs occurred beyond these first adopters who embraced the concept and formulated their programs around the needs of post-traditional learners until the mid- to late-1990s, when Wester Governors University was founded.  It is important to note that other fields did continue to implement other forms of education that also embrace the term “competency-based” but that do have some distinct differences from the contemporary programs that are being explored in this dissertation.  Chief among these is medical education, IT education, and some business fields.  These will be discussed in brief in further section.

Western Governors University (WGU) was established in 1995 by the nonpartisan Western Governors Association, made up of the governors of 21 Western states.  Originally called the Western Virtual University, it was created to address concerns about the need for increased access to higher education in the West for both high school graduates and post-traditional learners at a time when there was limited state funding (Mendenhall, 2012; Meyer, 2005; Paulson, 2002).  WGU has one of the foundational examples of a direct assessment programs whereby students progress through their education by proving their skills and knowledge on competency-based assessments.  Students utilize curated online content and are supported by faculty coaches in order to successfully complete their assessments (Klein-Collins, 2013).  WGU was conceptualized as a way to scale higher education utilizing online learning while focusing on demonstrable skills as the founders believed that “the credit hour was not sufficiently measuring what graduates know and can do, and that their new university would have to be competency-based to measure those skills” (Mendenhall, 2012, p. 115).

Currently, WGU has more than 50,000 graduates, 55,000 current students, and boasts an impressive average time to degree of less than 3 years for an undergraduate program, far below that of typical universities (Western Governors University, 2015).

Why the resurgence of CBE?  Some of the recent momentum in CBE can be attributed to a combination of loud calls for reform of higher education, suspicion about the value of higher education, the financial support of programs by influential funding agencies in higher education reform, and finally by the technology catching up with the philosophy of the model (Gallagher, 2014; EDUCAUSE, 2014).  Additionally, the growing focus on student outcomes and knowledge that led to the expansion of Prior Learning Assessment contributed to the advancement of the CBE movement (Larsen McClarty & Gaertner, 2015).

The 2005 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act enabled colleges to use “Direct Assessment” through acceptance as an experimental site for federal aid (Porter, 2014).  In 2013, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) became the first college to be approved for this Direct Assessment provision (Klein-Collins, 2013).

And then, a whole bunch of references…..

Rapid Fire Feedback from #WCET15 on eLiterate

Many thanks to Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein for the opportunity to blog on e-Literate.  “Rapid Fire Feedback from #WCET15” here:  http://mfeldstein.com/rapid-fire-feedback-from-wcet15/.

Quote from article here:

This human digital experience is indeed “sometime in the future” for many colleges and universities. Meanwhile, innovative institutions are evolving their very DNA, creating agile processes that support turning on a dime. Size, funding, and stature no longer guarantee success for institutions. In an increasingly unbundled world of learning, the student has a level of choice like never before. They will vote with their mouses, with their tablets and thumbs.

Check it out and comment if you get the chance.  Thoughts?

Best! Sasha

Recap from “Strategic Innovation” & Tales from the Dissertation Crypt

For anyone who wasn’t attending #WCET15 in Denver, CO, you can still get some of the takeaways from the preconference session I presented with the talented Luke Dowden here: https://sites.google.com/site/wcetstrategicinnovation/

It was a GREAT group of incredibly involved EdTechies.

If you want to catch some of the action after the fact, use the #Strategy2Innovation or @sashatberr @lukedowden #WCET15 on Twitter.

In Tales from the Dissertation Crypt, Episode 4, we have the never ending list of CBE programs, and the semi-futile attempt to document them all.

The last four columns were from Robert Kelchen, 2015 “The landscape of competency-based education” where appropriate.  I have the proper APA citations for all of this.

I’d be happy to take any revisions, input, feedback, etc.  Find below this table the long list of programs I still need to properly document.  Longest. Literature. Review.  Ever.

There are giant gaps in it, too, so if you’d like to help fill any holes, all feedback is valued!


Yet to be completed are:
Colorado State University – Global Campus
Columbia Basin College
Community College of Philadelphia
Community College of Spokane
Concordia University (WI)
Coppin State University
Cuyahoga Community College
Danville Community College
Davenport University
Davis Applied Technology College
DePaul University
Edmonds Community College
El Centro College
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College
Empire State College
Excelsior College
Fielding Graduate University
Francis Tuttle Tech Center
George Mason University
Golden Gate University
Granite State College
Kalamazoo Valley Community College
Kaplan University
Kentucky Commonwealth
Kentucky Community & Technical College System
Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education??????
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Indiana Wesleyan University
Ivy Tech Community College
Jefferson Community and Technical College
John F. Kennedy University
Jones County Junior College
Lethbridge College – Justice and Law Enforcement Recruit Training
LeTourneau University
Lincoln Land Community College
Lipscomb University
Lone Star College System
Lord Fairfax Community College
Los Angeles Trade Technical College
Marylhurst University
Metropolitan State University – Denver
Miami Dade College
Monroe Community College
Mount Washington College
National American University
National Louis University
Northeastern University
Northern Arizona University
Northern Essex Community College
Northern Virginia Community College
Pace University
Paul Smith’s College
Polk State College
Purdue University
Rasmussen College (MN)
Richard Bland College
Rio Salado College
Salt Lake Community College
Simmons College
Sinclair Community College
Somerset Community College
Southern New Hampshire University (College for America)
Southwestern College (KS)
Spokane Falls Community College
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (South Texas College and Texas A&M University-Commerce)
The New School
Thomas Edison State College
Trident University International
University of Central Oklahoma
University of Louisville
University of Maine at Presque Isle
University of Maryland University College
University of Michigan System
University of New England
University of Phoenix
University System of Georgia
University of Texas System
University of Toledo
University of Wisconsin Colleges
University of Wisconsin-Extension
University of Wisconsin – Flex Option
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Valdosta State University
Valencia College
Walden University
Westminster College
West Kentucky Community and Technical College
Western Kentucky University
Western Governors University
Westminster College (UT)

WGU and Conflicting Historical Facts: Tales from the Dissertation Crypt Episode 4

So I’ve run into an interesting dilemma. It may not seem like much, but it is becoming vexing. I am seeking precision in this dissertation. Though I’ve heard many, many, MANY times that “A good dissertation is a finished dissertation,” I’d also like to make sure that the dissertation is as accurate as I can make happen.

We all know – or many of us know – of the history of Western Governors University, a la “created in the late 1990s by a coalition of governors of Western states who saw a need to scale higher education… yadda yadda.”

The imprecision of that generality is aggravating.  Surely there was an actual year in which it was founded.  Well, it appears there were many.  I have found what I would consider to be reliable sources that state it was founded in anywhere from 1995 – 1997, and even the number of governors changes from 19 – 21 depending upon the source.

Feedback and thoughts?  Anyone know of a definitive source?  I hate to go with generalities.  Not that the fact of dates or numbers is going to derail any progress, but I would like to be certain.

Additionally, literature review.  Not quite done.  Rrrrr.

Sasha