Competency Based Education: SUNY Empire State College

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             In March of 2013, the State University of New York (SUNY) board of trustees announced a bold vision outlining how prior-learning assessment, competency-based programs, and MOOCs will inform a plan to ensure that students complete degrees on time and for reduced cost. According to the announcement, the new initiative—Open SUNY—would “bring all online courses offered at each of the system’s 64 campuses onto a shared and comprehensive online environment, making them accessible to all of the system’s 468,000 students and 88,000 faculty.”

Significantly, the pre-existing prior-learning assessment and competency-based programs of SUNY’s Empire State College were to serve as the mechanism driving that initiative.  Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY chancellor, cited SUNY Empire State College’s expertise in this area as the foundation for the system-wide initiative: “The prior-learning expertise at Empire State would make it possible for the New York system to undertake the new effort.”

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Developing a Statement of Shared Purpose

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On many college campuses there is pressure to develop “innovative” initiatives such as digital scholarship, blended learning, and flipped classrooms. Among other things this will stem from a general awareness (or uneasiness) that colleges must take advantage of the opportunities afforded by digital approaches to research and pedagogy. However, without a programmatic approach with a clear statement of shared purpose to inform the implementation of best practices in digital scholarship and pedagogy, “innovative” experimentation will remain as insulated and isolating projects rather than successful programs.

The statement of purpose is not a mission or vision statement. It is a touchstone program document that outlines the specifics of the opportunity, a problem to be solved, why a solution will benefit faculty, staff, and students, and the organizational roles that will be affected. It is foundational to articulating a shared vision that can be readily communicated to participants and supporters such as funding agencies. It is an initial step in explaining the “why” and in minimizing confusion. It does not attempt to describe specific solutions.

Components of the statement

Drafting the statement of purpose is an important first step in developing a sustainable program. It will help identify the shared (or intersecting) goals that justify the effort and expense of such a significant project. It describes the purpose – outlining why the institution is making the effort and what problem the effort will solve.

A statement of purpose should be concise and include the following:

  • A brief description of the opportunity or issue at hand.
  • Where the issue or opportunity is observed e.g., departments, institution-wide, and/or processes.
  • The time frame over which the opportunity has been observed and anticipated duration.
  • The anticipated scope or magnitude of the opportunity – the impact to be realized.

Uses of the statement

The statement of purpose:

  • Clarifies the situation by specifically identifying the issues or opportunities at hand.
  • Clarifies the urgency and time­ sensitivity associated with the effort.
  • Provides a vehicle to ensure increasing buy-in.
  • Helps secure support, develop funding potential, and identify and cultivate champions.
  • Helps leadership, partners, and funders grasp and appreciate what you are working to accomplish (and why) and helps to communicate the opportunity to other interested parties.

Many campuses have already accomplished much of the work of developing a statement of purpose through the work of various committees and task forces. That effort often results in several general observations and questions including the need to:

  • Develop a program that will enhance and improve the experience of the current population of students.
  • Identify how to enhance the liberal education offered by the college using digital technologies.
  • Determine how the college will improve its effectiveness through the use of digital learning tools and strategies.
  • Identify best practices with digital learning strategies as they relate to liberal education.
  • Develop a system to identify programs and courses that constitute exemplars for digital pedagogy.
  • Review organizational development necessary for sustaining these curricular models.
  • Review required improvements to the college infrastructure.
  • Identify what it will it take to institute these changes.

The next step is to convert the existing work into a clear statement of shared purpose that lays out the attributes described above. The completed statement will specify the affected institutional roles and articulate why the program is being developed. The effort put into this document will serve to secure support for the skills, incentives and resources necessary to develop a sustained Digital Scholarship and Pedagogy program for faculty, students and staff.

MOOCs: Opportunities, Impacts, and Challenges Massive Open Online Courses in Colleges and Universities

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2012, according to the media, was The Year of the MOOC. Massive Open Online Courses were declared to be a revolution in college education. The flow of media coverage hyped MOOCs as either the salvation of a beleaguered educational system or the corrosive agent that would dilute it beyond recognition and value.At the same time, venture funding poured into the coffers of education technology companies intent on cashing in on the newly disrupted higher education market. That investment is reshaping the development of learning and content delivery platforms being marketed to your campus, your faculty, and your students. And rapidly forming partnerships between for-profit firms and universities are providing technology vendors with a powerful vehicle for selling to higher education and inserting themselves into the dialogue about the future of educational content and delivery.But college and university administrators do not have to sit passively by, waiting for the MOOC wave to wash over them. There are still seats at the table for those intent on guiding higher education into the future. Campus leaders would do well to shoulder their way in now, rather than wait for an invitation to help shape that future.

MOOCs: Opportunities, Impacts, and Challenges, being a survey of the issues and opportunities associated with Massive Open Online Courses, is an invaluable guide to those responsible for their institution’s mission. Armed with the information in this book, you will be able to sort out the substance from the hype in the roiling MOOC debate, and effectively fold the future into the strategic mission of your campus.

The chapters to this book will be live on this blog again in April, 2014. The book is available in Kindle and print formats from Amazon. It is currently part of the Amazon KDP Select program and, as a result, it is not permitted to be published in any digital format, anywhere for the 90 day duration of the program. Once that time is up, I will make the chapters available here once again. Given that MOOCs are such a moving target, I will also be updating the content here, and in the Amazon Kindle version. Thanks for your patience!

~ Michael Nanfito
http://amzn.com/1494495880

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HBG8XNW

Posted in Adaptive Learning, Big data, Education, Learning Analytics, MOOCs, Open Education Resources, Demographics of MOOCs 

MOOCs amplify existing issues

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Get the complete book Thinking Strategically about MOOCs: The Role of Massive Open Online Courses in the College and University at Amazon in print or kindle version. Practically speaking, MOOCs are a platform of bundled technologies. If you sign with Coursera, Udacity, … Continue reading

The Rise of the Machines: Big data, learning analytics, and adaptive learning

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Get the complete book Thinking Strategically about MOOCs: The Role of Massive Open Online Courses in the College and University at Amazon in print or kindle version. This chapter is broken into three sections that explore three closely related topics that are … Continue reading

The MOOC “Revolution”

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Get the complete book Thinking Strategically about MOOCs: The Role of Massive Open Online Courses in the College and University at Amazon in print or kindle version.          The story became legend almost immediately: In 2011, Stanford professor Sebastian … Continue reading

Recommended Readings: Impacts of online learning technologies

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Recommended Readings “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, AS AMENDED with ADA Amendments Act of 2008.” Accessed March 6, 2013. http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm. Butler, Brandon. “ARL Policy Notes, ARL Issue Brief: MOOCs + Libraries = ???” ARL Policy Notes. Accessed April 9, 2013. … Continue reading

Planning Questions: Impacts of online learning technologies

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  Does your existing accessibility program scale to the audience of the MOOC? Do your campus policies regarding copyright and fair use scale to the MOOC? What is your institutional responsibility to ensure equal access to online resources, even when … Continue reading

Bandwidth divide

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Get the complete book Thinking Strategically about MOOCs: The Role of Massive Open Online Courses in the College and University at Amazon in print or kindle version. Even if your campus is capable of delivering on the scale of the MOOC, you … Continue reading