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.”
Carol Geary Schneider had it right. In her Fall 2012 Liberal Education essay “Is It Finally Time to Kill the Credit Hour?” Schneider makes a persuasive case that we are very far from a coherent national plan for education. In light of that reality, taking the opportunity to review examples of existing competency-based learning programs is time well spent. “We need to take the time and learn from the assessment experiments that are going on all over higher education. We also need to build broad and compelling agreement on what twenty-first-century markers of student accomplishment actually look like. And, soberingly, that work is still in draft form.”
Models for Review and Consideration. Competency-based education is not new. Examining the development and attributes of programs currently in place will be critical to understanding their relationship to emerging online education, curricular development, and the roles of faculty and learner. Most important, such a review will provide context for making informed strategic decisions about digital scholarship and online education at your campus.
Some interesting models include the Western Governors University, founded in 1997 by nineteen state governors, which has been steadily developing and extending a program of online degree offerings for over a decade; Southern New Hampshire University, which more recently made significant strides in implementing new models accommodating the needs and academic ambitions of contemporary learners; and—fully a quarter century before the founding of WGU—Alverno College and Empire State College, which began developing bold approaches to ability-based learning assessment. In order to properly study the question of whether or not, or to what extent, to implement competency-based programs, we need to review established ones, including their intellectual, pedagogical, technical, and policy frameworks. The following review of examples highlight what can be accomplished after hard and honest evaluation of institutional strategy and educational opportunity.
Alverno College. The roots of competency-based education stem from traditional face-to-face learning in brick-and-mortar campuses. In 1973, after nine years of focused development, Alverno College launched its Competence Based Learning program. The new program had at its core the idea of “teaching students to learn, internalize, and then externalize and apply knowledge gained in the classroom to their life and their workplace.” The genesis and development of the program is recounted in the July 1985 Alverno Magazine: “Beginning in 1964 and continuing through 1969, the Alverno administration recognized the impact that rapid changes in technology, the economy, politics and sociological shifts were having on the process of educating college students. The complexities of modern society were eroding away the effectiveness of traditional teaching techniques that had been used for centuries.”
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!
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 →
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 →
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. NOTE: Georgianne Hewett, Director for Shared Academics at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal … Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →