Tag Archives: higher education

Trends in Higher Education 2017

It seems like here in the U.S., higher education is being attacked for being too liberal or not liberal enough or not providing enough instruction in technical, hands-on skills. The new presidential administration will have some influence on the debate through what areas of education it funds. I believe that colleges and universities need to clearly articulate their value proposition. How does our school add value to students? What do we offer that differentiates us from our competitors? How can we better serve our current and prospective students? These are the same questions a business poses when trying to grow and thrive. In this blog I will highlight trends I think will have an impact on how we answer those questions.

Personalization

A 2015 article in EdSurge News defines personalized learning as “technology-assisted differentiated instruction.” The article made a valid point that we are in the business of educating real people and not just a generalization of students. This means tailoring curriculum to current students and their needs. Do you cater to first time students or returning students that have several years of industry experience? It does not make sense to apply the same model to all students. Personalization is particularly difficult when you have a mix of new and returning students, but technology makes it possible to create multiple tracks of the same course so that the outcomes are the same but the paths vary to suit the needs of the students.

High Velocity Learning

Businesses are increasingly asking employees to be more flexible and move faster. The United States Navy recently introduced what they call high velocity learning which means being nimble, flexible and faster at processing change. Educators should adopt the same mindset. This may mean an accelerated program for those who have already proven competencies or modifying the way we test for competencies. This goes right along with personalization and is a hot topic as tuition continues to rise and the length of time spent in college is extended. It is important to review our curriculum to make sure it is relevant, necessary, and promotes our value proposition.

Thoughts

I think in the future higher education will need to be more responsive and flexible and technology will be used to create dynamic curriculum that caters to individual needs. Just as important is an honest review of offered courses to ensure they still prepare students for the future. These are just some of the ways that educators can serve students. Do you have other ideas that will align education offerings with current needs? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Trends in Education: Information Availability

Adult students in a classroom.I have been thinking about changes in education. Some are due to technology advancements, but some are from social changes as we discover new ways of teaching and learning.  This blog post will explore some of those trends and how we might take advantage of shifts to improve higher education.

Information At Your Fingertips

Scott Miller, PhD, president of Wesleyan College, said in an article: “Some faculty voice concerns that the prevalence of information has negated the inclination to learn it.” Some may see improved information access as a threat to their teaching but I think we can use it to our advantage to improve the learning process. I liken this new information availability to the introduction of the printing press. Before then, students relied primarily on their instructors who could read the few texts that were available. Teachers guarded the writings so they alone could dispense knowledge. Written texts were laboriously copied by hand. After the advent of printing, there were more texts available so the general population could learn to read and could synthesize the information for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

In 2016, information is available at our fingertips through smart devices and the internet. My students and I have access to the same information, so my responsibility is to create the learning space and pose questions that will prompt further learning. We share the task of gathering information so that we can synthesize it through discussions into knowledge or even wisdom. Rather than feeling threatened by this, I believe it frees us to focus on ideas and insights.

Experiential Learning

Some disciplines still require experience to fully synthesize information into understanding. Chemistry students can read about the reaction of two mixed chemicals but it’s not the same as personally experiencing the outcome. Civil engineering students can read about load calculations and design principles but until they experiment with models and see the resulting success or failure, do they really understand the principles and can they apply them to real designs? Disciplines that require experiential learning will still need a classroom with the materials to experiment with. But are there other ways to augment classroom learning?

Many employers have onboarding programs to welcome and train new employees. Some of these programs are extensive, lasting weeks, if not months. Would it not be more efficient to shorten the onboarding process and instead bring students in earlier as part of a hands-on expanded internship?  I believe that since we now have so much valuable information available to students and faculty, we can be much more efficient in how we use that information. With the time created by that efficiency, students should be able to apply that knowledge in a real world setting. Students would win valuable experience and potential employers could hire employees with advanced thinking skills and practical experience.

Thoughts

We can take advantage of greater information access by making learning more efficient and effective. At the same time, students take a greater part in their learning and can apply that experience to a successful career. Those are my thoughts but I would love to hear from you.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Competency-Based Education

Man adding a cog gear in a row of old cog gearsI have been reading about competency-based education (CBE) and want to share my findings and thoughts with you. By definition, competency-based education differs from traditional education in that it is not measured by the traditional credit hour. You complete a course of study when you have mastered the skill at hand. That may take a day or it may take a year, or anywhere in between. You pay a flat rate for a subscription time period and how many courses you complete in that time is up to you. Most existing CBE coursework, such as that from the University of Wisconsin, is offered online. If you have already mastered a skill, you can prove it through skills testing and move on to another course.

Credit for Prior Learning

There are two main draws for competency-based education: credit for prior learning and self-paced learning. Learning culminates in a test to demonstrate mastery of the subject, whether you studied for one day or 100 days; the focus is on mastery, not time. A recent Harvard Business Review article stated: “It is vital to underscore, however, that competency-based education is about mastery foremost—not speed. These pathways importantly assess and certify what a student knows and can do.” This is good news for the returning student who has already mastered a particular skill through technical school or on-the-job training. It is also good news for potential employers who want to know what you know and not necessarily how many hours you spent in a classroom. A potential employee could hit the ground running and not have to go through an extensive onboarding program to fill in the gaps from academia to the workforce.

Self-Paced Learning

The other benefit to competency-based education is that each student learns at his or her own pace. If students need more time to complete a topic before being evaluated, they just need to sign up for another block or period. If students need less time to complete a skill because of prior knowledge or training, they can be evaluated and move on to the next course. This lets them move at their own pace and potentially lessens the cost of their education if they are aggressive in taking and passing competencies.

Current Offerings

University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, and Purdue University are among a handful of top colleges experimenting with this new format. Western Governors University has been using a CBE model for almost two decades. There are several for-profit schools as well. Wisconsin now offers seven programs that range from certificates to bachelor’s degrees in IT, sales, nursing, and international business. The University of Michigan offers a master’s degree in medical health professions education. This is targeted at doctors, nurses, and administrators who find themselves in a teaching role. They are targeting professionals who already have a terminal degree but need to fill in skills to ensure they are competent educators. It is completely online and self-paced to fit the schedules of those already working in the health care field.

Thoughts

I think this is a great innovation for educational institutions, students, and potential employers. I believe that the key to making this type of education successful is to form an ongoing partnership between the academic institution and employers to ensure that the competencies that educators are teaching are relevant to the business and industry that will be receiving the newly minted graduate. The employer wins because they know they are getting a competent employee who can contribute right away. The academic institution wins because they have a much larger pool of returning students to draw from and can train them in real world skills.

Is this the new wave of higher education or just a passing fad? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.