competency-based education, higher education in the connected age

Postsecondary Trending Now: Competency-based Education, the Connected Age

Editor’s Note: With this post, NGLC launches a new monthly series on the latest news and reports in the field of next generation learning. This post focuses on postsecondary education. Next week’s edition will look at what’s new in the K-12 world. Each month we will continue to blog on contemporary K-12 and postsecondary issues.

One of the more captivating issues we’ve been watching is the federal guidance regarding financial aid funding eligibility for competency-based, self-paced degree programs. This new policy position clarifies the removal of an important barrier for institutions that wish to implement competency-based degree programs, like those of Southern New Hampshire University’s College For America, Northern Arizona University’s Personalized Learning Division, and others awarded grants in NGLC’s third wave of funding for breakthrough college completion models. The federal guidance was reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed on March 19.

Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, discussed the federal move as important for removing a barrier for competency-based innovation. He focused most of his discussion, however, on the institutions that are creating new approaches to improve student outcomes through competency-based learning and those that are working diligently to define the learning outcomes tied to a degree, such as the more than 200 institutions piloting the Degree Qualifications Profile to indicate what students should know and be able to do when they complete their degree. Public attention given to competencies, and the degree programs that organize around them, is growing. We are reading about the growing number of institutions looking to competency-based learning to expand access to affordable postsecondary education. And we are looking out for stories about accreditation of competency-programs, from reflections on President Obama’s State of the Union Address to reflections by Southern New Hampshire University’s president Paul LeBlanc on accreditation in an age of next generation learning.

We also are following EDUCAUSE’s interest in higher education in a connected age. We were listening in as our parent association’s president Diana Oblinger introduced the concept of the “connected college” at the League for Innovation in the Community College’s Innovations 2013 conference in March. There she discussed how tech-based approaches at connected college’s reveal, reinvent, and reset pathways for students toward their degrees. Read “Dean Dad” blogger Matt Reed’s take on her presentation and the link between these tech-facilitated pathways and behavioral economics. And while you’re at it, you may want to read Oblinger’s own commentary in EDUCAUSE Review Online from just last week where she notes our society’s transition from the information age to the connected age and the role of technology as connector. Higher education’s focus on knowledge and learning rather than transfer of information works well in a connected society. This is an interesting lens to consider the work of NGLC grantees—how are their innovations making those connections possible? How they are making stronger connections for more students?

What else are we following? Here’s a short list:

And now we want to know: What news and issues are you following?

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