What’s a Breakthrough Degree Program?

Last week, my NGLC colleagues Silke Koester and Nancy Millichap and I chatted with Larry Jacobs of Higher Education Talk Radio about the innovative educational and business approaches of the ten grant recipients from NGLC’s Wave IIIb: Breakthrough Models for College Completion. (Listen to the show.) During the conversation, Nancy explained what we mean when we say “Breakthrough Degree Program” – that is, how these degree programs break away from higher education’s structures as we traditionally know them, from their use of technology to allow faster progress to a degree to personalized pathways, affordable costs, how time is used, and new roles of those who support students. She also described the kinds of students these programs are trying to serve (post-traditional, you might say), the decision-makers at institutions that make these kinds of degree programs possible, and the new Breakthrough Models Incubator that builds institutional capacity and cultivates more breakthrough models in higher education.

Silke shared highlights from three of the institutions as examples of what a “Breakthrough Degree Program” can look like in practice: Southern New Hampshire’s College for America, Northern Arizona University’s Personalized Learning Program, and Rio Salado College. This includes subscription models for tuition with one low-cost, all-inclusive rate, how college-level learning is driven by and built upon the experiences and competencies that students bring with them, and the comprehensive support systems that use technology but rely on advisors, peer mentors, coaches, and instructors.

Though Silke went deep on these three models, all ten institutions in the cohort got a shout-out: Altius Education, Ameritas Hispanic Pathways, University System of Georgia, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, New Charter University, Northern Arizona University, Rio Salado College, Southern New Hampshire University, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the University of Washington. You can learn more about each of them on the Wave IIIb grantee info pages on our website.

For my part, I talked about the connections between NGLC’s postsecondary work with our work in K-12 and the contributions of our K-12-focused founding partners, iNACOL and CCSSO. The challenges of college readiness and college completion are intertwined and we have a great opportunity to learn across both systems of education to improve students’ education and their opportunities for success in life.

Listen to the radio show’s archive at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/highereducationtalkradio/2013/08/28/next-generation-learning-challenges

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