Grantee: Southern New Hampshire University
At a Glance:
Program Name: College for America
Targeted Degree Program: Associate’s Degree in General Studies
Organization: Private, nonprofit four-year institution
Opening Date: September 2013
First Year Enrollment: 500
Anticipated Students Served in First Five Years: 100,000
Tuition Model: $2,500 per year, all-inclusive
Geographies Served: Nationwide
Targeted Students: Working adults with little or no college credit
Project Partners: Business Innovation Factory; Educational Testing Service; Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts; RiverWoods Continuing Care Retirement Community; ConAgra;; Cumberland Gulf; Sodexo; City of Memphis
When Southern New Hampshire University’s Innovation Lab sought to redesign the college model, students were at the core.
And not just any students—in particular, they wanted to find a way to reach, support, and empower “unconfident learners”—those who are familiar with educational failures, unsure of their abilities, or balancing the demands of work and family. These students seek a degree but lack the resources, motivation, or confidence to enroll in a traditional program.
For them, SNHU has created the College for America, a self-paced online program that helps students earn an associate’s degree at a cost of roughly $2,500 per year. The program is designed to support students in their pursuit of a degree by encouraging mentors in the workplace or the local community and by using and measuring a set of key competencies defined, in part, by employers.
The program is defined both by what it offers and what it doesn’t offer. There are no courses, no credit hours, no traditional faculty, and no grades. Instead, students develop an Individual Mastery Plan that outlines the key competencies they will master throughout the course of the program. (The program includes 90 key competencies arrayed across a Mastery Triad of Content Knowledge, Foundational Skills, and Personal and Social Skills, aligned with the Lumina Degree Qualifications Profile.) Students show mastery of each competency primarily by completing tasks that are scored by expert graders using rubrics. With the help of a coach, each student charts a path through the 90 competencies, accessing curated learning resources that accompany each task. Once a student has satisfactorily completed a task, his or her progress is immediately reflected in a dynamic, online Knowledge Map.
Evidence is key. An e-portfolio contains all student artifacts along with the rubrics used to score them. The result is a clear picture of a student’s capabilities in terms defined not by course numbers but by skills employers understand. After graduation, those competencies can be mapped to traditional course credits for students who wish to transfer to a four-year institution.
The model hinges on the assumption that students can and will take control of their own learning. To support them, SNHU has designed a multilayered student support model. Students can interact with peers using social media tools and virtual networks; an SNHU Coach helps hold them accountable to their individual mastery plan, and each learner identifies an accountability partner from the family or community as well as a mentor from the workplace. The university is also working with the Business Innovation Factory to design a user interface that makes sense from the student’s point of view.
The program combines high-touch support with self-determination to build participants’ self-confidence to ensure they stay on track to degree completion.
- Reduce the cost of tuition to $2,500 per year
- Reduce the cost of delivery below $5,000 per year
- Graduate 5,000 low-income, minority students by 2017
- Profile: This at-a-glance document summarizes the key features of this grantee’s breakthrough model through graphics and quick facts. It offers important information about the instructional and financial models, student demographics, hardware and software choices, and contact info. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/NG1228.pdf
- Application Deck: This video offers a snapshot of this grantee’s breakthrough model in its early planning stages outlining the goals, learning environments, and business model. It was originally created as a narrated PowerPoint deck included in their application to the NGLC Breakthrough Models grant competition.
For More Information:
Institution URL: http://www.snhu.edu
Contact: Yvonne Simon, Chief Learning Architect, Southern New Hampshire University Innovation Lab