Northern Arizona wins regional accreditor’s approval for personalized learning program– from by Nancy Millichap

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

It’s all systems go, at last: Northern Arizona University, one of the ten institutions presently developing breakthrough degree programs with NGLC support, recently got the green light to start enrolling students in their Personalized Learning program. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC), NAU’s regional accreditor, approved their application to offer a competency-based degree program that moves away from the credit hour standard to use an approach referred to as “direct assessment” instead. In this approach, students receive credit related not to their presence in a real or virtual classroom for a specified period of time but instead to their successful completion of assessments that show they have mastered clearly defined competencies or are able to perform specific, predetermined tasks. HLC has created a pilot group of four institutions now approved to offer a competency-based degree program: NAU, the University of Wisconsin Colleges (a system of two-year campuses), the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and Capella University.

Three trends in higher education that defy the status quo — from by Debbie Morrison


Leading educators shared their insights and innovative programs – three dominant themes emerged, 1) competency based learning, 2) personalized student learning and 3) the changing role of the instructor. Each presenter shared extensive research in an area of his or her expertise and details of an innovative educational program; programs that provide a non-traditional education that defy the status quo. The summary of the trends follow, with a ‘takeaway’ for each designed to provide readers with practical ideas for application to their own area of study or work.

From DSC:
I was originally going to write this blog posting back in late July, when I read the first paragraphs of a solid article by Laura Pappano at the New York Times entitled, “The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s.”  At that time, I couldn’t help but think…“Houston we have a problem.”

(Disclosure: I completed my Master’s of Science in
Instructional Design for Online Learning in June 2011 from Capella University.)


William Klein’s story may sound familiar to his fellow graduates. After earning his bachelor’s in history from the College at Brockport, he found himself living in his parents’ Buffalo home, working the same $7.25-an-hour waiter job he had in high school.

It wasn’t that there weren’t other jobs out there. It’s that they all seemed to want more education. Even tutoring at a for-profit learning center or leading tours at a historic site required a master’s. “It’s pretty apparent that with the degree I have right now, there are not too many jobs I would want to commit to,” Mr. Klein says.

Then, fast forward to today when I was further reminded to contact Houston Command Control Center (metaphorically speaking) when I read Jennifer Lee’s article in today’s New York Times entitled, “Generation Limbo: Waiting It Out“.

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

“We did everything we were supposed to,” said Stephanie Morales, 23, who graduated from Dartmouth College in 2009 with hopes of working in the arts. Instead she ended up waiting tables at a Chart House restaurant in Weehawken, N.J., earning $2.17 an hour plus tips, to pay off her student loans. “What was the point of working so hard for 22 years if there was nothing out there?” said Ms. Morales, who is now a paralegal and plans on attending law school.

Some of Ms. Morales’s classmates have found themselves on welfare. “You don’t expect someone who just spent four years in Ivy League schools to be on food stamps,” said Ms. Morales, who estimates that a half-dozen of her friends are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A few are even helping younger graduates figure out how to apply. “We are passing on these traditions on how to work in the adult world as working poor,” Ms. Morales said.

The journey on the life path, for many, is essentially stalled.


The reasons that I say that we have a problem here in the world of higher education are probably already clear, but to further elaborate on them (with the lenses of my past experience):

  1. Why should I pay ~$55,000 a year$54,763 for just the 2011-2012 academic year — to go to Northwestern University, only to find out that my $220,000+ investment doesn’t land me an excellent, top-rate job? Are we saying that a degree from NU’s College of Arts & Sciences (CAS as it was known in my day) is not enough of an investment to get a good job? Are we now saying that I need another degree before I can start paying off my ever-mounting debt? (i.e. that gorilla on my back that continues to gain weight and has implications for the types of jobs that I now have to go for, whether I like them or whether I am gifted for them or not)
  2. How convenient for corporate HR and hiring managers to be able to ask for the moon yet again — while often not lifting a finger to help these students/potential employees pay for that education! My experience was that corporations always wanted to have their new employees hit the ground running.  But with a crowd of people applying for each open position these days, I would be very interested to see the data on:
    • What % of today’s corporations are actively helping folks obtain the advanced degrees that they are requesting?
    • What % of the time these corporations do this?
    • What % of their employees do such corporations provide this type of assistance for?
    • What % of the degree — or up to what $$ amount — do they pay for?

      Perhaps it is all to easy and convenient — and good for shareholders — during tough economic times to place all of the burden on the backs of the students/future employees; perhaps there are few incentives for companies to change the way the game is played.

  3. Speaking of incentives…how convenient for higher education to go along with this trend as well.  After all, who wouldn’t want to support an environment that contributes to continued enrollments?


So…that’s why I say, “Houston, we have a problem.”

  • This type of phenomenon and economic environment seems to be stoking the growing dissatisfaction against the costs involved with obtaining a degree within higher education and the perceived/real return on such an investment.
  • Though “times might have been good” these last few decades, such times may be coming to an end; change is in the air..
  • How should we respond within higher education? Within the corporate world? How can we help more students/prospective employees obtain their college degrees?


The world changed, colleges missed it — from by Tom Vander Ark

A bunch of colleges are going out of business, only they don’t know it. They pretend that trimming costs and jacking tuition is a solution.  They haven’t come to terms with a world where anyone can learn anything almost anywhere for free or cheap. Art Levine, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, sees three major change forces: new competition, a convergence of knowledge producers, and changing demographics.

To Art’s list of three big change forces, add shrinking government support, the press for more accountability, and emerging technology…the next few decades will be marked by a lumpy move to competency-based learninginstant information and the ability to learn anything anywhere.

The shift to personal digital learning is on.  Some colleges get that.  Others will seek bailouts until they go out of business.  Working adults are getting smart on their own terms.


From DSC:
Time will tell if Tom’s assertions are too harsh here, but personally, I think he’s right.

I have it that:

  • There is a bubble in higher ed
  • There also exists a perfect storm that’s been forming for years within higher ed and the waves are cresting
    .The perfect storm in higher ed -- by Daniel S. Christian

  • Institutions of higher education need to check themselves before they become the next Blockbuster
    .Do not underestimate the disruptive impact of technology -- June 2009

  • We must not discount the disruptive powers of technology nor the trends taking place today (for a list of some of these trends, see the work of Gary Marx, as well as Yankelovish’s (2005) Ferment and Change: Higher Education in 2015)
  • Innovation is not an option for those who want to survive and thrive in the future.

Specifically, I have it that we should be experimenting with:

  • Significantly lowering the price of getting an education (by 50%+)
  • Providing greater access (worldwide)
  • Offering content in as many different ways as we can afford to produce
  • Seeking to provide interactive, multimedia-based content that is created by teams of specialists — for anytime, anywhere, on any-device type of learning (24x7x365)at any pace!
  • “Breaking down the walls” of the physical classroom
  • Pooling resources and creating consortiums
  • Reflecting on what it will mean if online-based exchanges are setup to help folks develop competencies
  • Working to change our cultures to be more willing to innovate and change
  • Thinking about how to become more nimble as organizations
  • Turning more control over to individual learner and having them create the content
  • Creating and implementing more cross-disciplinary assignments



From DSC:
I was reading a white paper from Tegrity today (see below graphics). It mentioned that the next frontier for lecture capture technologies is focused on developing more personalized learning experiences.




—  A brief aside from DSC:
Reminds me of some of the functionality found in Livescribe’s echo smartpen.


The ability to integrate lecture capture platforms with Learning Management Systems (LMS’s) can help to automate the authentication and authorization needed to ensure learners get to review what they are allowed to review. Integration hooks provided by lecture capture and LMS vendors are viable as methods of ensuring a baseline approach to secure access. Yet most lecture capture systems do not know who the viewer is (as the LMS does the authentication and authorization); they only know that the stream is permitted to play and that students of the course are watching.

This sets the stage for the next transformation of lecture capture solutions – into platforms that can understand not just who their users are, but also what those users need to do and how their experience can be personalized and enhanced.

The coming shift will bring creation of custom learning environments that cater to the individual student by offering personal context-sensitivity, the ability to draw on the knowledge of peers and instructors, and the ability to better manage and monitor each individual learner’s behaviors and customize their experience to their individual needs. Among the major effects of this shift:

  • Democratization of the content creation process as learners themselves contribute to or otherwise use lecture capture tools to learn from or teach others
  • Faster learning by enabling learners to access information more quickly through bookmarks – and placing efficiencies within the platform to streamline teaching and learning
  • Changing impact on educators, who can rely on lecture capture feedback loops based on features like bookmarking to enable them to adjust content and teaching styles to suit learner needs
  • Use of presence and the fact that a system can know a learner to automate and make more efficient the act of finding peers or instructors for further learning interactions
  • Greater ability to deliver content and offer customized features via mobile devices

This white paper focuses on the evolution of lecture capture as a tool for creating a coherent environment for learner-centered instruction, showing the possibilities for improved efficiencies and better learning outcomes.

From DSC:
The integration of a lecture capture system w/ an LMS got me to thinking…what if each person in the world had a constantly-updated, adaptive, web-based learner profile that detailed their current age, current and past places of residence, language(s), hobbies, interests, courses taken, major(s), minor(s), last grade completed, which RSS feeds they subscribe to, which sources of educational content they prefer, etc. Given permission by the student, a vendor’s tool could then query the database and look for particular fields…plugging that  content into their own application for greater context and engagement.

So if a 3rd grader in India loved horses, the math problems could utilize that information to make the problems more engaging to that person.

Hmmm…along these lines, I think I’ll set up some Google alerts to include:

  • Multi-agent systems
  • Adaptive learning systems
  • Artificial intelligence education
  • Distributed e-learning systems
  • Semantic web education
  • Learning agents
  • Intelligent tutoring
  • Online tutoring

The next few years should be veeeerrrryyy interesting. Fasten your seatbelts!

The future of colleges and universities -- from the spring of 2010 by futurist Thomas Frey

From Spring 2010

From DSC:

If you are even remotely connected to higher education, then you *need* to read this one!

Most certainly, not everything that Thomas Frey says will take place…but I’ll bet you he’s right on a number of accounts. Whether he’s right or not, the potential scenarios he brings up ought to give us pause to reflect on ways to respond to these situations…on ways to spot and take advantage of the various opportunities that arise (which will only happen to those organizations who are alert and looking for them).
Also see:
Governor Daniels Announces New Online University for Indiana
Executive Order establishes charter for WGU Indiana, the state’s first competency-based university

Indianapolis — Governor Mitch Daniels today announced the establishment of WGU Indiana,, a new online, competency-based university aimed at expanding access to higher education for Hoosiers. Formed by a partnership between the state and Western Governors University, the nation’s only non-profit, competency-based university, WGU Indiana offers fully accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing.

Indiana Forms Branch of National Online University — from The Chronicle by Marc Parry

Indiana will create a new branch of a national online institution, Western Governors University, under a deal that state leaders announced on Friday.

“Today we mark the beginning of, in a real sense, Indiana’s eighth state university,” Governor Mitch Daniels said in a prepared statement.

The agreement gives a boost to Western Governors’ model of competency-based education, in which students advance by showing what they’ve learned, not how much time they’ve spent in class. Students can also fast-forward their degrees by testing out of stuff they’ve already mastered.

© 2024 | Daniel Christian