metaCAMPUS, Experience API & Assessment Based Learning via Standards of Competency

Bellevue, WA  – 2/3/2014

To all you football fans, Go Hawks! Now on to things that are more important…

When we came into 2014, online education seemed to be on a precipice. MOOCs seemed to have some momentum.

Coursera had just announced a global expansion of its curriculum providers. Some basic business models  evolved. Coursera began to make revenue from its “verified certificates” and grew to over $1 million in annual sales. The future seemed bright when the accrediting bodies seemed at a phase where they were coming to understand competency based education, assessment and continuous improvement (which are much needed core competency knowledge bases to be learned from the private and “for-profit” sector). What happened to all that noise? Are we further along, falling behind? The truth is, no one really knows how to measure education except by budgets or by profits. And so it goes…

The tightening noose of venture capital began to have its sway on young MOOC companies in the transition to 2014. Other than “sequenced certificates” the year stayed mostly quiet for MITx, which followed after Coursera once it had showed verified certificates to be a viable business model; but probably the greatest shocker was: Sebastian Thrun announcing  the departure of Udacity from higher education.

The “god father of online education” could it be that you are frustrated with the system?  Is corporate training and professional development truly the path to follow? Would you follow the way of your local community college CE & Extended Studies department? The battle there is even more difficult – you compete with budget from the academics… who eat up fat contracts from legacy ERP’s that aren’t compatible with the web, with no basis in embracing the web, being open and available for web services etc. So what of corporate and customized training departments? How are they supposed to compete, or are they a dying breed?

The truth is, online education is still missing one big piece. How to differentiate itself when it comes to quality against the brick-and-mortar institution. How does a public online education business create a culture of continuous improvement for itself and in the broader context of the  higher education academy? Does that mean you accept standards? IACEE Standardized Score Cards? Is an international body part of the solution?

One thing seems clear. If we were to implement a common model and framework across all institutions to be able to accept and share tokens of branded worth that could cross reference the student learning outcomes to the curriculum of other such sources we would be closer to solving for the complicated technological challenges of articulation and transfer of students across State  and intra-State lines, as well as streamline a variety of other data driven, value adding capabilities like accreditation review, program review & assessment, etc.

In order to accomplish this, you would need to:

1. Define standards for competency in a mix of programs,

2. Define specific student learning outcomes you might be able to tie an assessment to,

3. Index the student learning outcomes against the courses and programs within an institution,

4. Index this against all institutions within a State,

5. Index multiple States.

6. Tie Student Learning Outcomes to tokens that can be synced with a unique Student ID

7. Allow the Student to be able accept those tokens into their own Store or Backpack

8. Students can Share Outcomes from their Store or Backpack to other sources.

Please use the contact form below for more information:

Technology and the Foundations of Governance in Higher Education

By George Artem for  metaCAMPUS – with a reference to the “Soul” of Higher Education.

Recent articles and heated discussions in academic circles have perpetuated a common perception about a growing crisis in American higher education. Evidenced by the wunderkind pace of the MOOC Movement, our industry is facing disruptive innovation the likes of which it has never seen before. In a book titled “The Idea of the Digital University, Ancient Traditions, Disruptive Technologies and the Battle for the Soul of Higher Education,” author Dr. Frank McCluskey excellently documents the rapid and unprecedented changes in traditional classrooms and institutions.

A quake of external forces is shaking the age-old foundations of the University, and the hallowed ground of academia has evolved into what we might now call the “higher education business.”  This article synopsizes the transformational trends of our diverse national academy and attributes them to several major forces affecting what many now refer to as the higher education business:

1)      The growth of a professional management class within institutions raised by the growing complexity of institutional operations and a trend away from faculty governance;

2)       Increasingly digital classrooms, team based review and assessment of instructional delivery; and

3)      The rising cost of higher education, growth and proliferation of alternatives and overall competitiveness of the bachelor’s degree.

As a result, three distinctive models of institutional governance have emerged – the Teacher-Centered Model, the Bureaucracy-Centered Model and the Learning-Centered model. In totality, the goals of an academy are to break new ground for the development of knowledge through research, to insure academic freedom for its faculty, and to illuminate a brighter future for its constituents. Each of the governance models above effect the ability of an institution to fulfill each of these goals and provide the right value mix for its diverse stakeholders.

Evolving models of governance in higher education

The Teacher-Centered (T) model of governance, a model under which most American universities were established, has been the standard since faculty guilds were first introduced to the world through the very first universities.  In the T model, faculty are in control of institutional operations; each department chair has the last word when it comes to questions or decisions related to their area of expertise, and the professoriate is free to teach their students with little oversight or interference from administration. While the main advantage of the T model is its inherent ability to preserve academic freedom for faculty, the drawbacks are related to the faculty’s effectiveness in certifying the competency of their students and in defining specific, measurable learning outcomes based on the needs of the community they serve.

With the advent of the digital classroom, the T model is eroding. New tools made available to us by the digital revolution enable institutions to gather data about the efficacy of professors lectures, assignments and the overall competency of their constituents in any given student learning objectives. Professors no longer lecture behind closed doors in lecture halls, accountable only to the students in attendance. The new technology increases transparency, and the potential for mass scrutiny.

In the Bureaucracy-Centered (B) model of Governance, management principles and “operational efficiencies” are favored over the more conservative, faculty-centric, approach. While there is still a structural hierarchy within academic departments, and departmental chairs remain important to the institution’s mission, faculty needs are often secondary to the institution’s objectives and administrative mandates related to scheduling, registration, and accounting. We often find this kind of model at community colleges or community college systems that are governed by a district or other parent entity. Here, the business managers define the mission and direction of the institution – ergo the term “higher education business.” While the goals of a B model institution are to be efficient and grow top and bottom lines, the bureaucracy is often self-serving, quantifies enrollment and pays less attention to measured student learning outcomes. The digital revolution provides tools to measure these things, but the bureaucracy often does not understand what needs to be measured.  As a result, the B model is often driven by a “feed the machine” mentality.

The Learning-Centered (L) model of governance, on the other hand, presents a compromise of both the B and T models.  The L model is fostered through the collaboration of faculty and management groups, making the goals of the students the central focus of the institution while also maintaining the academy’s other core responsibilities to academic freedom and research.  In an institution governed by the L model, academic freedoms are maintained; the professoriate is open to the review and assessment of its lectures and teaching methods based off relevant data.  Additionally, the costs are corralled, and the value of the education is assured through a system of constant improvement that can be based off empirical, competency-based evidence of performance.

The role of technology in Teacher, Bureaucracy and Learning centered models of governance

So while we know about the tools that have been implemented to support higher education in the last quarter century, during the growth of the B model, we don’t yet know what kind of tools might be used to support the still evolving L model, nor have we ascertained the role technology should play in these kinds of student-centered institutions.

We do know that B model technology grew out of the complex business and operational requirements of the academy. The use simple of operational abstractions of systems like Six Sigma, or JIT (Just In Time) management, which equate classrooms to widgets on complex assembly lines, have missed the mark completely when it comes to assessing the efficacy of faculty and their responsibility to their students. Technology vendors developed a plethora of software modules to support a fundamentally flawed workflow that links student records with financial aid, bursar, registration and scheduling functions, such that it forgets about tracking or connecting with the goals and outcomes expected by the student.  B model technology, the modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, feeds the machine.

Where B model technology lacks insight is in a broader understanding of the institutional process and the diverse goals of any given institution. Here, the main point is that L model technology needs to be flexible in a way that will allow institutions to embrace the forces driving the digital transformation in higher education. Additionally, L technology needs to be cost effective, and needs to support the workflow related to the student-centric goals of the institution. This workflow starts with the faculty process of assignment and approval of curriculum and accreditation, where student-learning objectives are defined, while scheduling, registration and financial functions remain distinctly separate from or secondary to this essential process.

Tracking student achievement and progression towards degrees should be the central tenant of any educational institution, while adapting to and even facilitating the divergence of educational models should be of primary concern when applying technological infrastructure. Fortunately, with the emergence of new technology supporting the transformation of modern education models, even age-old academic institutions can seamlessly adapt to modern trends while adhering to high academic standards and improving student outcomes.

To take advantage of the modern technology and remain competitive in the ever-changing business of education, institutions must be willing to let go of antiquated systems of governance, embrace the advent of global connectivity and adapt to increasing demand for accessible, transparent and effective educational offerings. Doing so will change the perception of crisis to one of opportunity that will ultimately shape the future of education.