Musings for 2012

Musings for 2012

Looking back on my Musings for 2011 (https://shaeffersforays.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/musings-for-2011/), at best I was hit and miss. On the miss side, I don’t know that I saw a great deal of movement away from discipline-based departments as compared to problem-based departments and programs. One of the examples I used a year ago was Michael Crow’s efforts at Arizona State (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/16/crow). I continue to believe that that the great universities and colleges will be those that are responsive to needs of our communities (local to global), and we can best respond through a problem-based approach as compared to a disciplinary approach.

On the hit side, I believe we are seeing growth in “design it yourself” opportunities. Straigterline continues to add partners with the major additions of the University of Phoenix and Western Governors University. In addition, we continue to see growth in open course materials and the latest announcement from MIT concerning the creation of MITx is the logical next step.

Also on the hit side was watching the interesting dance of balancing access with accountability. This push-pull was played out last year and continues to be played out in the enforcement of Department of Education’s state approval regulations.

So what about 2012?

Designing it yourself:
I believe that this trend will only continue to grow. As I indicated above, MIT is offering a new program in addition to their OpenCourseWare (OCW) that will provide greater interaction for students with other faculty and other students and the content. In addition, students who show mastery of the content can receive a certificate, not from MIT but from MITx. For me this is the logical next step in the open courseware movement, providing an incentive to complete the area of study and recognition of mastering the content, i.e., a certificate. Given the need to provide greater access to quality higher education, wouldn’t it be something if we encouraged faculty to design complete courses with this content and these courses would be specifically targeted for under-served students. Heavens, could we actually build a full degree program using open courseware?

Balancing access with accountability:
This will continue to be a challenge with the implementation of regulations such as the state approval regulations from DOE as well as the expanding oversight of regional accreditors. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully supportive of maintaining the quality of higher education no matter how it is delivered. My concern is that we put up barriers that restrict access. To learn more how institutions were responding to the state by state authorization, UPCEA and WCET surveyed their membership (http://upcea.edu/pdfs/UPCEA-WCETExecSumm08-18-11.pdf. Information from 215 institutions from 34 states revealed that the costs of complying with the regulations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and because of the cost as well as the effort required, 59% of the institutions reported that will no longer accept students from some states.

Clearly these regulations while attempting to assure quality have had an unexpected outcome: decreasing access to higher education at a time when there is a national push to increase access.

I am confident we will continue try to find the balance between access and quality.

Measure of success beyond time to completion:
In earlier blog posts I suggested that we need new measures of success of our adult students (https://shaeffersforays.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/how-do-we-measure-success/ and https://shaeffersforays.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/measuring-success-part-2/) beyond time to degree completion. Is time to degree the appropriate measure for adult students who stop out of college due to family and work obligations? Without other measures, do we follow the lead of one of my colleagues who has used the measure of time to degree completion as a measure? As an aside, he found that the time to completion for his students is similar to that of on-campus students.

Going into the New Year, I have two goals for our office relative to measuring success. One is to develop a report related to time to completion for our students in our degree and certificate programs. We must have this baseline information. The second goal is to develop other measures of success that not only better tell the story of our adult degree program graduates, but that also clearly show why our institutions and our state and national government should be supportive of these students and their efforts, and find ways to measure their incredible successes and hard work.

For me, 2011 was a great year personally and professionally. In professional continuing education we have outstanding and giving colleagues. Thanks to all of you. And I’ve been blessed with a great family. Those close to me know that our household went from 2 to 14 people over the holiday, and it was simply great.

So let me end with a note of thanks and a wish for a happy, safe, and productive 2012.

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