Right Place, Right Time
There were a few articles and reports that called out to me to get off my duff and write a few thoughts for Shaeffer’s Forays.
Quick update for those who might be interested. Still learning a great deal about what it means to be a founding dean of the new College of Continuing Education and Professional Development at Old Dominion University. One thing I continue to marvel at is that it is fun when you are making it up. More on that later.
One article and one report that I’ve read recently remind me that those of us in professional continuing education are truly in the right place and at the right time. The article is “Higher Education Options Respond to Market Demands” in Investors.com (http://news.investors.com/management-leaders-in-success/020415-737835-higher-education-responds-to-market-demands.htm) The author argues that “As tech improves and tuition soars, higher education is transforming big time.” For those of us who attended UPCEA’s Summit for Online Leadership and Strategy a couple of weeks ago, we found this to be true in spades.
If we look at these “big time changes” we often find professional continuing education units leading the way. For example, we learned about Georgia Tech’s collaboration with AT&T for the Master of Computer Science. This is one of the first examples where MOOCs meet actual degree programs. And leading this effort is Georgia Tech’s Nelson Baker, the Dean of Professional Education. The best part is that Nelson shares the pluses and minuses of his experience, helping us as we engage in our own decision making process of similar efforts.
The author Ryan Craig is quoted in the “Higher Education Options” as indicating that the future of higher education will look like this: “’A student can walk into a school and say, ‘I want to become an environmental engineer,’ show her competencies and ask for a program that will fill the gaps.’” And what this screams about are the recent developments in Competency Based Education. Again, many of the leaders in this area are coming from our professional continuing education colleges and schools. And, these leaders are also very open about sharing their experiences. A great example is David Schejbal at University of Wisconsin Extension and their UW Flexible option.
Another “big time change” is that higher education is not only offering degree programs but are also developing noncredit programs built on “industry standards…and recognized by industry leaders.” I think most of our professional continuing education units are looking at such things as mini MBAs, nano degree programs and other efforts that are just in time knowledge and skills. I must admit that one of the things that I’m enjoying in the Hampton Roads area is that we have many large companies and industries, including the military installations that need this type of programming.
Another recent report is , “Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States,” lead by the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania graduate school of education and the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. The report painted a very bleak picture of the continuing gap in college attainment by income. One of the gaps reported has to do with degree completion: “In 2013 individuals from the highest-income families were 8 times more likely than individuals from low-income families to obtain a bachelor’s degree by age 24 (77 percent vs. 9 percent). This income gap in bachelor’s degree attainment is not only quite large (66 percentage points), but also greater than 43 years ago. In 1970, students from high-income families were 5 times more likely than students from low-income families to have earned a bachelor’s degree by age 24 (40 percent vs. 6 percent).” (http://www.pellinstitute.org/downloads/publications-Indicators_of_Higher_Education_Equity_in_the_US_45_Year_Trend_Report.pdf)
There is no doubt in my mind that those of us in professional continuing education have an important role to play in reaching those who are underserved by higher education. We do this by providing degree completion programs that build seamlessly on community college degree programs. We do this by providing flexibility in how we deliver our programs. We do this by providing appropriate student support services for our students. And we do this by providing a wide variety of programs that assist our students in obtaining knowledge and skills to advance their lives and their careers.
What I love about our field of professional continuing education is that we have the opportunities to be at the leading edge of such things as MOOCs and other technologies and at the same time, developing and delivering programming that help to address major challenges facing our society.