Making the transition to the academic credentials of the future
To survive, institutions must do more than paper over a fundamental change
The end of a calendar year is often a time of reflection and thinking about future transitions. This final 2021 issue of the Ex4EDU.Report will focus on frameworks to transition to a learning excellence-focused curriculum.
Learner-centric excellence: A P3T transformation
Academia is replete with references to “academic excellence” or “teaching excellence” or “high-quality research.” Each of those ideas suffers under a common fallacy of leaving out learning as an if not the essential purpose of education. These common ideas of excellence misplace their focus primarily on the institution and its workforce rather than on students.
Transforming organizations is never easy and even more difficult in traditional-bound sectors such as higher education. A framework that has proven its worth over time is the people, process, and technology (PPT) model often used by change and transformation practitioners. The addition of “place” to the model to create 3PT creates a holistic foundation for change because humans and the places they inhabit, either physical or virtual, are inextricably linked.
People — With a move to new learning models, more automation of learning paths, and the use of technology, the traditional faculty model of “doing it all” must change. The roles of delivering content, coaching performance, and evaluating student work may be performed by multiple people with specific skills and training rather than by a solo act faculty. Support services for student success must also be attuned to the whole student lifecycle, not just classroom interaction.
Process — A degree program consisting of stackable credentials is a very different learning process than courses offered in a traditional degree model. Semesters and terms will have less or little meaning. Sequencing and scaffolding of learning will need to take place at the micro-content level focused on competencies rather than being viewed as a part of an academic degree program. Evaluating success must move far beyond traditional grading and assessment.
Place — The traditional instructor-centric classroom or “chalk and talk” will be replaced with hybrid online, remote, and personalized experiences. The classroom of the future will include the ability to augment in-person experiences with engaging remote and online content delivery using a whole new generation of digital facilitation platforms, devices, and technology configurations.
Technology — Technology is shown last because it should serve the 3Ps rather than the other way around. A post-traditional degree world will rely on much more than just an online learning system as the technology platform. The use of adaptive learning tools and rich engaging multi-media will be the norm rather than a sideshow.
Learning model transformation: CLAS™
The CLAS™ model presents a full-cycle framework to describe what is needed to transform learning programs to a world where the degree programs of today give way to learning programs of the future. The acronym of the model denotes curriculum, LearningScapes™, assessment, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. The elements are described below.
Curriculum — Curriculum in a post-traditional degree world plays out differently. The end result will be learning pathways designed to achieve mastery of competency sets rather than the attainment of a degree. The starting point will be designing around competencies with varying degrees of knowledge half-lives. Competencies go far beyond job-ready skills and include enablers of personal and team productivity.
LearningScapes™ — LearningScapes add the “how” to the “what” of the curriculum. The approach taken to supporting and delivering learning will vary by what is taught and to whom it is directed. Looking at learning with such an optic allows moving towards context-rich techniques such as experiential, collaborative, and social learning.
Assessment — Notions of assessment must evolve beyond a fixation on testing. The success of learning programs should be gauged based on more than exam results. Approaches incorporating overall performance evaluation and external validation are critical to the new world of multiple learning pathways assisting learners to master competencies.
SoTL — Academia often follows the paradox of the cobbler’s children who have no shoes. The profession is supposedly all about learning, except, it seems, when it comes to learning about learning. The inclusion of the scholarship of teaching and learning in the CLAS model is designed to ensure that curriculum, learning, and assessment improve continuously. SoTL provides a discipline of improvement that is so often lacking in the design and delivery of educational programs.
We are well past the “best-by” date of today’s academic degree model. The next evolution of higher education learning will involve changes in both institutions and what those institutions offer. The existential challenges to today’s higher education model require acting and acting now rather than hoping for a future resembling the past.
About the Ex4EDU.Report
This report is offered as a free-of-charge contribution by Lone Tree Academics, LLC, an educational services company focused on enabling excellence in higher education. Our services are focused on excellence-based practices for the development of institution and program strategies, curriculum design, and engaging LearningScapes™.
For more information visit www.ltacademics.com