With higher education prices continuing to rise and college degrees remaining a crucial ticket to economic prosperity, it’s certain that someone will rank the economic payoff of going to different colleges. Money’s attempt is one of the best, and more are sure to come.
To continue to use “competency” when we mean “mastery” may seem like a small thing. Yet, if we of the academy cannot be more precise in our use of language, we stand to further the distrust which many already have of us. To say that we mean “A” when in fact we mean “B” is to call into question whether we actually know what we are doing.
Leading organizations are looking at employee development as their company’s differentiator, which means higher education institutions have an opportunity to capture a massive and lucrative market — provided they play their cards right.
The current integrated higher education system is being pulled apart by a range of companies and startups. Currently the university is in the drivers seat. Eventually, the unbundled pieces will be integrated into a new network model that has a new power structure. For entrepreneurs, the goal appears to be to become part of a small number of big winners like Netflix or Google. When Sebastian Thrun stated that Udacity would be one of only 10 universities in the future, he was exhibiting the mentality that has existed in other sectors that have unbundled. Unbundling is not the real story: the real issue is the rebundling and how power structures are re-architected. Going forward, rebundling will remove the university from the drivers seat and place the control into the re-integrated networks.
The legislation reauthorizes a federal law that provides states and municipalities with money for job training. The new law, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, aims to streamline programs and eliminate redundancy. It also creates standardized performance metrics for evaluating how federal money is being spent. The administration also announced as part of the job training executive actions that the U.S. Department of Labor planned to distribute a $25 million competitive grant to create an “Online Skills Academy.”
Competency-based education is still in it's fledgling stage, but more and more collaborative projects are helping institutions eager to get involved. How rapidly will CBE be accepted by employers and students? Does it have reputation or branding problems? How can providers compete with traditional programs with bigger advertising budgets? What kind of partnerships will providers create with industry?
Higher education institutions are abuzz with the concept of Open Badges. Defined as a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest, Open Badges are not only a hot topic as of late, but are also debated by some critics as the latest threat to higher education. A closer look at this emerging trend reveals benefits for traditional institutions and alternative learning programs alike. Some advocates have suggested that badges representing learning and skills acquired outside the classroom, or even in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), will soon supplant diplomas and course credits.
Allowing students who skip standardized admissions tests to apply may help the schools more than it does disadvantaged students. In fact, test-optional admissions policies, as a whole, have done little to meet their manifest goals of expanding educational opportunity for low-income and minority students.
Unfortunately, the good ship Higher Education has gone off course and is heading toward icebergs. Its presidents have disempowered the senior faculty members who actually knew something about education; hired legions of deanlets, deanlings and ding-a-lings who may not know the difference between a classroom and a restroom and certainly do not know the difference between a mission statement and a mission; allowed costs to explode by failing to rein in administrative salaries and unnecessary services; undermined faculty control over the curriculum.
Whether MOOCs will succeed over the traditional university model in the training of undergraduates will be determined by the choices employers make. So a great deal of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the employers. Maybe it is time they had their say.
Taking its first votes on renewing the key higher education law, House lawmakers unanimously approve legislation to boost federal support of competency-based education. But full reauthorization remains far off.