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The Reach

  • October 10, 2013 4:46 PM | Deleted user

    "A 'Disruptive' Look at Competency-Based Education" from the Center for American Progress

    Competency Based education IS the future.  Those who haven't figured this out have their heads stuck in sand.  The question is What does it actually mean and what will it take to move your institution that direction.  The article at the link above is touches on these points and provides a good discussion starter with your academic departments.  Institutions which neglect these conversations are going to be sad sooner than later.

    It would be interesting if we were to engage in that conversation here within the ACCESS Blog.

  • September 12, 2013 11:41 AM | Deleted user

    The White House issued a news release today entitled: "Fact Sheet on the President's Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class."

    I encourage you to take the time to read the article at the link above.

    Regardless of your politics, the issue of rising college costs and low graduation rates coupled with high debt should be a major concern for us all. President Obama's proposal addresses some of these concerns and exhibits innovative leadership in an area which is complicated and caught in a quagmire of bureacracy . . . depending, of course, on what these proposals will actually look like once implemented.

    Some of the highlights from my perspective:

    Paying for Performance

    • If the new college rating is actually balanced and takes into account the demographic of today's college student (which IPEDS does not) then this would be great benefit to students. I'm not as hopeful that the DOE can pull off a balanced and fair metric.
    • Tying state and federal funds to performance should be interesting to say the least as gauging performance has always been a challenge for academia. I can see this being resisted by many four year public universities some of whose faculty have not had to face the challenge of relevance for their entire career.
    • I truly like the part about holding students and colleges receiving student aid responsible for making progress toward a degree. Honestly this is the way the funding should have been setup in the beginning and most of the real problem (which is focused on blaming some schools for abuse) is because the system wasn't setup correctly in the first place. This has the potential to fix it, although there will be a lot of individuals who have been "playing" the system who will be disappointed that they will actually have to make progress on a degree to keep getting the funding. Who knows, they might eve graduate.

    Promoting Innovation and Competition

    • I think this area is a little scarier. According to the news release there will be some money available to community colleges and "approved" universities to explore innovation. This, in concept is a good thing, however, I can see some pot-holes in the road ahead as the implementation of almost all innovation in higher education finds significant barriers in faculty acceptance and administration budgeting. Also a consideration is the small school who is comfortable doing things as they've always done them now being confronted with the challenge to change and change radically. This will, I believe, catch many unaware and could result in some serious competition leading to closing schools (maybe a good thing??? I don't know, we'll see).

    Ensuring that Student Debt Remains Affordable

    • I applaud the initiatives in this area as I know many personally who are carrying significant debt and I think this will help.

    Altogether, I am hopeful that these initiatives will make a difference, but I can also see some difficult days ahead as colleges and universities try to get a handle on what this new future will look like once the dust has settled.

  • August 19, 2013 9:43 AM | Anonymous
    What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
    Rick Upchurch, Former President, ACCESS
    March 5, 2013
    "President's Report"

    My first ACCESS conference was in Dallas, Texas.  I was immediately impressed with the real sense of professional collegiality and willingness of the members to share and collaborate.   As the years have gone by, I have continued to be impressed with the passion our members bring to serving students, and assisting each other on the subject of distance education.

    The title of this, my final, report as president is "What Got You Here Won’t Get You There."  I borrowed the title from Marshal Goldsmith’s book by the same title.  I want to take a few minutes to look at what has gotten us “here,” and touch briefly on what might be involved in getting us “there.”
    Some of the things which have gotten us here:
    • Hard work
    • Dedication of time, talent, and resources
    • Ethical conduct and values based mission
    • Passion for student learning
    • A willingness to take risks and innovate
    If all this has gotten us here, and we can assume it will be needed to get us "there," what more needs to be added?  Some might suggest that nothing more is needed; that if we keep doing what we've always done, things will get better.  But I've also heard this kind of thinking is the definition of insanity. I have an idea there might be something else needed to get us "there."

    We exist in an interesting profession at an interesting point in history.  Higher education is steeped in the traditions of the past.  We are forced to deal with that reality in almost every faculty meeting.   We have innovated, but only within the paradigm of what higher education has always done, albeit with constant struggle against the traditionalism of many of our colleagues and institutions.  The growth of distance education in the academy has come as a surprise to many of our colleagues, even as those of us closer to the technological front could have easily predicted.  This struggle in awareness and acceptance is not fully resolved and may not be for some time.  However, the pervasiveness of this delivery venue will eventually break through even the hardest heads at our institutions, or, sadly, they will retire in consternation of their perceived lessening of the educational process.  We who are at the forward edge of these changes applaud the new wave and bemoan our colleagues who haven’t been able to adapt.  Secretly we even believe ourselves to part of a new elite, which, although somewhat suspect now, will eventually be recognized for the saviors of higher education that we feel ourselves to be.

    But, again, all of this is part of the broader paradigm which has essentially not really changed.  It is our “here.”  However, the advance of technology and a societal shift in perspective has already begun to suggest that there is a “there” which will not be effectively served by the old paradigm, even in these new clothes.  Do we want to go there?  Should we go there?  Can we afford to go there?  Perhaps more importantly, can we afford NOT to go there?

    One of my co-workers told me last week his 10 year old wanted a Nexus 7 for his birthday.  Another told me that he gave his 5 and 8 year old children Kindle Fires for Christmas.

    The advent of MOOCs, the Western Governors competency model, social media, always-on pervasive knowledge available on any subject, usually including how-to videos, and the flattening of our world with the accessibility of mobile technology points to a “there” for higher education which, although nebulous at this point, is becoming visible. This was made even more clear in the presentation by Robbie Meltoisoniazid mobile technology and her 70,000 mobile applications.  Echoing her words  all I can say is "Oh my gosh what is coming in our future?"

    So, what will we need to take us “there?”   I am a big fan of scotomas. You know what a scotoma is don't you?  A scotoma is a way of looking at things that overlooks, ignores, or is ignorant of, the possibility that there are other ways to see the same thing with a completely different effect.  The only way to overcome a scotoma is with assistance. That is what ACCESS and other engagements in the collective dialogue provide for us: the opportunity to see the future as we challenge each other and the scotoma that we have known up to now as "higher education."  We have to stay engaged in the conversation and not fall prey to isolationist, or worse, elitist, thinking.    We can get "there" if we go there  together. I am convinced that the "there" of the future will require an unprecedented level of collaboration amongst our institutions, and I am convinced that ACCESS and other conferences  and organizations like it, are part of our solution to get us "there."

    It has been my pleasure to work with some amazing people on the ACCESS Executive Committee such as Mary Lowe, Kevin Mahaffy, Michael Wilder, Jason Baker, Michael Freeman, Mindi Thompson, and Chris VanBuskirk.  I am confident in their leadership in the coming years to help us find ways to see this new scotoma that will become higher education, because what has gotten us here will definitely not get us "there."

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