The traditional strengths of American higher education – the measured and careful design of curriculum, two and four-year degrees that represent substantial learning over time, a rich coming-of-age experience for those who can afford it, stunning campuses – may not be enough to meet the challenges that lie ahead. For this economic crisis, America needs a higher education industry that is quickly responsive to workforce needs, that can get people retooled in two and four months, not years, that is affordable, and that better accommodates the working adults and under-served populations too often neglected by four-year colleges and universities.
A growing body of practice and innovative and new models of education point the way forward. Overall, reform of higher education requires us to focus on outcomes and rigorous assessment of skills and knowledge. Higher education is consumed with inputs and delivery. We measure how long people sat, using the credit hour as the basis for everything from program design to how we disperse more than $160 billion of federal financial aid every year, instead of measuring what students actually learned. Taxpayers pay for class time instead of actual learning. Innovative institutions and programs such as Dallas Community College, the BYU Pathways Program, Texas A&M Commerce, Western Governors University, and others provide new models, many of them based on competency-based education.
A shift to competency-based learning, where the claims for what students know and can do are tested through performance-based assessments, free us to worry less about delivery and worry more about the actual performance of our graduates and institutions. If employers can be reassured of what graduates know and can do, they will be less concerned with the brand name of the institution, the design of the curriculum, or how long someone sat in class. The benefits abound, including the unleashing of innovation in delivery and greater flexibility for students. For example, if major employers come together around agreed upon frameworks for skills and credentials, the inefficiency and real damage to students created by the current transfer credit system (where credits are lost, costs go up, and racial inequities are exacerbated) could be addressed. Students could own their transcripts, not the institutions they attended – what some have called “student sovereignty.”
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ When The Pandemic Is Over, Will U.S. Higher Education Be Ready To Get People Back To Work?
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