The U.S. Education Department must experiment with alternative models, such as stackable credentials and competency-based programs, as part of broader reforms of the nation´s postsecondary-education system, according to a report titled “A Path Forward.” published on 8/12/2013 by the Center for American Progress. The call for reforms aligns with goals of combating rising costs in higher education, addressing workplace needs and clearing the way for innovation.
Competency-based education receives special attention in the report. It calls for the development of standards and measures -based on job placement, earnings, and other factors- to assess the productivity of such alternative models. It also advocates engaging employers in order to better align higher education with workplace needs. Today, employers draw candidates with certain majors but may not know much about their actual workplace skills. Among the most prominent competency-based programs are those offered by Western Governors U. and Southern New Hampshire U.
Existing technology systems are named part of the problem. They buttress a higher-education system that continues to deliver instruction by in-person and online classes held 2 or 3 times a week for up to 15 weeks. These systems will need to be modified significantly to record credits earned not in a classroom but ultimately to be awarded based on an assessment, the report says.
Even bigger changes will need to take place at the organizational level of colleges, with entirely new roles for administrators and faculty members. Some will specialize in the technology used to deliver content, and some will focus on assessment, but both will have little responsibility for instruction. Others will be instructional coaches, helping students through particularly difficult learning modules and competencies.
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