Printed in October of 2021.
In College students First, Paul LeBlanc argues that increased training fulfills two elementary missions:
- to create new information, primary analysis, and breakthroughs that deepen our understanding of the world and gasoline human progress
- to unlock alternative and social mobility to permit folks to enhance their lives and the lives of their households and communities
Web page 167.
I like this definition of what we do in academia.
College students First is all concerning the second of those intertwined missions. LeBlanc, president of SNHU, has written a guide that every one of us invested in the concept a college training is an engine of alternative creation ought to learn.
(Disclosure: Paul LeBlanc has been a beneficiant, steadfast, and steady supporter of my tutorial profession over time — and is a beloved colleague to an awesome many people throughout the postsecondary ecosystem).
The central argument working by way of College students First is that the underlying credit-hour system wherein increased training is structured, financed, and operated is poorly designed to fulfill the wants of most learners. In increased training, we maintain time fixed (a semester or time period ends when it ends) whereas permitting studying to be variable.
A system of credentialing based mostly on time, with a typical undergraduate diploma requiring 120 credit score hours earned by way of passing ~forty 3-credit programs, can work effectively for some conventional residential learners. The undergraduate expertise for an 18 to 22-year-old is as a lot concerning the experiential elements of dwelling ]in a neighborhood away from house as it’s about studying.
Nonetheless, that conventional residential expertise applies solely to 13 % of all undergraduates. In a world the place over 80 % of scholars commute or study on-line and 43 % of full-time college students work, the next training system based mostly on time makes little sense.
College students First supplies a concise and clear clarification of how the US increased training system got here to be designed and financed round time, with the credit score hour because the core constructing block wherein the system has advanced.
LeBlanc additionally supplies maybe probably the most simple clarification that I’ve learn on how US increased training is financed and controlled on the federal and state ranges, the position of accreditors, and the outcomes of this technique as measured by ranges of scholar attrition and debt. College students First, nevertheless, isn’t content material to diagnose the numerous shortcomings and failures of our postsecondary system.
If the illness of upper training is that we have constructed a system that depends upon time, the remedy is to alter the design to put studying on the middle.
How may we transfer to a system the place studying is held fixed and time is variable? The reply, argues, LeBlanc, is to prioritize competencies over different measures reminiscent of seat time and grades.
Competency-based training (CBE), as LeBlanc permits, isn’t a brand new concept. However it could be an outdated concept whose time has lastly come. Studying science and academic applied sciences have matured to a spot the place it’s now potential to design tutorial environments and assessments able to constructing and measuring competencies throughout the total vary of educational disciplines.
One of many nice issues about College students First is that LeBlanc isn’t making theoretical arguments for an imagined future. As a substitute, he attracts deeply on the experiences of his personal establishment’s design of competency-based levels by way of SNHU’s Faculty for America. The guide additionally comprises wonderful descriptions of different universities designed round CBE, reminiscent of Western Governors College (WGU).
Whereas LeBlanc sees a path ahead to revamp guidelines round federal loans, Pell Grants, and accretion round competencies as a substitute of credit score hours, he’s clear-eyed concerning the complexities of fixing a system as massive and controlled as US increased training.
As a substitute of arguing for a wholesale change in how universities are financed and run, LeBlanc is asking for house for experimentation. Evolving our instructing, studying, and postsecondary financing system would require a dedication to innovation and iteration.
For LeBlanc, the need to not less than begin to transfer increased training from the credit score hour to a system based mostly on competencies is as clear as our eventual want to maneuver away from fossil fuels and in the direction of renewable.
Within the long-term, the next training system that solely graduates 62 % of public establishment college students and 68 % of personal nonprofit establishments whereas leaving the common scholar over $30K in debt is neither sustainable nor fascinating.
College students First supplies each faculty and college a roadmap to start small-scale experiments in competency-based training whereas additionally offering a framework for the large-scale coverage, financing, and accreditation adjustments that would want to happen to deliver this reform to scale.
Paul LeBlanc has written a guide that every one of us in increased training, together with these of us at conventional research-intensive residential establishments, will profit from immeasurably.
What are you studying?