In the new report, “Transformations Affecting Postsecondary Education,” researchers discuss the current problems faced by higher education and recommend changes to the education system. Namely, they suggest to make learning more personalized as postsecondary education extends beyond college and into a platform for lifelong learning.
The report suggests using a variety of approaches to create a “network of learning.” This network would utilize approaches such as competency-based education, online education, personalized learning, boot camps and micro credentials. The result? Higher education would depend less on credits earned and more on experience to measure learning. Colleges and universities would also have a collaborative relationship, meaning students could easily move between institutions. Higher education would have “more on- and off-ramps,” allowing students to take breaks to gain work experience and continue learning throughout the course of their careers.
The goal of creating this network is to reduce the amount of time it takes students to receive a degree, reduce the cost of higher education and create personalized methods of learning and demonstrating knowledge.
Institutions such as the University of Wisconsin and Northern Arizona University have already introduced self-paced degree programs. These programs use the competency-based education method discussed in the report. In that way, students earn their degrees by working at their own pace and showing what they know, rather than sitting in class for a specified amount of time. Self-paced degree programs are offered at a flat tuition rate per semester and students can take as many classes as they want within that time.
Online courses are also going to play a large role in this network as higher education is reformed. Online learning is flexible, where students are guided by online coaches and earn badges and micro credentials to put in an online portfolio, similar to the format Next Step Academy uses. The portfolio would be a useful tool to gauge where there are gaps in knowledge which students can fill with more education later on. Students can also take this portfolio with them to different institutions and use it to showcase their skills and knowledge to potential employers.