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Report: 5 Models for College Reinvention

How will higher ed evolve over the next decade? According to "The Learner Revolution: How Colleges Can Thrive in a New Skills and Competencies Marketplace," "savvy traditional institutions" will embrace five different models of innovation as they become more responsive to market needs.

The report was produced by Education Design Lab, an organization that has consulted with more than a hundred colleges and universities over the last five years to design and implement new approaches for delivering their programs and increasing student success. Many of the institutions cited as exemplars in the report are among the schools the Lab has worked with.

The models of innovation are:

  • The "platform facilitator," described as "distribution curators" that license courses, credentials and other services from "content providers." Early examples of this include edX and Coursera, both of which are offering mini-masters that may scale into full graduate degrees.
  • The "experiential curator," schools that bundle online and hybrid education with new forms of assessment to create educational experiences that exist outside the boundaries of campus. Minerva is cited as an example, where students begin with a year of study in San Francisco, then head out to different cities around the world to complete their education through a mix of seminar courses and experiential programs.
  • The "learning certifier" takes what students pick up in class, work, gaming and other experiences to "translate them into a coherent whole that makes sense." Northeastern University exemplifies this model, the report noted, by figuring out how to "capture" learning in its many forms — through courses, jobs, internships and co-curricular experiences — into SAIL, its Self-Authored Integrated Learning system.
  • The "workforce integrator" is an institution that draws on employers to help map out competencies and allow faculty to integrate "in-demand workforce competencies" into their courses. Community colleges are stepping to the forefront here, such as Harper College in Illinois, which has developed eight apprenticeships leading to associate of applied science degrees, including uncommon fields such as banking and retail management.
  • The "specializer" model will appeal to smaller colleges that "are known for a niche." These schools will have opportunities to deliver their areas of focus to larger audiences. The report profiled Washington, D.C.'s Catholic University's Busch School of Business, which has found a way to translate faith-based precepts — human dignity, solidarity, subsidiarity and common good — into the curriculum.

"Education Design Lab understands that the forces pushing us toward a more learner-centric ecosystem bring both promise and peril for institutional leaders," said Rufus Glasper in a statement. Glasper, who contributed a foreword to the report, is president and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College. "This paper provides insights from five years at the vanguard of this shift, along with examples of promising new models. It marries a thoughtful depiction of the big trends, with concrete steps that leaders can take to embrace — and accelerate — change."

Along with the report, the nonprofit has also released an "innovation capacity assessment," a set of questions that allow people to get a broad understanding about how well prepared their campuses are for innovation.

The report and innovation assessment are available with registration on the Education Design Lab website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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