INSIDE HIGHER ED: Profit and Competency

Career College Central Summary:

  • Kaplan University will now offer personalized “competency reports” to its 45,000 students. The announcement is the for-profit institution’s biggest move into competency-based education so far, adding momentum and, perhaps, risks for the emerging form of higher education.
  • The university has been crafting its approach to competency-based education for more than a decade, said Kaplan officials.
  • The project began by identifying specific competencies that students must master in general education courses, said Betty Vandenbosch, the university’s provost. About six years ago Kaplan started incorporating those general-education competencies across the curriculum. Then, in 2010, the university introduced assessments that seek to measure students’ mastery levels of course-level requirements.
  • Kaplan also has begun breaking its courses into modules, starting with programs in business, IT and health care. And a new pilot program in business includes some flexibility in pacing, Vandenbosch said. Students can go faster by demonstrating competency in modules, but the start and finish dates of courses are not flexible.
  • As a result, Kaplan’s modular experiment will stop short of discarding the credit hour. Six institutions have received the U.S. Department of Education’s approval for programs with that approach, which is called direct assessment.
  • For a final piece, Kaplan last month introduced new professional competencies across the curriculum. Those measures are of students’ abilities in practical, workplace-relevant areas, including communication, teamwork, critical thinking and personal presentation.
  • The company drew from those various elements in the new competency reports, which will complement traditional student transcripts with grades. (Click here for an example of what one might look like.)
  • A handful of other colleges have begun experimenting with competency-based student reports. Northern Arizona University, for example, in 2013 created a second transcript for students in its growing competency-based programs.

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