Online Educa Berlin 2013

Developing quality-approved accredited competency-based programmes in European institutions Learnshop Session GLL53 on Friday, December 6, 2013 – 11:45–13:15, Charlottenburg I Competency-based education addresses the rising cost of education and supports employability of graduates. It also is a route to how prior learning via OER or MOOCs can be accredited. Work in small groups with the expert panel in this dynamic and interactive Learnshop to grow your theoretical and practical understanding of competency-based higher education and develop thinking on implementation of this model in a European context. Overview The purpose of this 90-minute Learnshop is to introduce a proposed new generation of Bologna approach to university programmes, based primarily on competences gained not on time measures (of undergraduate and graduate programmes), and to facilitate participants’ understanding of this via a workshop where they work on the issues raised by potential programmes which conform to this new paradigm. Competency-based education was pioneered by Western Governors University. It is now approved for loan funding under new federal US regulations: several other US universities, including members of the OER U consortium, are now offering competency-based programmes. This approach is seen as key to the future success of online learning in general and of open educational resources and MOOCs in particular. Paul Bacsich leads the workshop. He is the project manager of the POERUP project (Policies for OER Uptake) and a strategic advisor on university models (Bacsich 2012). He has developed a “Bolognabis” approach for competency-based higher education for application in Europe (Bacsich 2013a). He will be aided by two expert co-presenters, Margaret Korosec and Ryan Craig, both with substantial US experience in this field. Ryan Craig is founder and Managing Director of University Ventures with responsibility for university investments in California and Europe. (University Ventures is a venture capital firm investing in online universities with funds from US sources and Bertelsmann Publishing, Germany.) These investments include UniversityNow, whose institutions offer a competency-based approach. He is also a Director of Bridgepoint who set up Ashford University. Formerly he headed the Education & Training sector at Warburg Pincus from 2001-2004, and served as VP Strategic Development for Fathom, the Columbia University online education company, from 1999-2001. Margaret Korosec is an e-learning consultant now a PhD student at the University of Hull (UK) whose doctorate is on change management in universities in their transition to technology-enhanced learning: she was formerly Learning Resources Manager at Western Governors University, the pioneer of competency-based higher education.

Developing quality-approved accredited competency-based programmes in European institutions

Paul first introduces the workshop (5 minutes) then describes the proposed Bologna-bis hybrid competency-duration scheme (15 minutes). This is followed by three presentations (10 minutes each) by his co-presenters. Margaret speaks first on a) Western Governors University, the pioneer of competency-based education, then Ryan on (b) UniversityNow, a private university funded by University Ventures and (c) Margaret again on the impact of the regulatory regime in the US (especially the regional accrediting bodies) on competency-based education. There will be 10 minutes for questions. For the next 25 minutes of the programme the group will split into up to three subgroups. Subgroups can choose their own topics but we suggest that (i) EU-level policy-makers may wish to discuss how to bring about Bologna-bis at an EU level, (ii) university staff may wish to discuss mounting specific competency-based pilot programmes in their universities (topics such as IT, business, nursing and education are suggested) and (iii) staff familiar with quality and accreditation may wish to discuss adapting the approach of their national quality agencies to support competency-based education Each subgroup should produce a small number of take-away messages for the plenary group to review at the end. The three co-presenters will interact with these groups as needed. There will be a brief plenary (5 minutes) of take-away messages at the end. Participant Benefits Participants will gain both a theoretical and a practical understanding of competency-based higher education and how to implement it in a European context, in a way compatible with Bologna and likely to be approved by the relevant quality agencies that are members of ENQA, within the European Higher Education Area. Additional information What did this initiative/project do? The initiative started in a small way in 2011 (Bacsich 2011) but took off due to a request from the European Commission to produce a “vision paper” (Bacsich 2013a) for Open Education in 2030. It has also been incorporated in a policy paper for OER and MOOCs for EU agencies (Bacsich 2013b) The team has interest from a specialist LMS vendor and is working towards one or more European pilots. Why was the initiative/project undertaken? In summer 2011, research studies by Paul Bacsich (2011) on the topic of “time and e-learning”, in the context of his other work on virtual institutions and quality procedures, led him to the strong belief that the current obstacles to further development of university-level online learning could best be overcome by the development of a competency-based approach to higher education; and that such an approach would also solve a number of related issues of global quality, accreditation and funding of higher education institutions and programmes. In early 2013 it became clear to him during his work on POERUP that the seemingly intractable problems of accreditation and quality surrounding MOOCs were also susceptible of solution using this approach.


Developing quality-approved accredited competency-based programmes in European institutions

What were the results of the initiative/project? The project is at an early stage. It has produced two main papers on the European aspects of competency-based education, the theoretical underpinning (the researches on “time”) and a vision paper. However, the work integrates with a more substantial literature on the US aspects. This Learnshop is believed to be the first such workshop outside the US on the practicalities of competency-based higher education. What impact did this initiative/project have? The project is at an early stage. However, the research paper on “time and e-learning” has had wide distribution since its initial presentation at the Microlearning 5.0 conference in 2011 at Graz (Austria); and the vision paper was submitted to the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) of the European Commission for its summer 2013 meeting in Seville (Spain) and published in its series of “Open Education 2030” vision papers on Higher Education. Interestingly, several other authors of these vision papers also remarked on the need for competency-based education but none put forward a detailed scheme. POERUP recommendation EU.HE.5 The Commission and related authorities developing the European Higher Education Area should reduce the regulatory barriers against new non-study-time-based modes of provision: in particular by developing a successor to Bologna based primarily on competences gained not duration of study. References Bacsich (2011) The cost- and time-effectiveness of online learning: providing a perspective on Microlearning and the differences between academic and corporate views (17pp). In Microlearning 5.0, Bacsich (2012) Alternative Models of Education Delivery (12 pp). In UNESCO Policy Briefs, Bacsich (2013a) A liberal arts/science Competence-Duration model for universities within an Open Qualifications Alliance international framework for student global mobility: A realistic vision of European society in 2030 and the universities that that serve that best (9 pp). In Open Education 2030, and also separately at Bacsich (2013b) Policies at EU level for OER Uptake in universities (34 pp), POERUP Deliverable D4.2U, September 2013, Center for American Progress (2013) Meeting Students Where They Are: Profiles of Students in Competency-Based Degree Programs,


Developing quality-approved accredited competency-based programmes in European institutions

IFAP (2013) Applying for Title IV Eligibility for Direct Assessment (Competency-Based) Programs, MSA CHE (2009) Middle States Commission on Higher Education: Degrees and Credits,[1].pdf - see especially the section on “Federal Regulations Regarding Competency-Based Programs”. Selected URLs        Western Governors University – UniversityNow – Ashford University – POERUP – with wiki at Bologna Process – Competency Works briefing papers – US Federal financial aid and competency-based education –

Other interesting competency-based institutions include:  Capella University - and see especially Northern Arizona University - and see especially Portmont College – and see especially Southern New Hampshire University, a member of OER U – and see especially University of Wisconsin Extension - and see especially and Community colleges -

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Two relevant articles from respected analysts are:  