Fish Out of Water: My Trip to the HLC

May 26, 2011

It’s safe to say that the Higher Learning Commission’s annual conference is not the most natural place for me to spend a weekend. I suspect that if any of my beleaguered former professors saw me there they would have turned around and gone home. But, last month, in a moment of excitement over the presentations Capella was making at the conference, I raised my hand and our interim President Deb Bushway graciously agreed to let me tag along.

I arrived on Saturday morning, secured my complimentary tote bag, and headed straight into a presentation the HLC invited President Bushway to make titled “Using Action Analytics to Improve Student Learning and Meet Accreditation Expectations.” I was surprised to see that it was standing-room only. That’s not hyperbole…my tote bag and I couldn’t get a seat. Deb took the audience through a serious discussion of our outcomes-based curriculum, instruction and assessment model, including demonstrations of our curriculum mapping, rubrics and learning outcomes assessment reports. The audience was extremely supportive and there was not enough time for Deb to answer all the questions people had.

During the Q and A, Deb’s presentation was called “fantastic” and “challenging.” The next day, Deb and Brian Barton, faculty chair with Capella’s School of Undergraduate Studies, presented a more detailed version of our action analytics capabilities.

We weren’t the only ones presenting or talking about the measurement of learning outcomes, but it was great to see the level of external interest in the work we are doing. We know we have a long way to go with our action analytics capabilities, but this is truly the kind of work that will shape the future of higher education.

Additionally, Sharyl Thompson presented on state authorization, an increasingly important issue in light of the new Department of Education regulations. As Sharyl’s reputation and Capella leadership in the area of state authorizations grows, it’s a great way to build Capella’s reputation across all of higher education, especially since many of the attendees at the state authorization sessions are from state and private universities.

The HLC is tackling some of the most important issues facing higher education today and Capella was a big part of the discussion.

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