President Scott Kinney participates in The New York Times’ Schools for Tomorrow Conference

September 12, 2014

Today’s guest post is from Capella University President Scott Kinney. 

This week, I was honored to be a part of the New York Times’ Schools for Tomorrow conference in New York.

I participated in a panel on the state of the online university and what lies ahead for online education. Joining me on the panel were Dr. Robert Mendenhall, president and CEO of Western Governors University, Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, and Rafael Bras, provost of Georgia Institute of Technology. The panel was moderated by David Leonhardt, editor of The Upshot of the New York Times.


Much of the panel’s discussion focused on the potential of competency-based programs, specifically the opportunity that programs like Capella’s FlexPath offer to reduce cost and time and improve outcomes. We also talked about the need to improve the alignment of educational outcomes to the needs of employers, and the ability of online programs to personalize learning and utilize data to improve learner success. The full panel session is available here.

Another highlight of the conference was a discussion between David Leonhardt and Ted Mitchell, Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education, about the Department’s plan to create a college rating system that, in addition to other metrics, assesses value for the tuition dollar. Mr. Mitchell gave a shout out to Capella for being a leader of the innovation movement, and for participating in the experimental site initiative. The segment on innovation starts at minute 19:59, and Capella is specially called out at minute 21:47.

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#CapellaGrad – Capella Commencement

August 20, 2014

Today’s guest post is from Capella’s public relations manager, Alicia Amling, on our commencement this past weekend in Minneapolis.

Last weekend, we had over 800 learners and their families join us in Minneapolis to celebrate commencement. This is the event I most look forward to during the year! I met so many graduates with inspiring stories about persevering through life’s challenges while keeping their educational journey a priority. Experiencing commencement first-hand, meeting with the graduates’ families and just listening to their stories is life changing.

Commencement weekend kicked off with a meet-and-greet event. This was an opportunity for graduates to spend time with the faculty who have supported them through their educational journey. For many, this event was the first time they have met face-to-face! It was touching to see how strong their bond was, even if they had never met in person. There were hugs and smiles in every direction.

A fun new component of the meet and greet this year was the social media lounge. It was a great opportunity for graduates—and faculty—to learn more about Capella’s social media sites and how they can use those sites to network and connect. We had a phenomenal team of Capella employee volunteers who stepped in as social media gurus, chatting all things social media and snapping pictures of the grads’ special moments.

In addition, the commencement team organized a touching military reception, where Capella University President Scott Kinney honored our military graduates.

Friday evening, graduates and their families gathered with the Capella University Board and faculty for dinner and a celebration. Souled, a Motown tribute band, performed, and it was a huge hit! During dinner, we hosted live tweeting on large screens for families, faculty, employees and graduates to give shout-outs and share in the fun using the hashtag #CapellaGrad.

Saturday was THE DAY! We had two commencement ceremonies, one in the morning for the School of Undergraduate Studies, the School of Business and Technology, and the School of Education, and one in the afternoon for the Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and School of Public Service Leadership. Many graduates and families joined us virtually through the live-stream at, as well—it was great to see the support pouring in from around the country. Commencement speaker Hill Harper, an award-winning actor, bestselling author and philanthropist, gave a great speech on what it takes to succeed despite challenges one may encounter along the way. It hit the perfect note for Capella’s adult learners who have balanced many priorities in their life while striving for academic excellence.

It was so inspiring to meet and talk with our graduates and their families. The pride and excitement was infectious—I feel so lucky to work for an institution that gets to serve these learners! Looking back at commencement, I feel even more dedicated to Capella and its mission to give adult learners the opportunity to reach their dreams and explore their full potential.

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Additional FlexPath programs approved by the Department of Education

August 6, 2014

I’m excited to announce that the U.S. Department of Education informed us this week that four additional degree programs have been approved in our FlexPath learning model.

The newly approved degree programs in FlexPath, which also have been approved by our regional accreditor, The Higher Learning Commission, are:

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Information Technology;

Master of Science (MS) in Information Systems and Technology Management;

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology; and

Master of Science (MS) in Psychology.

We’re excited to provide further opportunity within our direct-assessment programs to give learners control over the pace of their progress, substantially reduce the cost and time required for degree completion, and better align learning with the needs of learners and employers.

Great news for Capella and, more importantly, for the learners we serve. Please see our news release for more information.

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Big week for CBE

July 24, 2014

Yesterday afternoon the House of Representatives took an important step forward in the advancement of competency-based education. They unanimously passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) to create a demonstration program that would provide a safe place for institutions to work with the federal government on the creation of a regulatory framework that supports competency-based education programs like our FlexPath offering. Michael Stratford at Inside Higher Ed has a good write-up here.

Capella got a nice shout-out from Rep. George Miller (D-CA) during the debate, along with SNHU, the Lumina and New America Foundations, and the Cal State system. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) have a similar bill in the Senate, although it seems unlikely to move this year. Maybe unanimous support for the House bill will change the dynamics in the Senate? We’ll see. Regardless, coming on the heels of the experimental site announcement on Tuesday, yesterday’s action by the House is making for a big week in the world of CBE.

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Advancing CBE through C-BEN

July 23, 2014

As the momentum around competency-based education builds, it needs advocates and organization to serves as force multipliers to advance the cause. C-BEN, the Competency-Based Education Network, is just such a force multiplier. It’s a collection of institutions practicing CBE and outside organizations that see the potential for CBE to provide a more relevant, flexible and less expensive pathway to a degree. It is organized around trying to be a compelling voice for supportive, rational policy around CBE and the sharing of best/emerging practices.

I was privileged to join Dr. Deb Bushway, Vice President of Academic Innovation and Chief Academic Officer and Tracy Smith, Director of Information Delivery, in representing Capella at the meeting. Deb is one of the world’s best people to travel with and it was fun to get to know Tracy better (Tracy was recognized for the contributions she has already made to C-BEN with a little bottle of Grey Goose…so she’s kind of a big deal).

We kicked off yesterday with a conversation with Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education. Paul Fain does a good job of recapping Mitchell’s announcement here, but the bottom line is that the Administration is taking a major step forward in the creation of an experimental site for competency-based education programs. They are creating a safe space for new models to test and learn what works and understand what it will take to create a common-sense regulatory structure to support these new models.

The rest of the day was spent sharing best practices and developing new lines of work for the next three months. Deb and I worked on the communications and storytelling track. The advancement and adoption of CBE programs will be directly tied to the ability of institutions and supporters to articulate its potential benefits in serious and credible ways.

Finally, a big shout out to Alison Kadlec, Amy Laitinen and Mike Offerman (who used to occupy his own Capella blog space) for their leadership on this issue. Excited for the work ahead. See everyone in October.

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