Innovation in Higher Education

February 5, 2015

Harvard Business Review recently did a podcast with David Duncan, a senior partner at Innosight. You can listen to the podcast here. He has some great commentary about how companies are building innovation processes to both generate and execute ideas in a more systematic way. He contends that companies can’t leave innovation up to good luck and chance, but rather that innovation is a way to maintain value and growth.

David suggests that after deciding what kind of innovation to focus on, the next step is to observe the customer and see what needs aren’t being met. In the higher education industry, that means looking at not only our students, but also their potential employers. How can we, as colleges and universities, create and improve programs that give busy learners the skills and competencies that employers need, and how can we do this in the most efficient manner?

It’s a really exciting time to be in the higher education industry because universities and policy makers are attempting to address that question. I’m proud of what’s going on at Capella. We are partnering with industry leaders to design and develop competencies that are aligned to employer needs. And certainly with FlexPath, we are leading the way on efficient, high-quality degree programs by focusing on competency and not credit hours. In my podcast, I recently spoke with one of our first FlexPath graduates, Tapitha Jamison. Click here to listen to her perspective on the program.

Speaking of innovation, Jeff Grann, senior manager of Academic Quality Analytics and Accreditation at Capella, recently submitted a video to Educause Learning Initiatives competition that overviews Capella’s data-driven environment to help support current learners. You can check out all the submissions and vote for his video here!

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(PODCAST): Tapitha’s FlexPath experience and journey

February 4, 2015

Today on the podcast, I talk with Tapitha Jamison, a recent Capella graduate through our FlexPath program.

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I’m really excited about this episode and having the opportunity to speak with Tapitha about her educational journey and experience in our FlexPath program. Tapitha graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration through our FlexPath program, and is walking at our commencement ceremony in March in D.C.

She has a unique story – she got her GED at 39 years old, decided she didn’t want to stop there, and then started at Capella in May 2012 to earn her bachelor’s degree. Tapitha’s experience in the FlexPath and how her life changed after receiving her degree is incredibly inspiring – listen to the podcast episode here.

Transcript

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(PODCAST): Dr. Marcia Ballinger – Being Capella’s 110th learner, writing a book and starting a business

January 28, 2015

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Today on the podcast, I talk to Dr. Marcia Ballinger. Dr. Ballinger has had an incredible career so far – she’s co-partner of Ballinger-Leafblad, an executive search firm, has written a book called “The 20-Minute Networking Meeting“, and earned her Ph.D. in Organization and Management – at Capella! Dr. Ballinger is also chair of the Capella University board.

In this podcast, we discuss what earning her Ph.D. meant to Dr. Ballinger, what it was like being Capella’s 110th learner, advice for those who are starting or changing careers, and insight into starting a business.

You can find the podcast here.

Transcript

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Scott Kinney testifies before Minnesota Senate

January 27, 2015

Capella University President Scott Kinney testified before the Minnesota Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee Hearing today. Scott was invited to speak about FlexPath, Capella’s competency-based, direct assessment program, as an innovative solution to critical challenges facing adult students in higher education.

The reality in higher education is that most college students are not full-time or first-time students, but rather working adults trying to balance school with career and family life. The money and time required in a traditional credit-hour program can make getting a college degree daunting for the average student. FlexPath’s aim is to address the barriers of cost and time by allowing students to progress through a degree program based on what they know and learn and not how many hours they’ve spent in a classroom. As Scott put it today, “In the FlexPath model, learning must take place, but we’re agnostic as to the source of learning. If a 40-year-old with a bachelor’s degree and 18 years of work experience enters into our FlexPath MBA program, the odds are that she has a set of experiences that will allow her to move more quickly through the learning required to demonstrate graduate-level competencies. She shouldn’t have to sit through a ten-week course to receive instruction on competencies she has been practicing for 18 years!”

In FlexPath, students pay a flat fee each quarter, and do as much work as they are able to do in that session. Students are required to demonstrate competencies in their degree program through real-world assessments and they receive feedback and review by expert faculty. Students are then assessed as ‘non-performing,’ ‘basic,’ ‘proficient,’ and ‘distinguished’ against each competency. The amount of time it takes to complete a competency as well as the resources and strategies to accomplish that learning will vary depending on a student’s individual work experience and strengths. In order to ensure that students are prepared for a career after college, competencies are aligned to the needs of employers and standards of professional organizations.

FlexPath is still in the early stages, but the program currently has higher persistence rates and higher student satisfaction scores compared to traditional programs. It is also a less costly option than a traditional credit-based program for motivated students. As Scott testified, “We feel we have a very strong offering today that can provide educational advancement to people who may not otherwise be able to afford it or fit it into their lives.”

As FlexPath grows, Capella will continue collaborate with other industry leaders and perfect the academic model. Scott has participated in several thought-leadership conferences surrounding competency-based education over the last year, including the Aspen Ideas Festival, the New York Times Schools of Tomorrow and the New England Board of Higher Education. “We are learning every day about how best to serve learners in our FlexPath programs; we are gathering data; and we are sharing and learning best practices from others who are engaged in similar programs.” In addition, Capella has been invited by the Department of Education to participate in a series of experimental site initiatives around ways to better deliver a program like FlexPath. Specifically, we are looking at the option of a hybrid program that would allow students to move through certain competencies quickly using a model like FlexPath and allow for standard instruction on competencies with which they are less familiar.

We are fortunate that our organization is headquartered in a community that encourages innovation and leadership in education. Scott finished his testimony today reiterating Capella’s commitment to Minnesota and higher education policy; “As you think about the opportunity that exists in the nexus between business, higher education, and students in Minnesota either through your Pipeline initiative or other work; please know that is the space where we live every single day. As Capella University’s president, I’m committed to being a partner to you in any way I can.”

The audio from the hearing may be found here: http://www.senate.mn/committees/committee_media_list.php?ls=&cmte_id=3072.

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(PODCAST): Data-driven culture and advice for other IT professionals

January 22, 2015

Today on the podcast, I talk to Tracy Smith, our director of information delivery. Tracy and her team deliver timely data to enable informed decision-making all across the organization. Important job. In today’s podcast, we discuss data-driven culture and how important it is to foster it at a workplace. We also talk about the phenomenon of girls moving away from STEM, what brought Tracy into the business intelligence field, and her advice for other IT professionals. 

You can find the podcast here.

Also – excited to announce that next week, Scott Kinney, Capella’s president, will be testifying at the MN State Senate about our FlexPath program. Stay tuned.

Transcript

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