The Capella learning community [INFOGRAPHIC]

December 4, 2013

Our current infographic showcases the unique learning community at Capella University. Our professionally minded students span all 50 states and 61 countries. What makes our learning community unique is that 95% of our students attend part-time and have an average age of 40. This snapshot reflects the changing face of higher education – it is time to focus higher ed policy on this emerging reality.

By measuring learning on a direct assessment model over the measurement of time, we will have the potential to allow students, especially working adults, to complete their degrees faster and pay less. Capella’s FlexPath model aligns specific competencies with the needs of employers as well as critical societal needs, and provides busy working adults the flexibility they need to complete their program.


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Competency-based education and the real world

December 3, 2013

Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, recently published an article that dives deeper into what competency-based education should encompass and what the student’s role in becoming “competent” should be.

“If Competency Is the Goal, Then Students’ Own Work Is the Key to Reaching It” makes a point about competency-based education that Capella works to embed in our curricula and institution. Competencies must reflect broader intellectual and civic outcomes, as well as professionally-aligned outcomes. Demonstrating competency in both these areas is crucial for students to earn the kind of education and degree that opens up more opportunities and lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Schneider states it well; what competency-based education efforts should really emphasize is “students’ demonstrated ability to connect their learning with real-world challenges, in their jobs, their communities and their own lives.”

This is exactly what Capella’s system of authentic, fully embedded assessments allows us to measure from within our competency framework.  Learners must demonstrate the ability to apply theory (learning) with a real world situation through the creation of a work product that approximates the type of work that would be expected when faced with “real world challenges”.

Schneider emphasizes the importance of the student’s role in their own learning, “The fact is that students learn what they practice. If competency is the goal, then students’ own effortful work on projects, papers, research, creative task, and field-based assignments is the key to reaching it.” It is important that competency-based education programs stay dedicated to what “true” competency means, and model their curriculum after this concept.  That will help ensure their students are given the full set of tools to succeed, and the work they do in the course reflects a person who is competent both professionally and societally.

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Capella’s VP of Academic Innovation to Present at CAEL Conference

November 6, 2013

Just as we get a bit of snow here in Minneapolis, Deb Bushway, Capella’s vice president of Academic Innovation and I are off to sunny San Diego to the 2013 Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) International Conference. Deb will be busy as a both a panelist and presenting during the two-day event.

CAEL is a nonprofit that advocates and innovates on behalf of adult learners to increase access to education and economic security. It’s especially important for a school like Capella with a mission of providing high-quality access to adult learners to actively participate in the dialogue on higher-ed innovation, affordability and completion.

Be sure to join the conversation and ask questions on Twitter using the hashtag: #CAELconf

Deborah Bushway, Ph.D., LP, vice president of Academic Innovation at Capella University.

Deborah Bushway, Ph.D., LP, vice president of Academic Innovation at Capella University.

Deb’s schedule details:

Thurs, Nov. 7

8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m: Deb is a panelist for “Innovative Disruptions in Higher Education,” that is being moderated by Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University and Chair of the CAEL board. Other panelists include: Marie Cini, Provost of University of Maryland University College; Anthony Beebe, President of San Diego Continuing Education, San Diego Community College District

11 a.m.-12:15pm: Deb will be co-presenting “The Promise and Peril of Online Learning.” Joining her will be Carolyn S. Taylor, director of program development for Inside Track; and David Epstein, executive director of Online Programs for Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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Capella Featured in the New York Times

October 29, 2013

Earlier this year, President Obama issued a call to improve college affordability and encouraged more colleges to innovate with cutting-edge practices. The need to provide high value and increase college affordability continues. With that, I am excited to share that Capella is featured today in an online piece about competency-based learning in the Ed Life section of the New York Times.  ( We expect the piece to run in their print edition on Sunday, November 3. The piece focuses broadly on competency-based learning and direct assessment – specifically mentioning Capella’s FlexPath learning model.

Students in Capella University's FlexPath program can see how many criteria they must complete to achieve each competency. Colors indicate how well the student is doing.

Students in Capella University’s FlexPath program can see how many criteria they must complete to achieve each competency. Colors indicate how well the student is doing.


Our innovative model can lower the cost and time needed to complete a degree. The article features Capella under a list of competency-based programs and highlights an impressive graphic of our competency map. The piece closes with strong quotes from Capella’s Vice President of Academic Innovation, Deborah Bushway.

Capella recently received approval by the U.S. Department of Education to offer FlexPath as the first bachelor’s and master’s degree programs utilizing direct assessment. The FlexPath model offers the potential to significantly reduce the cost of a degree, accelerate the time required for degree completion, and better align learning with the needs of learners and employers. The direct assessment approach no longer relies on credit hours or seat-time requirements to measure learners’ success and allows Capella to focus on learning outcomes instead. It is important to note that our faculty will remain at the heart of Capella’s FlexPath model as they provide feedback and guidance for students working to demonstrate and master competencies.

I encourage you to check it out and share your thoughts with me.

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Together for Good Campaign Kicks Off Today

October 25, 2013

TFG Band

The Together for Good campaign is Capella University’s annual employee giving campaign. The spirited two-week campaign is an incredibly energizing time at Capella. Employees are given the opportunity to participate in many different fundraising events, become educated on the needs that exist in their communities, and be part of the solution in meeting those needs. We’ve partnered with three charitable organizations, the United Way, Community Health Charities of Minnesota, and the American Heart Association – giving employees a wide range of charities to support.

This year’s goal for the Together for Good campaign is $250,000. An ambitious goal for sure, but I truly believe we can do that and more. Here at the Capella Tower, we got into the spirit of the campaign with a Volunteer Education Fair, event pre-sales and a kick-off at the Grand Hotel with keynote speeches by Kevin Gilligan and Scott Kinney, and a set by the legendary TFG Band.

I love when opportunities like this bring the Capella community together. This is such a great time of year for the giving spirit of Capella to really shine.

Drummer, Chad Norton

Drummer, Chad Norton

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