If we focus on student learning, do we really need courses?

Barbara Wright, Vice President of Western Association of Schools and Colleges suggests that our biggest threats build on the changing demographics of our students, but also our changing perceptions of technology, assessment, learning-outcomes, and alternative higher education.

At colleges, the old business model relied on of knowledge, instruction, learning, degrees, social networking, cultural opportunities, and personal development. All of these things are available outside of college except validation of learning and conferring of degrees.

So, if we want to value and validate learning, do we really need courses? If we no longer sell course and credit hours, how do we measure learning? Assessment. Assessment becomes the vehicle for substantive conversation about quality, proficiency, and learning.

Student work changes. Responsibility and directed learning become the hallmarks of student experience.

Faculty work changes. Courses have a place, but they may also be the box we need to climb out of as we consider student learning. Courses might be replaced by advising, tutorials, and guided study.

Administrative work changes. Planning, budget, and revenue are dramatically affected. A robust assessment structure would be required.

Policy work changes. High quality learning would replace retention at the center of accreditation.

Is this all just a fantasy? Is it plausible? Could it ever work?

Institutions that prioritize outcomes will be the decision makers.

The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) annual conference on General Education and Assessment was held at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 23-25, 2012. I attended on behalf of Queens University of Charlotte with four faculty colleagues. Read all the articles on this conference here.

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