Higher Education

Davenport included in competency-based education network

Initiative will give credit to students for what they know, not time spent in class.

May 16, 2014
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Davenport University is among 14 colleges and universities nationwide chosen to participate in the Competency Based Education Jumpstart program. Courtesy Davenport University

A Grand Rapids-based academic institution has been chosen to participate in a higher education initiative to help meet the needs of students through competency-based metrics rather than classroom time.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization linking learning and work, announced that Davenport University is among one of 14 colleges and universities chosen to participate in the Competency Based Education Jumpstart program.

The program provides academic institutions the opportunity to offer degree programs using a metric of competency assessments rather than the amount of credit-hours earned.

According to a press release, the initiative is funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education and is meant to build the capacity for higher education institutions to offer CBE degree programs, which could result in a decrease in the graduation timetable.

The Lumina Foundation is an independent organization dedicated to building an accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system, and increasing the number of Americans with degrees, credentials and certificates, according to its website.

Pamela Tate, chief executive officer and president of CAEL, said the organization is excited to work with the selected colleges and universities to launch the CBE initiatives to enable adults to access new learning modes and demonstrate college-level competencies.

“Competency-based approaches take the important step of placing the focus on what a student knows and can do, while minimizing the importance of where the student learned it or how long it took to learn,” said Tate in the press release.

A CBE program focuses on evaluating students based on their demonstration of skills needed to obtain a specific degree, rather than the default metric of the number of credit hours spent in a classroom. According to CAEL, many CBE programs are designed to incorporate individual learning pace and life and work experience while leveraging technology to decrease cost to the students.

Through the CBE Jumpstart program, Davenport University faculty and staff involved in the initiative will receive training and additional support from CAEL. According to the press release, several of the institutions will have the ability to participate in more in-depth consulting with experts from the nonprofit organization.

Davenport officials said the school’s competency-based programs are still in development but will be completed soon. Until then, the university has no official comment.

According to “Competency-Based Degree Programs in the U.S.” published in 2013 by CAEL, CBE programs initially became a plausible framework for higher education in 1970 when the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education provided financial support for the development of an alternative approach. Some universities currently with varying models of CBE programs include: Delaware County Community College, University of Maryland University College, Alverno College and DePaul University School for New Learning.

A poll conducted by Gallup in collaboration with Lumina Foundation and released in February 2013 noted that Americans felt higher education was important, but due to barriers in re-enrolling or other responsibilities, there was a need for re-evaluating how degrees and certificates are awarded.

The poll, “America’s Call for Higher Education Redesign,” noted 75 percent of more than 1,000 Americans surveyed said they would be more likely to enroll in higher education programs if they were evaluated and received credit for the skills and knowledge they already possessed. The study also noted 70 percent of participants were in favor of receiving credit toward a degree based on understanding material without completing the full 16-week course.

“When it comes to providing opportunities for adults to receive a college degree, there should be many different options for them to access learning and credentials, which is why competency-based education is so vital,” Tate said.

Located at 6191 Kraft Ave. SE, Davenport University was founded in 1866 and has expanded to serve more than 11,000 students through its 12 campuses and online services. According to its website, Davenport is working to create a culture of quality, leading-edge programs designed for student needs and demands in the marketplace.

Additional colleges and universities selected to participate in the initiative include: Kalamazoo Valley Community College; Los Angeles Trade Technical College; The New School, New York; Golden Gate University, California; LeTourneau University, Texas; Indiana University-Purdue University; Valdosta State University, Georgia; Minnesota State Colleges and University System; Community College of Philadelphia; Pace University, New York; University of Toledo; Granite State College, University System of New Hampshire; and the Missouri Department of Higher Education, Missouri Community College Association.

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