Friday, August 14, 2015

“Establishment Goes Alternative”

That was the title of an interesting article which I urge you to read in the August 14, 2015 issue of Inside Higher Ed ( The article was reporting on a “new prototype” of education that is a joint effort of seven “brand-name universities.”

While recent years have seen all kinds of prototypes using competency based education, online learning, direct assessment and the ever-popular MOOCs, one of the things that makes this effort stand apart is the breadth and the prominence of the entities involved. The Georgia Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, the University of Washington, the Davis,  Irvine and Los Angeles campuses of the University of California and the University of Wisconsin have all joined together to form what they are calling the “University Learning Store.” The dean of continuing education, outreach and e-learning at the University of Wisconsin Extension describes it as an idea to “create an alternative credentialing process that would provide students with credentials that are much shorter and cheaper than conventional degrees.” These “microcredentials” could be in “soft skills” such as communication or critical reasoning, or in more technical areas. They could be earned by entry-level employees or even by senior level folks who want to improve their knowledge/skills in a particular area such as budgeting.

As I read this article, I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that this concept makes accreditation irrelevant. They anticipate that these credentials would be cheap enough that financial aid wouldn’t be necessary – thus eliminating that need for Title IV eligibility that comes with institutional accreditation. There is one reference to the fact that it “is not clear at this point whether the project would pursue credit bearing credentials [because] that would require accreditation approval, which can be labor intensive to secure.”

Of course, none of these innovative efforts will have much impact on allied health education any time soon. Licensure and certification requirements alone make it difficult to think about “microcredentials” or other such massive changes to the way we educate our entry-level workforce.

But this is yet another indication of the current state of higher education and the issues we are all facing. Employers are telling us that they need a better trained workforce, students (and parents) are telling us that the cost of a college degree is too high, resulting in crippling debt, and federal policy makers of both parties are telling us that they are determined to make changes.

This is a good time for CAAHEP to be launching its Public Policy Committee and our planned activities to both educate policy makers and to keep our communities of interest informed about these critical issues. Stay tuned…