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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New Approach to Higher Education

There has been plenty of discussion about the future of higher education. Flipped classrooms, competency-based education, team-based learning, collaborative education, and problem-based learning all have proponents who see their format of choice as the best way to proceed.

However, campuses continue to use the same term-based and credit hour-based formats that have been in place for generations. Most institutions also continue to offer lecture-based courses where progress is determined by midterm and final exams.

The University of Texas System is ready to try something new. It is launching a format that include career-aligned and personalized courses to attract new students who are looking for a different way to study and earn a degree, according to Steven Mintz, professor of history at UT-Austin and executive director of the system’s Institute for Transformational Learning.

“Too often, a single model is deemed the solution to higher education’s challenges: high costs, deficient student engagement, or unsatisfactory graduation rates,” Mintz wrote in a blog post for Inside Higher Education. “Instead of embracing a single solution, instructors might consider implementing differentiated paths to a degree. Students, then, might choose the path that best reflects their needs and aspirations.”

The UT programs will not replace current curriculum, but will emphasize career skills. Students will receive a traditional transcript with grades as well as a competency-based transcript that highlights the skills and knowledge the student has mastered.

“Given the diversity in student circumstances, goals, and motivation, a differentiated approach makes sense,” Mintz wrote. “Personalization is the watchword of the contemporary consumer economy, and this principle might be applied to postsecondary education as well.”

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