Competencies, Badges, and OER top Predictions for 2012

Published by: WCET | 1/26/2012

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Thank you to everyone who participated in our call for elearning predictions for 2012.  We received quite a variety of opinions on what we can expect for the coming year. There seemed to be plenty of worries about what others will do to us rather than for us.  The impacts of competencies and badges are on the minds of several of us.

By far, my favorite submission was from Catherine Kelley of Fairleigh Dickinson University.   It is far too true:

There will be a new gadget released that will take the consumer market by storm. People will line up for hours in order to get one. A small university that nobody ever heard of will provide the device to its entire freshman class and thus gain national publicity. Higher education analysts will herald this new device as the thing we have all been waiting for, that will serve to engage students, deepen learning, improve enrollment, and reduce cost. Important thinkers will argue that we need to use this device in our teaching in order to reach the younger generation, who now expect it. Technology companies will figure out clever ways to integrate their product with the new device. The device will be the hot raffle item at Educause. (ref The Onion – sorry, I couldn’t help myself.,2862/)

Been there.  Love it!

Myk Garn holding a certificate
Myk Garn, SREB, holding his treasured “WCET Seeing the Future” badge for insightful predicting for 2011.

I tried my best to make a compilation of the predictions.  Below I have them listed.  For those with more than one submission, I put the number in parentheses:

  • A greater moved to competency-based education, including attention to the developing concept of offering many more “badges” at the sub-degree level (5).
  • Adoption of open educational resources will expand greatly and there will be additional tension with proprietary providers (3).
  • New elearning-based colleges will emerge (2).
  • Accreditation will face additional attacks and adverse consequences (2).
  • A significant number of colleges will shift to the new LMS products announced last year or yet-to-be-announced in 2012 (2).
  • There will be more federal and state legislation of distance education.
  • ‘Student learning rights’ will be debated.
  • There will be a noticeable increase in the use of ‘star’ faculty as a marketing tool to recruit students.
  • Mobile apps will improve, including tactile and smelling sensors.
  • 2012 will be the year of the hybrid course.
  • A state will make an institution an “example case” in state authorization.
  • There will be more doubts raised about the worth of higher education.
  • Most colleges will struggle mightily to address the question of affordability.

Here are the full predictions with their authors noted:

In 2012 there will be three or more new entrants into the low-cost degree segment (sim. WGU), with either competency based degrees or other efficiency-oriented methods of development and delivery (sim. StraighterLine).

Richard Hezel
President & CEO
Hezel Associates

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In 2012 we will see the vast majority of new learning platform wins for online programs to go to multi-tenant cloud providers.

Phil Hill
Executive Vice President
Delta Initiative, Inc.

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I foresee many universities developing their own versions and brands of “competency-based education” as a response to the growth of WGU to additional states. This will be healthy for higher education as the nature of what constitutes “learning” will be re-examined and re-assessed.

Marie A. Cini
Vice President & Dean
The Undergraduate School
University of Maryland University College Adelphi, MD

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I have two major predictions for 2012:

(1) Mobile smartphones and tablets will incorporate more sensory tactile and augmented reality screen features for learning as well as the introduction of sensory odors/smell features for teaching and learning.

“NASA isn’t just good for bringing you awesome space pictures; they can now help you figure out, via your iPhone, if that really is gas you’re smelling. Their chemical-sniffing device is about the size of a postage stamp and plugs into the iPhone to collect and transmit data from its sensor. It uses a “sample jet” to detect chemicals like ammonia, chlorine gas, and methane, even in low concentration. The device’s multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip consists of 64 nanosensors; after analyzing a sample it can send data via a telephone network or Wi-Fi.”

(2) Someone will develop a “converter app” that will allow downloading of any app (Apple or Android) on any device.

Robbie K. Melton
Associate Vice Chancellor
Academic Affairs
Tennessee Board of Regents

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2012 will be known as the year of the hybrid course, as increasing numbers of students achieve learning objectives through a combination of online assignments and in-class discussions.  Many hybrid courses will decrease class utilization by one-third (going to a twice-weekly class format).  Yet, the definition of the credit hour will remain based primarily on seat time (what I would have learned in thrice-weekly lectures).

Chuck Wight
Assoc. VP for Academic Affairs
University of Utah

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I think that competency-based education will be of more interest as well as the idea that learners cannot be held back by the cohorts that they are placed within traditional educational models.  Students will become more aware of other models of learning that either can accelerate them when they attain mastery or decelerate them when they are meeting up against obstacles or finding that the learning takes longer than expected.

Alice Stefaniak
Learning Resource Specialist
Western Governors University

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Here are my predictions – some serious, some tongue in cheek. Some are way out on a limb but I think plausible.

  1. The Federal government will come out with at least one new rule or regulation that will make us gnash our collective teeth for at least six months. This rule or regulation will demonstrate considerable ignorance about distance learning, the Internet, or both. If implemented, it will costs us a lot of money. WCET will rally the troops to fight this rule or regulation, and it will be temporarily stalled. (oh wait, this already happened!! But I have no doubt at all that it could happen again.)
  2. There will be at least one major scandal involving the State Authorization issue. I.e., there will be a high-profile court case (or at least a major news story) involving a university that has not obtained appropriate authorization. Examples Will Be Made. Laggards will finally get the point.
  3. Another major scandal will involve accreditation. A high-profile institution will be put on probation by its accrediting agency, or a regional accrediting agency will lose its charter, or both.
  4. The big technology story of 2012 will be the ongoing fight between Open Stuff and Stuff that is Clamped Firmly Shut. This story is not new, but it will escalate dramatically in 2012. At least one major newspaper (possible) or other substantial publishing entity (more likely) will shut down for good, which will fuel this discussion even more. The discussion will get more & more ugly. There will be serious and ever more clever attempts to shut down the free exchange of ideas on the Internet. (sounds like SOPA, which I know is just about dead – but there is more coming – I have no doubt of that at all.) I’m a little afraid about how this will play out. I see it as the Titans escaping from the Titanic and defending their leaky lifeboats with heavy artillery. (but they’re still going down.)
  5. A major higher-ed technology company will be discovered to be in a state of financial crisis far deeper than anybody suspected, because of pressure from open source competitors. See prediction #4, above – it’s the same thing, really.
  6. There will be a major scandal having to do with privacy or security involving Facebook. (a hack or data leak or something like it.) As a result of this scandal, people will almost entirely stop using Facebook.

Catherine L. Kelley
Associate Provost for Educational Resources and Assessment
Fairleigh Dickinson University

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–Learner Analytics will become increasingly important in E-learning to measure student success, Faculty participation and to develop new methods of teaching at a distance.

–Student Services online- As E-learning divisions and schools as part of our institutions grow, new and innovative solutions need to be created to have the same services as our face to face. Library-(do we need a Digital Librarian?) Tutoring, advisement, linking to student clubs and the list goes on.

Patricia D. Fenn
Executive Director of E-Learning
Ocean County College

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This may fall more into the category of my hope rather than my prediction, but here goes:

2012 will see recognition by colleges and universities that badges and certifications, where they may be created from  the reverse engineering of a degree into courses and then into specific, measurable learning objectives of the courses, does not threaten the integrity of a degree, undermine the contributions of curriculum committees, or devalue  the expertise of faculty.  Instead, the ability to measure and recognize (e.g. badges and certifications) the accomplishment of learning objectives within courses can be a way to motivate students, provide for a more flexible path towards degree attainment, create more revenue opportunities with stand-alone certificate modules, reinvent the course as a more cost effective way to attain a degree than the cobbling together of certificates, and (for all these reasons)  better demonstrate to employers and the public of the worth of a college degree.

Deb Adair
Quality Matters

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From my vantage point as a “retiree”, I do not feel qualified to make any predictions about the ins and outs of evolving technology but I do have the advantage of being sufficiently removed from the “action” to see the broader landscape…here goes.

Because it is an election year, I think the general higher education landscape will be relatively quiet in 2012.  But in 2013, I predict some long standing issues will begin to be addressed.  No one is going to do anything but make “noise” this year but NEXT year, some of the real frustrations about the state of higher education will finally draw action.  By that I mean, there will be consequences.  What are the key issues which might be targeted in 2013?

Questions about what is higher education supposed to do for young people?  (Increasingly, the business community says graduates are not prepared to work, have little understanding of the business culture and in fact, have to be “retooled” by the community itself.)

The issue of accreditation… may become irrelevant as new procedures are developed which gain legitimacy over the “old ways”.

The growth of open source learning and what to do about it…that could really explode NEXT year.

I realize you are asking about 2012…but please share my comments…cause I think we are in a “talk but hold” situation over the coming months.

Fran Kelly
Retired (Yet Active) Sage

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I would like to add the following 2012 predictions to your list:

  • 1-2 community college systems will announce their plans to launch an open course project similar to Washington’s Open Course Library
  • Desire2Learn, SoftChalk, and Instructure will be sold  at some point this year
  • More institutions will require students to use e-textbooks or print them at a reduced cost

Kelvin Bentley
Senior Strategy Consultant, Expanded Presence
Blackboard, Inc

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  1. Legislators will begin to share “model policy” templates to direct online learning development in higher education as they have been in K12.
  2. The issues of “student learning rights” will get more discussion in postsecondary forums driven by the K12 efforts in California and the 10 Elements of the Digital Learning Now agenda.
  3. Online providers will begin to recruit “star” faculty who will draw students into their programs.
  4. An online provider will begin marketing to adjunct faculty the ability to start their own storefront for offering courses creating an online university that is a collection of independent contract educators.
  5. Emphasis on establishing explicit, measurable competencies for college courses will increase.
  6. New assessment tools that use technology to measure verbal input, context in writing and media in e-portfolios will see greater use and acceptance.

Myk Garn
Director, Educational Technology
Southern Regional Education Board

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Finally, I thought I would take a shot at it:

  • A few accredited institutions will aggressively pursue creating and offering competency-based “badges” for subsections of their curriculum.
  • A few institutions will make real headway in addressing the ever-growing question of the affordability of higher education.  Most will talk about the issue, but make no real strides at improvement.

If you have comments on any of these prognostications or you wish to add your own, please do so in the comment section.

Let’s see what happens in the coming year and review the results in 2013.  Have a great year.

Russ Poulin
Deputy Director, Research & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

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