We asked you to:

“Predict something that will happen this year regarding teaching, learning, technology, business of e-learning, policy, regulations, student behavior, or other related items.”

Not surprising of our followers, the bulk of the focus is on academic issues such as quality, accreditation, competency-based education, and academic integrity.  There are also several predictions around the theme of paying attention to the needs of students.  For technologies, watch for adaptive learning and augmented reality to get a boost. Meanwhile, make your appointment to get fitted for wearable technologies

Looking forward brought much optimism from most of you.  Thank you to all of those who responded!

Competency-based Education

Photo of sign advertising Tarot Card readings
WCET Members and Readers Peer into the Future

The Year of Competencies!
I predict that 2014 will be the year that competency-based education will be clearly defined and embraced by the K-20 e-learning community. In this context Career and Technical Education initiatives will receive significant attention.

Mike Abbiatti, Director
SREB Educational Technology Cooperative

Competencies are Exciting!
I wholeheartedly agree with your prediction, Mike!

Nearly every conference I attended or even heard about in 2013 and nearly every publication I read about reform in higher education referenced to some extent an interest in starting or successes and lessons learned so far with ongoing projects related to competency based education and degrees.

It’s an exciting time to work in the higher education sector of this industry, indeed.

I am thrilled that WCET is taking a leadership role in helping to craft the new “norm” of competency-based learning through their sponsored events this year.

Lisa Johnson
Assistant Professor
College of Education
Ashford University

Texas Likes Competencies and We’re Doing Something about It
I agree with this prediction as well.  At Texas A&M University-Commerce we will launch a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree in partnership with South Texas College and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that is competency based.

Julie McElhany
Faculty Center for Teaching with Technology l Center for IT Excellence
Texas A&M University-Commerce

From Russ:  If you are interested in competencies and badges, consider our Leadership Summit in May: Designing Alternative Pathways to Credentials.

So Long Credit Hour, Hello Competency Measures
The traditional measurement of the course credit hour is often measured by in person class face time per week, and this measurement is just transferred to the online class. I think this will be challenged with more classes being offered only online with no in-person class to fall back on. What does  3 credit hours mean in an online course?  How do you measure the amount of “credit” an online course should give?

(This really does move our measurements more toward competencies, but even so, online courses are still given a “credit hour” designation).  I know from current experience that (as a student) I spend far more than 3 hours per week logged into the course.

Kate A. Lenert
Director of State Authorization for Distance Education
Medical University of South Carolina


Academic Quality/Policy

Accreditation in the Hot Seat
My prediction for 2014 has to do with regional accreditation.  Here under HLC we will see change with our leader Sylvia Manning retiring; she was a champion for peer review.  Also saw a news report today about how an accreditor lost a court battle over trying to revoke a program’s accreditation.  Now it wasn’t a regional accredited institution but the precedent was set anyway.   I think in 2014 we will see major changes to regional accreditation and higher education may not like the changes, i.e. the move away from peer review to more federal regulation.

Deb Gearhart
Vice Provost for eLearning and Strategic Partnerships
Ohio University

Focus on Credit and Quality
In 2014 the shift will be to discussions about credit and quality, both in the MOOC world and in the world of more traditional methods of distance education. I think we will do some in-depth work on learning how community and interaction play a huge role in student success in online learning, as we are informed by an increase in data from learning analytics and by conversations with experienced distance educators and their students.

Pat James Hanz
WCET Leadership Fellow
Online Education Consultant

Personalized, Customizable Learning Degree
I’d like to predict the first, accredited personalized/customizable learning degree program.

Keeping my fingers crossed!  🙂

Julia A. Teahen
Baker College Online

“Points of Success” on the Road to Completion
The buzz will be on a heightened focus on completion.  Institutions will be more transparent to ensure that digital students have “points of success” in new ways such as stackable credentials leading to a degree, signed agreements for reverse transfer, or academic coaches.

Karen Solomon
Higher Learning Commission

Academic Integrity Concerns Force Colleges to Take Action
is My prediction for 2014 is that Academic Integrity will be a highlighted concern for online Higher Ed programs.  Legislatures, State Authorization Authorities, and Accreditors will make this a high priority in 2014/2015 and most of us will be forced to make an additional effort or add an additional level of security to assure academic integrity in online programs.

Blake Beck
Director, Educational Technologies and eISU
Idaho State University

Quality Requires Teamwork
Online learning market-based innovations require a participative approach (with higher education faculty, administrators, and staff collaboration) to maintain quality e-learning operations.

Amanda Major
Instructional Designer/Consultant
Louisiana State University

Online Education To Surpass Traditional Classes
The majority of WCET membership will….be inspired and re-energized to…:

  • Online learning can do better than mimic/match classroom-based education.
  • What we have learned about learning (and teaching) online can be used strategically to improve all education.

Marjorie DeWert
Director Learning Solutions
eLearning Ohio
Ohio University


Open Content

Affordability Concerns Lead to More Open Content
Hello everyone. I predict that college affordability will continue to be an important topic. This will lead to more pressure on faculty and institutions to adopt OER  especially open textbooks. I also think there will be a strong focus on the use of open and proprietary adaptive learning tools (e.g., SmartSparrow, Acrobatiq) in our courses.

Kelvin Bentley
Associate Vice President of eLearning and Innovation
Cuyahoga Community College

Pass the Affordable CollegeTextbook Act
My prediction (hope) is that the Affordable College Textbook Act is passed, providing grant opportunities to faculty to adopt OER in their courses.

Kevin Corcoran
Executive Director
Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium

Students as the Focus

Students Question Online Tuition and Fees
There will be far more pushback from students on the cost of the online degree when a University offers both versions (on site and online).  There is little justification to charge the same price when the student is not on site using the brick and mortar building space, bathrooms, food services, student support services, sidewalks. If they are charged the same price, they will demand more time will full professors.

Kate A. Lenert
Director of State Authorization for Distance Education
Medical University of South Carolina

More Focus on Academics; Students Win
My prediction is that the Caveat Emptor battle between what traditional educators say learners should learn and what learners, industry, and those practicing in a discipline say learners should learn will heat up along several fronts including how it’s delivered, assessed, and paid for.  I predict learners will vote with their feet and eventually win the war.

Tom Dolan
Associate Director, The Office of Online Compliance and Regulation
Texas Tech University

Hooray for Student Support Services
I predict that student services for online students will take center stage in order to retain students or encourage former students to return to their studies now that additional supports have become available at institutions.  I know designing and implementing student services is a big priority at my institution and others for 2014.

Ginny Cotrill
Ohio University

Another Hooray for Student Support Services
Student support services (advising, coaching, etc.) for online learners will take on increasing levels of importance.

Nancy Coleman
Director of Distance Education
Boston University


Augmented Reality on the Way
My crystal ball was cloudy and I had to ask Minerva McGonagall to calm Sybil Trelawney so that she could better  guide me in how to defog my crystal ball.  The future is now clearer and it is indeed probable that using augmented reality we will be able to offer online learning simulation labs in advanced manufacturing, allied health, and engineering technical programs.

Virginia Stewart Huntley
District Director of Alamo Colleges Online
Office of the Vice-Chancellor of Academic Success
Alamo Colleges

Adaptive Learning Becomes Scalable
I predict that in 2014 there will be a breakthrough in adaptive learning.  The first scalable technology that impacts our core function.  Students leaning stuff.

Allen Lind
Vice President for Innovation and eLearning
Kentucky Council On Postsecondary Education

Technologies Commoditized
LMS and MOOC platforms will become more of a commodity (although this will take several years to happen).

Nancy Coleman
Director of Distance Education
Boston University

Get Fitted for Wearable Technologies
In 2014, we will finally see wearable technology products enter the consumer market in a significant way with a host of applications and design features that are customized to the wearer.  We’ll also see consumer products using flexible LCD screens that are easily mobile and can roll up like an x-ray film and be carried easily for presentations, teaching applications, or collaborative research.

Patricia Book
WCET Leadership Fellow

Back-end Systems to Support Innovation
2012 and 2013 saw not-to-be-ignored developments in the unraveling of higher education as we know it.  They include the rediscovery and spread of competency-based learning; the increasing attention paid to adaptive learning and gamification; and the rise of MOOCs and various spinoffs of the MOOC and their implications for how online learning is conducted.  Many leaders of colleges and universities are embracing these developments, but within the infrastructure of most institutions, the conversion from credits to competencies is not easily accomplished, as those engaged in the WICHE Interstate Passport Initiative have discovered.  My prediction is that in 2014 the people of higher education and their spokespersons, supporters, and funders will begin to focus more pointedly on how to change administrative processes—the back-end of the higher education operation—to accommodate new ways of documenting and transcripting student learning.  2014 could be the Year of the Heroic Staff in Green Eyeshades.

Thank you, WCET-WICHE, for the opportunity to share our predictions.

Julie Porosky Hamlin
Executive Director

Canvas Stretches Farther
Canvas will continue to gain adoptees at the expense of Blackboard.  Perhaps the worm is turning?

G. Stephen Taylor
Executive Director
Center for Distance Education
Mississippi State University

The Year of Online Science Labs…or Maybe Next Year
This will be a breakout year for online science labs.  Jerry Brown’s Online Education Initiative is spurring UC, CSU, and CCC to lower costs and increase available seats for general education science courses.  Only online labs can enable this.  Success in California will spur other states to do the same.  It will also provide the incentive for California to amend its ‘a-g’ regulations to allow limited online labs in high schools.  You can’t tell high schools not to do what you’re doing.  Expect the New York State Regents, who already had one aborted attempt to do something similar, to follow suit.  The rest of the country won’t have trouble with troublesome regulations and will follow along.

All right, this may turn out to be the 2015 story, but sometimes things happen faster than anyone expects.  The handwriting will be on the wall by the end of 2014 even if the implementation is only beginning.

Harry Keller
Smart Science Education Inc.

MOOCs Keep Improving

MOOCs for Credit
At least 6 universities will incorporate competency-based MOOCS as an alternative to traditional courses for credit.

Fran Kelly
Distance Learning Sage

Change is Difficult

Talk of Change is Just Talk
I predict that the amount of change possible and expected in higher education will be overwhelming. Thus, causing panic and anxiety within various higher education constituents and stakeholders.  As a result, those who influence the higher education culture will dig in their heels;  we will hear talk of possibilities but see very little change.

Yolanda Columbus
Director, Office of Distance Learning & Instructional Technologies
University of North Texas

Talk Talk
Your analysis and prediction concur with mine.

Elizabeth Unger
Vice Provost and Dean, Emerita
Professor of Computing and Information Sciences, Emerita
Kansas State University

Let’s see what 2014 brings!  As we did a few weeks ago for 2013, we’ll conduct a review of the top predictions early next year.

Russ Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director

Photo credit:  Morgue File

2 replies on “WCET Predictions for 2014 Focus on Academic Quality and Student Needs”

The advent of moocy things, alternate badges and other new and juicy concepts means that we are entering a time of multiple currencies. Right now there are certain ways to deal with such alternate educational tracking systems. We have ACE screening and so on.

Yet even now, there is no obligation on the part of an employer or even another college to accept such things. A private employer can reject all degrees from Harvard if desired. The law doesn’t force their acceptance as far as I know.

Absent some kind of articulation agreement, even other colleges are not obligated to accept each other’s credits. There will, of course, be an increase in political compulsion to accept anything that moves, since the American public as a whole is interested in quantity, not quality.

So who or what gets to decide which of these new coinages are acceptable for trade in the academic market? Since there is no universality of credit transfer among accredited degree-granting colleges, almost all of which use the credit model for most of what they do, what’s the theory for how to make newer currencies widely accepted? Sign me Wet Blanket of the West….

I also concur with above sentiments regarding competency-based learning. Having gone though a CBL program myself, I can attest to the quality and rigor. It is also an affordable option. It’s hard to understand why anyone in higher education would frown on a program that requires students attain certain competencies before proceeding in their learning pathway. The alternative is a regimented, seat-time, credit-hour model that does not provide any assurance that the student actually understands or has mastered the content. CBL will be a major disruptive event. Those that embrace it will flourish. Those that do not will perish.

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