Kentucky's Commonwealth College – United We Stand
Published by: Russ Poulin | 12/17/2014
The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has a great history of statewide elearning innovation, see Kentucky Virtual Campus, Kentucky Virtual Library, Kentucky Virtual Adult Education, and Learn on Demand. In a partnership among its colleges, they are increasing the capacity to assist with adult degree completion. I was on that “national experts” panel that he cites and the progress is very exciting. Thank you to Al Lind for this update and the entire WCET community wishes him the greatest of joy as he pursues innovative ways to enjoy retirement.
Commonwealth College is a statewide bachelor’s degree completion program in high-demand occupational areas for adults in an online, competency-based format at Kentucky public universities.
The seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky consists of the words, “United we stand, divided we fall,” and the image of two diverse people clasping one another. That is the spirit that is incorporated into the implementation of our competency-based education initiative called Commonwealth College.
I for one did not see it that way during an early organizing meeting with leading national experts on CBE. We all agreed that a single isolated entity should be responsible for CBE bachelor degrees in Kentucky. Clay Christenson had explained in The Innovators Dilemma, Disrupting Class and The Innovative University that it is easier to change a culture like higher education from the outside, rather than from within where tradition would trump innovation.
However, through a series of events Kentucky was prepared to involve all eight public four–year institutions equally in a special legislative appropriation of $5 million to launch Commonwealth College. That is until an eleventh hour evaporation of the $5 million. A strange and wonderful thing then happened. Collaboration broke out.
The University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University, with coordination and support from the Council on Postsecondary Education, were compelled to continue with their own resources albeit on a smaller scale. Why is not entirely clear, but I believe some of the reasons include:
The University of Louisville, with leadership from Provost Shirley Willihnganz and Associate Provost Gale Rhodes, will offer an Organizational Leadership and Learning degree with an emphasis in Healthcare Management.
Western Kentucky University, with leadership from Provost Gordon Emslie and Associate Vice President Beth Laves, will offer an Advanced Manufacturing degree.
The Council on Postsecondary Education, with leadership from Senior Vice President Aaron Thompson and Senior Academic Advisor Cheryl King, will provide coordination and the support of its Kentucky Virtual Campus infrastructure.
The original vision of all eight public four-year institutions participating is still alive. After the first two degrees roll out in 2015, it is hoped that Commonwealth College will scale with additional degrees from all eight institutions.
The common Guiding Principles that define Commonwealth College are that it:
So while it will not be an easy path, we will persevere to collaborate across the university structure, across two-year and four-year institutions and across business relationships to provide working adults with a united higher education experience.
That’s the spirit that is sealed into the Commonwealth!
Vice President, Innovation and eLearning
Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education