WCET13 Recap: Honoring the Past, Planning for the Future

As we crossed the milestone of the 25th WCET Annual Meeting, the WCET community took the time to celebrate the past while not dwelling there but rather planning for the future.  As promised, not only did the weather in Denver deliver a stunning showing of Rocky Mountain fall, the conversations ignited during the WCET 25th Annual Meeting invigorated participants as well.  If you were able to join us and don’t see your favorite resource, session or conversation mentioned, please share it with your WCET community in the comments.

 Student Success CIG Meeting:

  • Looking to answer the question: Who is responsible for student engagement?
  • Future topics the Student Success CIG will address are student support services for (1) veterans (2) competency based learning programs.

Learn more about the WCET Common Interest Groups (CIG).

Boost Your IEQ Takeaways:

  • IEQ = improving education quotient or improving educational quality
  • #1 takeaway from presenter John Sener (@jsener): We have a spectacular opportunity to use online learning technology to improve all of education.

State Authorization Highlights:

  • Marshall Hill announced that several documents and an FAQ about the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement will soon be available on their website:   As more information becomes available, it will be posted to this site.
  • Russ Poulin and Marshall Hill announced that there still is no federal timeline for reinstating the U.S. Department of Education’s state authorization regulation for distance education.  They want to do it, but they have been mired in gainful employment negotiations. ADDENDUM: Since the meeting, we’ve heard that the Department of Education will be moving forward with a Negotiated Rulemaking Process that will include addressing state authorization for distance education.  The hearings will be early next year into the Spring. Watch for more information as we get details.

Pressures and Power: Re-Imagining Higher Education for the New Reality – Dr. Paul LeBlanc

Paul LeBlanc
Paul LeBlanc opening #WCET13

As the opening keynote, Dr. LeBlanc shared a look into his history, which now helps drive his passion for reforming higher education. Some highlights:

  • We are losing the American Dream, it’s more like the Danish Dream now.  When Dr. LeBlanc went to undergrad, he could put himself through working construction in the summers, you can’t do that now.
  • The 4C’s of working with adult students: Credentials, Cost, Convenience & Completion.
  • We have a financial sustainability problem in American higher education – funding will not return and we cannot cut our way to sustainability we must innovate.
  • There are three uses of technology 1. Do what we do better. 2. Do what we do cheaper. 3. Re-think processes.
  • Seat time, tied to the credit hour, tracks how long a student sat, not how much they learned.  It’s a legacy system that needs to be disrupted.

View the recording of Dr. LeBlanc’s presentation.

Managing Online Education Survey

  • The survey results will be released in December.  The preliminary statistics show that half of the respondents did not know their online course completion rate and 42% did not know their completion rate for on-campus courses.  Less than half require students to take an orientation model before taking online courses.  Of those who have partially or fully adopted quality rubrics: 58% regional accrediting standards, 49% state/provincial best practices, 42% Quality Matters, and 10% Sloan-C’s Quality Scorecard.

In-depth Session: Conversation about Competency Based Learning

  • Fred Hurst, NAU, offered his favorite quote as the opener to his part of the talk: Change is good. You go first. – Scott Adams, Dilbert Cartoon.
  • A danger in competency based learning – if direct assessment is a new optional currency, we don’t have the exchange rate yet for the current currency of the credit hour.
  • A concern related to competency based programs is the ability of learning management systems to accommodate and innovate.
  • Transparency of rubrics and competency maps empower students – they always know what is expected of them.
  • Competencies are more modular in construction, allowing removal and exchange of singular competencies within programs.
  • Kay Gilcher: I do not see regional accrediting agencies as obstacles to innovation.

Dr. Vernon Smith: Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s

  • Employers want work ethic, teamwork, problem solving, communication (oral & written) and hands on training.
  • 72% of educators, 35% of employers and 50% of students believe they are prepared for employment. There is a significant gap in that belief!
  • Learn more about Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s.

View the recording of Dr. Smith’s presentation.

David Lassner, Mollie McGill, Ellen Wagner and Richard Jonsen
David Lassner, Mollie McGill, Ellen Wagner and Richard Jonsen celebrating 25 years!

WCET Pioneers of the Edtech Frontier

  • Barbara Beno:  “Those in distance education were more engaged in issues of quality and effective teaching than those teaching traditionally.”
  • Michael Goldstein:  What many in colleges aren’t realizing is that their competitors will be different types of organism’s, not just other colleges.  And there is no mechanism to assure quality for those providers.
  • Ellen Wagner:  We can be on the bus or under the bus. I’d rather be driving the bus.

View the recording of the Pioneers panel.

In-depth Session: Focus on Technology, Innovation, and Adoption

Jane Hart, an internationally recognized expert on trends and adoption of technology tools for learning led this showcase of new and not-so-new tools for learning.

Recording coming soon – watch our YouTube page for the update.

Top Lessons Learned from the PAR Framework:

  • 20 WCET member institutions, sharing de-identified student and course level data – based on a set of 70 common data definitions (which are openly licensed).
  • PAR is the only big data project that has student-level data + common data definitions allowing the data to be deeply drillable, providing actionable reports for institutions.
  • Institutional partners are utilizing the PAR Framework to make change on campus, improving student success.

View the PAR Framework Common Data Definitions and the Student Success Matrix.

WCET Smackdown, Powered by Pecha Kucha

In a lively and humorous start to Friday morning, ten brave souls took the stage to present 20 slides, for 20 seconds each – no pausing, no going over on time.  The presenters were asked to focus on the next 25 years – some did, some didn’t – all were entertaining.  We were reminded to focus on why we do what we do, be mindful in our practice, be a speedboat, consider a ‘fitbit’ for higher education, how championing online ed is like selling sushi in Idaho, and to keep an eye out for Google Eyeball.  Andy Black gets the award for speaking the most like an auctioneer as he talked about video conferencing platforms and Rob Robinson schooled us all in how the Burning Man festival is an analogy for higher education.  As always, team Boyd-Garn had us all rolling with their take on everything old is new again.  View the Smackdown Presentations.

Videoconferencing Platform Sandbox

Video in all its permutations is coming full circle as educators realize the impact and value of providing a synchronous platform to deliver lectures and connect students.  To help attendees sort through the best solution for their institution, WCET offered the videoconferencing sandbox. This allowed attendees to experience the technology firsthand and hear from institutional users about their experience adopting and supporting the different platforms.

 In-Depth Session: Conversation about MOOCs

View the recording of the Conversation about MOOCs.

Expanding Remote Science Labs in North America

  • Featured the WICHE Project The North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO).
  • With using remote science labs, students use real equipment that is superior than anything they have in their teaching labs.  For example, the student can use a highly-calibrated measure to monitor the change in solution colors as the temperature changes. In a lab the student might use a simple strip that changes color.  The nuances of the experiment are lost in the traditional lab.
  • It does not make sense to teach students how to use lab tools that only existing in the classroom laboratories.
  • California State University system is considering having all first year labs conducted through simulations or remote science.

WCET Awards Lunch

Congratulations to the 2013 WOW recipients:

  • Lane Community College for OER Faculty Fellowship.
  • University of Central Florida for Obojobo.
  • University of North Carolina for The Online Proctoring Network.

2013 WOW Award Media Release

Fred Hurst, senior vice president for Extended Campuses at Northern Arizona University
Fred Hurst

Congratulations to the 2013 RJ Award Recipient: Fred Hurst

Fred Hurst of the Extended Campuses at Northern Arizona University, honored with WCET’s top award, receiving the2013 Richard Jonsen award.

 View the recording of the awards presentations.

In-depth Session: Conversation about Mobile Learning

Robbie Melton – the App-ologist, will be sharing a new app digest crowdsourced from her top apps and those of the participants in this conversation.

  • Among the many apps that Robbie demonstrated were:
    • Translated words into American Sign Language.
    • Translated text from English to Spanish.
    • Connected to a small portable document camera.
    • Allowed the instructor to present from a mobile device.
    • Used augmented reality to show a 3D model of a beating heart.

View the recording.

The Social Learning Revolution

Ellen Wagner & Jane Hart
Ellen Wagner & Jane Hart

Jane Hart discussed how the social web is changing the way we are learning and  what this means for both higher education and the workplace

  • For those on the social web, learning will never be the same again.
  • Universities should help students develop an online presence in the social web to promote themselves to future employers.
  • Construct your PKM (reference to:

All social media – tweets, Facebook posts, Instagrams – tagged #WCET13 were captured utilizing Storify. [View the story “WCET 25th Annual Meeting #WCET13” on Storify]

Mark Your Calendar for #WCET14: November 19 – 21, 2014 – Portland, Oregon.  See you next year!


Celebrate 25 Years with #WCET13 – Near or Far

Whether you’ll be with us in person or in spirit, there are many not-to-miss sessions and networking opportunities at the WCET 25th Annual Meeting.

WCET is thrilled to have numerous edtech innovators on the Annual Meeting program.  Our two keynote presenters will inspire you to look at new ways to fulfill the mission to serve students in ways that bring access to all and drives completion.

WCET 25th Anniversary

Both keynote sessions will be accessible shortly after the live presentation at for those who will be joining us virtually.

Additional highlights include:


And don’t forget to tune in for the ever-popular WCET Smackdown, Powered by Pecha Kucha.

In 1989 did you imagine that you would be able to access the WCET Annual Meeting program from a handheld device? Download the popular WCET mobile program app and start building your schedule!  iOS, Android, and web versions are available for phones and tablets.  This nifty app will allow you to track the sessions you want to get to, download the slides when presenters make them available and take notes during the sessions.

Connect with WCET

Sticking around Denver after #WCET13? Here are some ideas on how to spend your time:

Molly Brown House Museum by Ken Lund
Molly Brown House Museum by Ken Lund

Photo Credit (Molly Brown House Museum): Ken Lund.


WCET Video Interview: Anne Derryberry

Over the past two years, we at WCET have had the pleasure of working with Anne Derryberry on several game and badge related initiatives.


In late summer 2012 we commenced WCET’s Who’s Got Class? which was designed and game-mastered by Anne.  This multi-player learning game was designed to give WCET members and friends a fun, light-hearted way to explore the emerging, evolving world of Badges and Games for Learning.

During the Fall of 2013, Anne served as one of the designer and instructors on our collaborative MOOC – Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials in partnership with Blackboard, Mozilla, and Sage Road Solutions.  While the live sessions have ended, this newly formed learning community continues forward.  We encourage you to sign-up, log-in and access the amazing repository of resources developed through the MOOC.

In this first WCET Video Interview, Anne shares with us how she became interested in the emerging areas of games for learning and badges as well as a look into the projects and predictions for the future.  Thank you Anne for all the time and talent you have contributed to your cooperative, WCET.

Photo of Cali MorrisonCali Morrison

Communications Manager, WCET



Missing: Millenials in the Education Profession

Today we welcome a young leader working at the intersection of higher education and technology, Sean Traigle, Senior Director, Academic Partnerships at StraighterLine.  Sean shares his perspective on the contributions millenials stand to make to our industry and puts a call to action for those in the generations before us to help raise up young leaders.  Thank you, Sean for sharing your insight with us!

Why the younger generation can be a vital part of Education Leadership

At a recent conference, I spoke about the post-traditional student and I had a small soapbox moment about millenials (Born 1979-2000) and our relation to education. I made the comment I often make in presentations that revolve around new forms of credit and online learning is that I’m often the youngest person in the room even at 31. After the conference, one of the attendees at the presentation (and someone I ran across a few more times while there) mentioned that it was good to see someone else her age at a conference focused on the intersection of technology and education.

Let’s think about that for a second.

Waiting in line by Iowa Spirit Walker on Flickr
Waiting in line by Iowa Spirit Walker on Flickr

In 2000, my first year of college, I was waiting in line in a hall of a building. Was I waiting to purchase football tickets? No. Eat lunch? No. Register for classes.  The time tested, hand-written, sit-and-wait method was still alive in the year 2000.  It was only the next year that I was able to use a phone instead.  In the time since, we have gone from physical lines, to phone lines, to no lines. For a college or university, that was a big change.

Some education leaders would like to believe that the traditional university will not exist in 10 years; proclamations like this make change in education scary. Although many institutions are excited for the prospect of new ways to earn and validate credit, many institutions want to keep the ever-present tsunami of change at bay. As an industry that relies on tradition, prestige, and an emphasis on experience through teaching and administration, education employees skew older.

In most sections of universities and education service providers, relying on tradition is a good idea. Wisdom from education leaders is valuable for building strong foundations. The younger generation’s perspective is unique, though, specifically because of their relation to change, both culturally, and personally. From our vantage point, even though we have seen it pass quickly, we are very much aware of change; we can even make a career out of it.

What can we bring to the table? How can we help? Here are five points to consider:

Children of the Internet Age. Our experiences have brought us through the careening highs of the late 90’s internet boom and the 2010 economic bust. We’ve seen our generation expand quickly and innovate even faster; Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind. We’ve seen the change, so we know what it was like in the past, and we know how and why things can change. This is one of our biggest strengths both in leveraging new technologies and in being leaders.

They want to help. Millenials are now seen as a group that does put significant effort into changing the world and helping others. And when you look at the growth of education, the focus on access and rising costs that the generation has also had to bear, they would not only be sympathetic, but also eager to change processes for the better.

Diversity.  Millenials are also the most diverse generation yet.  Not only are they more integrated and eager to change, but they come from many different backgrounds, places, situations, with an infinite variety of goals.

Photo by Bill Selak on Flickr
Photo by Bill Selak on Flickr

Education. Millenials are also the most educated generation yet… but there’s still work to do. With everything at their fingertips, Millenials have been exposed to a significant amount of information over the last 20 years. They are in touch with ideas, people, and goals. At the same time, we still see plenty of areas to expand education and continue focusing on building a stronger workforce.

They are the non-traditional student. The non-traditional student population is expanding. Why? Non-traditional students are millenials, and they will continue to be for the next 30 years. Not only will they be the student, but they should be leading the students as well.  More so than any generation before, the infinite varieties of goals and backgrounds must be met with an equal variety of approaches. This is no small task. Non-traditional students are lifelong learners, integrating their learning experiences over time with their careers, recreation, and hobbies. Non-traditional will seek credentials through these accumulated sources of learning and look validations of credits to build degrees. Who better to build that system than the very generation that saw such change?

Educational Technology is at the forefront of current change and we see the influence of open technologies, badge and micro-credits, “un-bundling” of course content (and the subsequent commoditization of said content), competency-based education, and other new experiences throughout education. New technologies are reflecting those very trends. While education, and educational technology, are very much changing industries, we still don’t see enough young minds involved in that change. I go back to the conferences I’ve attended and the rooms I’ve sat in, and I’m always the youngest one. On one hand, I’ve had little competition for positions. On the other, I think we could be missing creative ideas and input. I hope I see more. I hope that those from older generations can recognize talent to build and future leaders to inspire.

Traigle, SeanSean Traigle
Senior Director of Academic Relationships
@SATraigle (Twitter) (blog)

Photo Credits:  Iowa Spirit Walker & Bill Selak from Flickr.


WCET Leadership Summit: Under the Sword of Data Highlights

Last week higher education leaders from around the U.S. gathered in Salt Lake City to answer not only the question, “What is ‘big data’?”, but also the “Now What?” for its implications on the future of higher education.

The two day summit kicked off with an orientation to the learning analytics ecosystem by two well known experts – Linda Baer, Minnesota State University – Mankato and Don Norris, Strategic Initiatives, Inc.  Key takeaways from the morning session include:

  • We have more data than we know what to do with, but not enough analysts to figure out what we do with it.
  • The majority of the attendees are looking to accelerate their analytics development but many were just getting started.
  • Before launching an analytics initiative, institutions need to complete a readiness assessment. A three stage model was shared:
    • Stage I – Getting Started
      • Raise the analytics IQ of leaders, faculty, and staff.
    • Stage II – Accelerating Development
      • Create an action Plan for Analytics.
      • Be sure to identify “quick wins” and “low hanging fruit” – it will help demonstrate the behavior you want people to display.
    • Stage III – Creating Transformative Strategies for Leveraging Analytics
      • Create a ‘single point of truth’ – having the team argue over whether the data is correct or not is counterproductive.
      • Need to differentiate the units of analysis and between real-time and leadership-based data.
        • Who needs the data?
        • What kind of report do they need?
        • How often do they need it?
        • At what level of granularity do they need it?
  • You can’t wait for a plan before taking action.  You need to learn from doing.  MOOCs show that we may be in a “Shoot, Ready, Aim” culture now – we have to continue moving forward: audit, measure, plan and act all at the same time.

For more, be sure to check out the slides and handouts from Linda & Don’s orientation to analytics.

Day 1

Data Change Everythingsword by stumayhew on flickr

Ellen Wagner, WCET Executive Director, welcomed the group with the story of the Damoclean Sword and its analogous nature to how analytics function in across all market sectors today.  She illustrated this point with the example of Marissa Mayer made the decision to end telecommuting at Yahoo – by analyzing the data from the VPN logs to determine the level of productivity.  Mayer took much heat in the popular press for her decision, but rarely was it acknowledged that her decision was based upon data that showed workers that were under-performing from home.

Summit Kick-off: Data Change Everything

Featured speaker, Chris Bustamante, President of Rio Salado College, shared how the nation’s largest public online community college, with more than 41,000 online students, uses data to track success, assess the situation, and make changes to improve retention to help more students reach achievement goals.   Key takeaways:

  • In the systems you build, only include variables that are actionable student behavior – we can’t change a student’s gender or race.
  • Providing a student with the right intervention at the time when it is needed can be the difference in student success.
  • With the Rio Salado system, they can show that students logging into the course by the second day have a 20% changes of succeeding. By the eight day of the course, their system can predict a student’s outcome with 70% accuracy.
  • Lack of engagement is both a student AND a course design issue.
  • Now is the time to learn from others – leverage their experience and expertise.

Next up, Jared Mann of Cenage shared their new product, MindTap. Key takeaways:

  • MindTap is interactive, customizable content that combines readings, multimedia, activities and assessments to guide students through a Learning Path to complete their course.
  • Allows instructors to personalize the content and integrates with learning management systems.
  • Can give different point levels for engagement based on activities completed.
  • Ellen Wagner noted that being able to look inside an activity to be able to determine its worth/value is important.

Shannon Meadows, CourseSmart then discussed the disrputiveness of data in higher education.  Key takeaways:

  • New Vision to Transform Education
    • Old paradigm = observable behavior
    • New Paradigm = Observable Behavior + Data (from content management, online interaction, etc.)
  • Analytics are the bridge between causation and correlation
  • CourseSmart analytics dashboards, from Beta, are clean and easy to interpret.
  • Analtyics will transform teaching, learning and accountability.
    • Analytics will help the U.S. regain its competitive edge in higher education.

The final panelist of the opening session was Darcy Hardy, WCET Executive Board member.    Key takeaways:

  • Big Data is going to be the biggest thing to hit higher education.
  • Analytics can help drive conversations about whether students (teenagers, coming straight out of high school) are even ready for college.  The Data Driven Gap year.
  • What we need are edupreneers = education entrepreneur engineers.
    • An edupreneer is the student who will engineer their own credential from life and educational experiences.

Big Data, Big Changes

Next up, Catherine Kelley, Fairleigh Dickinson University, lead a discussion by Linda Baer, Minnesota State University – Mankato, Brett Dennis, Blackboard, Inc.  and Peter Smith, Kaplan Higher Education on how big data play into the realms of accountability, capacity building, and performance-based funding.

Key takeaways:

  • MN created a Dashboard related to performance-based funding, as a requirement of the board.  The Dashboard displays performance indicators of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and its member colleges on selected key measures.
  • Peter Smith quoted Mark Twain – “If they are going to run you out of town anyway – get in front and make it look like a parade,” as an analogy of where higher education is today.  Data will be the tool that helps us make the necessary changes.
  • Big data is driving a new “mother of all mashups” in which the ecosystems of students are considered.  The tool being developed by Kaplan Higher Education will compare a student’s acquired skills against their desired job and its related skills.  Then they’ll be provided with a gap analysis and options on how to gain the skills they are missing:

Cathy Kelley closed this session with wise words, “Be afraid. Be excited.”

Analytical Capacity Building for Institutions

This discussion was led by Don Norris, Strategic Initiatives, Inc.

Key Takeaways:

  • For institutions that want to move forward, where do we find the talent, the analytics expertise?  How do we get this done?    Some initial suggestions:
    • Grow your own talent.  However, be cognizant that even entry level people with big data analytics capability are prime for recruitment by the private sector.
    • Consider “in-sourcing.”   Bring in industry people to work with your team to develop a cadre of personnel with analytics expertise.  Then consider offering their talent as a shared service.   Think about creating an “analytics utility.”
    • WCET was encouraged to consider doing a boot camp to train institutional teams.
    • Faculty will be resistant to any additional workload requirements to enter student course activity or other data.  How address the workload issue?  The data, the measurements have to be embedded in existing systems so no extra work is required.  It has to be automatic.
    • In response to a concern about faculty academic freedom, these data analytics strategies also work for traditional/hybrid classes.   Rather than capturing the student data within the class, consider all the student activity outside of class….student logins into chat, data from e-text usage, etc.  Faculty will not be intimidated by the collection of data of student activity outside the classroom.
    • What’s the pitch that will resonate with legislators?  Big data will enhance institutional ability to improve student performance and control student costs.

Creating a Culture of Retention and Persistence – Now that we know, what do we do?

This breakout was led by Matt Pistilli, Purdue University and focused on a shift in culture – from a culture of persistence and retention to a student success culture – noting that by getting to student success, you will beget retention and persistence.

Key Takeaways:

  • Within the first ten days of class, combining assignments turned in and attendance, we can predict a student’s outcome while accounting for 70% of the variance.
  • Student success is not one person’s job – it’s everyone’s job.
  • Institutions need to focus on risk behaviors for all students not ‘at risk’ students.
  • What data is important is relative to the situation.
  • There are many questions that are raised about the “ethics” of big data.  Matt referenced an EDUCAUSE article that he co-wrote.

Developing a Data Strategy

This session was led by Alan Drimmer, Apollo Group, and shared the strategies Apollo and its’ institutions use to harness data for student success.

Key Takeaways:

  • Data is everywhere.  Strategy may be THE most important thing a school does to innovate.
    • There is no magic formula for using data, because the issues are complex and every school is different.  That does not mean you can’t learn from others’ experience, but data strategy is not a one-size-fits-all situation.
    • Learning games are a use of big data – the game reacts with challenges based on your and other player’s data to customize the experience.
    • In regard to gaining faculty buy-in for data strategy, don’t go to faculty with a blank sheet – bring them some initial trend data, highlight the outliers and see what questions they ask.
    • Focus on something that is important AND something for which you can get the data.
    • Assembling the right team is key.  Otherwise you will experience GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).
    • There is no silver bullet for influencing human behavior.

Summary of Day 1

Ellen Wagner brought the group together and asked all to share their key takeaways from the day:

  • There is no such thing as ‘sort of transparent.’ Once our data are out there, we’ll be accountable.
  • We should think about not only how to tell the story of the successes, but alongside that outline the critical organizational changes that moved the power levers to obtain those successes.
  • Concerned about the hype.  The processes have to be in control and carefully outlines so we don’t blow up one process for another.

Day 2

Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework: Academic Risk Identification

Beth Davis, PAR Framework Director, introduced the PAR Framework and its goals, while PAR data scientist, Jeff Grant shared what the tools being developed can do, and Luzelma Canales, Lone Star Community College System, shared the experience of an institution participating in PAR.

Key Takeaways:

  • PAR is a “big data” analysis effort to identify drivers related to loss and momentum. It informs student loss prevention.
  • WCET member institutions voluntarily contribute de-identified student records to a single federated database.
  • Common Data Definitions are at the foundation of reusable predictive models and meaningful comparisons and are shared openly via the DataCookbook by IData, Inc.
    • In a Campus Technology article which interviewed Russ Little, Sinclair Community College, these data definitions were coined the Rosetta Stone of Student Success Data.
    • The PAR presentation contained several references to the film “The Graduate”:
    • Lone Star Community College System has been able to use the data in their PAR dashboard to work with K-12 and legislators to pinpoint which districts need to better align their math curriculum.  Using these data, they can talk to policy makers about how to close the gaps on STEM.
    • The PAR dashboard allows institutions to see the pass rates in a class for factors such as ‘credit ratio’, GPA, number of withdrawls, gender, receipt of pell grant or not, or ethnicity.  It also allows institutions to look at, for instance, the permanent residence location by major, race and ethnicity, home campus, or gender.  By knowing the issues behind each campus through looking at the data, we can better understand how to move policy and practice.
      • It was noted that the PAR team does not know who the students are, but institutions can know who their own students are.

PAR Framework: Student Success Matrix

In this session, Peter Shea, SUNY; Karen Swan, University of Illinois – Springfiled; Mindy Sloan, Ashford University; and Sandy Daston, PAR outlined the basis for development of a student success matrix.

Key Takeaways:

  • We need new models that are explicit to the type of student we are trying to assist.
  • Retention is an institutional goal to keep students enrolled to completion.  Persistence is an individual’s goal of working to achieve personal educational desire.
    • Persistence is a recipe for success, but too many institutional barriers and a persistent student will go elsewhere.
    • The PAR Student Success Matrix predictor categories are based on three inputs – literature review,  partner experiences, and predictive models.
    • PAR Student Success Matrix is defined by four periods – connection, entry, progress, and completion – based off the Completion by Design work and can be applied across a student lifecycle or across a course lifecycle.
    • 22% of the interventions reported to date are related to learner characteristics, which are harder for institutions to change.
    • Mindy Sloan noted that when Ashford University completed the Student Success Matrix, they found they were putting a lot of resources into the first few weeks, which showed their resource allocation was in-line with their mission.
    • Karen Swan noted that the data tells you what, but it does not tell you why.  You have to implement the interventions and then figure out why.
    • Collaboration is the key to making this work and keeping it viable.  There will be opportunities in the future for others to support and join in the work.
    • Knowledge isn’t a strategic resource like a pile of money.  Sharing makes you and the knowledge stronger.
    • Don’t forget, the data are descriptions of living, breathing students, human beings who we are working to help succeed.

Student Success by the Numbers

In this session we learned about several of the commercial products which help institutions explore student success. The panel was moderated by David Leasure, Western Governors University and included Mac Adkins, Smarter Services; Deb Everhart, Blackboard, Inc.; and David Yaskin, Starfish.

Key Takeaways:

  • The impacts of college are transgenerational.  Lack of success begets the same.  Success transforms families for generations.
  • SmarterMeasure and SmarterSurveys help institutions model student success by using noncognitive variables including internal (attributes, learning styles), external  (life factors), and technical/computer skills.
  • Data visualization helps turn numbers into action.  We need to move away from post-mortem grades to realtime indicators, to move the bar on student success.
  • Blackboard Learn’s Retention Center puts tools in students hands to see how their activity and grades compare with other students in the same course.  It also provides instructors with a breakdown of their own activity engaging in the online portion of the course.
  • Employing a student success platform does not mean students are succeeding, it means you want to engage more.
  • Closing the loop is hard.  If you recommend a student do something to improve, determine a way to track if the recommendation was followed.
  • Starfish Retention Solutions enlists the whole institutional community to participate in student success by connecting across the institution, not just within one segment.

Extreme Data

Phil Ice, APUS and Megan Stewart, Clickstream Learning, opened  a look into the future of data analytics as we continually move forward beyond what is known today.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explosive growth:
    • In 2012 there were 2.4 Billion internet users, with an 8% year to year growth.
    • Between 12/08 and 5/13 mobile device access of the web grew from 0.9% to 15%.
    • In one minute, 204 Million email messages are sent. Every minute of every hour of every day.
    • Higher Education accounts for 10-20% of all internet traffic and the amount of data being created is staggering.
    • Extreme Data = Extreme Integration + Extreme Stress.  Between terabytes and petaflops of data are being created on our campuses almost daily.
    • There is a fundamental shift from structured data (about 5% of data) to unstructured data (about 95% of data) in our work.
    • Data collection and analysis are tied to learner behaviors. Behaviors are actions. The goal is to determine the data that can help us inform behaviors and change them for the better.
    • Ellen Wagner shared an analogy for very inexpensive software licenses – they are much like the almost free puppy – the costs come in for keeping everything healthy and running.

It’s About the Students!

Vernon Smith, Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s, brought the Summit back around full circle, reminding us that all of the work we do is about one thing – the students.

Key Takeaways:

  • The sword of data is double-edged.  Supports the quantified self and adaptive learning.  Data can also border on the line of creepy due to our (and our students) level of comfort with sharing our data.
  • The student model for Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s is students with grit, who only have a 10th grade reading/math level but have motivation to learn.
  • Instead of placement exams, Portmont diagnoses students to find the best fit. Then combining  in-person bootcamp with cohorts, to prep students for fully online courses.
    • Focus on building noncognitive skills along with academics to increase success.
    • Portmont College focusing on four degrees and providing with them measures of employment-ready competencies, which it makes visible to employers in a ‘double-click’ transcript, to give a 3-D view of the student.

Wrap Up

Perhaps it was best said by attendee, Darcy Hardy on twitter – “Head now officially exploding – in a good way. #wcetsummit13.” A lot of learning was packed into two short days.  We welcome you to continue the conversation here and through our social media.  In the coming days, you will find resources available on the Summit page at WCET  –

Thank you to all who attended and to our sponsors who helped make the conversations possible.


Cali Morrison
WCET, Manager, Communications
Support our work.  Join WCET.

Sword Image by Stu Mayhew on Flickr.


Beware of Wolves in Electronic Sheep’s Clothing

The requests look innocent enough.

“I’ve created a site to help students looking to enroll in {insert option: online colleges, night school, distance education, adult education, and so on and so forth}.  My goal is to help students who want to get a degree find the right {insert degree type} for them.  I came across your website and wanted to see if you’d take a look and would mind posting a link on your resources page.”

Or, “I stumbled upon your collection of college and career web resources for prospective students here and thought you might be interested in another authoritative online resource. My team and I have been working on an open-access resource to promote access to higher education in America. Our resource allows you to search for affordable colleges throughout the nation. Currently, many universities, such the University of Washington, Maryland and Houston have referenced our resource as a go-to for people who are not only looking to further their education but also to help finance it. I’d love to share it with you to see what you think as well?”

Or, “I’m impressed with your site’s unique informations (sic). I am a content writer for educational communities

and would the opportunity to guest post for your readers.  I won’t be charging a penny, but in return all I need is just one link in the article.”

At first glance, one might think, ‘free content, I could use a break from writing for a week.’ Or ‘additional links, that will be good for our search engine optimization.’  But look a little deeper.

  • Does the request have a full name? And does that name coordinate with the email address at all? Or is the email address and the name given in the signature “Jane”?
  • Is the ‘resource’ they mention actually a resource (note above, a media release for our 2007 WOW Awards was pegged as a ‘college and career web resource for prospective students.’)
  • Do they provide you with information or at least a link to their organization/website?  If they don’t, RUN.
    • If there is a link provided, dig into the site.  Click through the site, see where it takes you and what kind of information it provides.
    • And ask questions – what is your organization? How are you funded?  Where does the information and/or data on your site come from?
Photo by Pierre Tourigny on Flickr*

True story:  We get a lot of these at WCET.  One of these sites, in particular, has been contacting us nearly daily for weeks.  Each time we respond asking the questions mentioned above and each time we get a non-answer that primarily includes the same text from the original email.  We have even received a second request, with a link to a different page on our website FROM THE SAME “PERSON,” who makes no mention and when asked has no concept that we were contacted by them before.

Many of these requests are feeder sites for the larger lead generation sites and are looking for your link to create greater search engine optimization (SEO), which will in turn generate more leads for their advertisers. Possibly worst of all, these sites co-opt the good reputation of your organization by representing your link as an endorsement.

A word on lead generation sites

Many of your institutions use, have used or will possibly use lead generation sites to help find potential new students. To be objective, we’d like to remind you to be cognizant of how those sites are representing your institution and programs to students.  If the representatives from the lead generation sites are pushy, potential students may see your institution as pushy.  If they are ill-informed, then your institution could look ill-informed.

In our informal studies, of several of the big, to-remain-nameless lead generation sites, the shortest lag time between hitting ‘enter’ with our personal information and receiving the first recruiting call was a whopping 2 minutes.  120 seconds.  Not even time enough to refresh our coffee before the phone was ringing.  And the emails and calls proliferated during the first few days and strung out for a long while after.

To say the least, they were persistent.  To say the worst, they were often trying to sell us on a program we weren’t interested in.  In checking these out, we said were interested in a master’s in non-profit management.  We know such programs exist, but the majority of the recruiters we talked to were trying to steer us into a traditional MBA.  While these two programs are related, they are a different animal.    The point is, the persuasive manner of the callers could easily have directed a potential student into a program that didn’t match their career goals which could lead to future disappointment and resentment.  We encourage you to do your own testing and see the light in which your institution or program is cast by the lead generation sites.

Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing

And let us couch this all in the notion that what we are warning you against here is the wolf in sheep’s clothing – we don’t condemn for-profit activity or even for-profit recruiting.  We do question the less-than-open manner in which some of these entities seek to attract institutions and students.  There are enough reputable vendors who are candid with you about who they are and what they offer without having to guess at their motives.

The moral of the story here, when approached with the offer of free content in exchange for ‘just one link,’ remember the old adage, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

*Photo by Pierre Tourigny on Flickr at
Photo of Cali MorrisonCali Morrison
Manager, Communications
Twitter: @calimorrison

Photo of Russ PoulinRussell Poulin
Deputy Director, Research & Analysis
Twitter:  @russpoulin


Let’s Work Together to Improve College Completion and Affordability

At last year’s WCET Annual Meeting, the “Forging the Future” preconference engaged participants in addressing the question of whether a $10,000 degree was doable.  Together, the participants developed fascinating options on how an institution could be created to address this issue.  In this guest blog post, the three leaders of this year’s Forging the Future workshop describe their fresh focus on how colleges can meet the conundrum implicit in the national goals of increasing completion and maintaining affordability. Don’t forget, the early bird registration deadline for WCET’s Annual Meeting is Tuesday, September 25, 2012.  Register today!

Access to higher education is something we Americans can be proud of.  More than 70% of high school students start higher education or advanced training within two years of graduating.  Unfortunately, only about half who start four-year bachelor’s degree programs as first-year, full time freshmen will finish in 6 years.  Fewer than 33% who start at community colleges finish in three years.

What We Know and What We Don’t Know

Forging the Future 2011
2011’s Forging the Future was a great success. Don’t miss your opportunity to influence the discussion, register for Forging the Future 2012.

What we know is  about the “other side” of college costs.  Not what it takes to go – but what it takes to pay off the expenses of getting an education…or not.  We know that total college loan debt is over $1 trillion dollars.  More than all the credit card debt we manage so adroitly.  We know that over five million former students are at least 12 months behind on their student loans.  And we know that the amount of defaulted loans – $76 billion – is greater than the yearly tuition bill for all students in public two- and four-year colleges and universities.

What we don’t know is what to do about it.  Last year legislators floated the idea of a $10,000 baccalaureate degree.  The Gates Foundation encouraged breakthrough models that reduce the cost of full-time college attendance to $5,000 a year.  The Complete College America initiative proposed (and funded) redesign of course delivery, reducing unnecessary course-taking and using technology as part of a mix of strategies to reduce time to degree.  Recently discussion and debate has arisen over the need for (and efficacy of) a three-year bachelor’s degree. And WCET just announced its award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to use analytics to look for patterns that identify causes of student loss and momentum in online learning.  Try as we might…we do not know what the right solution is.

What we surmise is, just as the causes and implications are different for different institutions – the solutions will be equally as individual and organic.  But there is no denying the universality of the need – and the options from which we have to pick.  But which options fit which campuses?  And how to adapt and implement change in a risk-averse, rapidly transforming educational ecosystem and (dare we conjecture) economy?

For this we look where we have often looked before:  our collegial networks of entrepreneurial disruptors.  To those willing to commit resources and reputation undeterred by lack of empirical anything.  Those who are engineering the innovations today that others will be studying three years after the world has moved on…again.  This is the cohort and collegial connection we seek out.

Join Us in “Forging the Future” to Address These Issues

So – as it turns out – the things we know (individually) are often too little and too specious to craft and frame the vision and plans we need to address affordability.  However – it is also true – that the things we don’t know are often brought together in pieces and chunks by our disparate fellow activists, advocates and early-adopters.  What would happen if a group of very busy but smart and concerned administrators took a break from putting out the IT, faculty, legislative and funding fires for their institutions, and spent half day to delve deep into sharing, exploring, and planning to forge a better future for our students.  Register for this year’s Forging the Future discussion at the WCET Annual Meeting.  On October 31, join your colleagues and workshop leaders:

  • Myk Garn, formerly with SREB and now Vice President of Academic Strategies at StraighterLine – a corporate solution finder to the questions of degree completion;
  • Fred Hurst, Senior VP of the Extended Campuses of Northern Arizona University which recently restructured their education for improved completion and to focus on competencies, and
  • Hae Okimoto, Director of Academic Technologies at the University of Hawaii system who is working at this completion conundrum from the analytics angle.

Do you have CLASS?

Game-based learning, gamification and badges are gathering steam across higher education as forms of student engagement and alternative credentialing.  As your cooperative, WCET designed our authentic experience of badges and game-based learning to give our members and friends a way to hands-on wtih these educational practices, not just read about them.

“Who’s Got Class?” launched in July and we’ll continue playing until we’re all together face-to-face in San Antonio for our WCET Annual Meeting.  We currently have 182 players from 87 institutions actively participating in “Who’s Got Class?”.  Those players have  created 28 discussion topics and contributed to the 4 our gamemaster launched  for a total of 256 posts.  There are 26 total missions which result in badges and 446 badges have been awarded.  To date we have no WCET Rockstars – the top badge you can earn – but our top five players (shout out to Marjorie DeWert, Edward Bowen, Ritchie Boyd, Sherri Sagers, and Sam McCool) are well on their way to gaining that distinction.

Within the forums, there are some in-depth conversations happening regarding issues related to game-based learning and badging systems.  One of the ‘hottest’ topics so far was posted by Terri Straut who raised the issue of “How does cheating impact the dynamics of the game, including the motivation of the players who are playing by the rules?”  In response to this, our gamemaster, Anne Derryberry explores the phenomenon of cheating in game-based social learning environments on her blog.  Of interest, the question was raised in response to a technical hiccup which awarded one team over 100,000 points accidently.

Speaking of our gamemaster, we owe huge gratitude to Anne Derryberry for designing the “Who’s Got Class?” experience for all of us.  She based the activities off the acronym – CLASS – which maps to our WCET tenets of Connect, Learn and Advance and adds what our cooperative does – Serve and Support which makes our members a CLASS Act.

To learn more about what’s been happening in “Who’s Got Class?” and the theory behind the game design, check out the archive of our September 7, 2012 webcast – A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Game+Badge Program, “Who’s Got Class?”.

As mentioned above, “Who’s Got Class?” will continue through October 31, 2012 when we hope to see you all in San Antonio for our Annual Meeting.  This means, there is still PLENTY of time for you to join us and try your hand at becoming a Class Act, WCET Rockstar!  Simply fill out this form and we’ll get you started toward earning badges and winning the game.

Don’t miss our session, Who’s Got Class? WCET and Their Badges Prove It! Friday, November 2 9:30am – 10:45am at the Annual Meeting where we’ll look through the lens of this experience into the future of badges and gaming for higher education.

If you haven’t registered for the Annual Meeting, there is still time to save $100 – the early bird rate is good through tomorrow, September 14, 2012 but you have to act fast and register now. {hint, registering can put you one step closer to being a Rockstar!}

Cali Morrison

Manager, Communications, WCET


AACSB International Business School Accreditation, New Standards, and Distance Ed

Today Frontiers is pleased to welcome Jerry Trapnell, Ph.D. of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International as our guest blogger. Dr. Trapnell shares with us here the process of AACSB’s review and update of its accreditation standards and processes and how these play into distance higher education.

AACSB International (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) is currently involved in a multi-year review and update of its accreditation standards and processes. Founded in 1916, AACSB is the oldest professional, specialized accreditation body for university based business schools in the world.  To date, the organization has accredited 655 institutions (less than 5% of the world’s institutions that offer business degrees) in 44 countries and territories.  The current AACSB accreditation standards were adopted in 2003 and have evolved since then. But, the dynamic environment of management education globally, the impact of technology in the higher education space, growing demands for increased accountability, the increased focus on sustainable development, globalization of the educational experience, and the effects of the global financial crisis demanded a much more intensive review process which is expected to conclude with the adoption of new standards and processes in April 2013.

In its current standards review and update project, distance education and/or technology supported learning in all forms have received considerable

Jerry Trapnell
Dr. Jerry Trapnell

attention and consideration of how they should be addressed in any revised accreditation standards. Through a Distance/Online Education Task Force, recommendations on how the revised standard should address this important area have emerged. Though, the final revised standards are still in development and will require extensive review and analysis by all AACSB accredited schools, the following outlines the current thinking on distance/online educational programming and how the revised standards may address this important trend.

  •  Based on the difficulty trying to prepare a unique standard that applies to all forms of distance education/technological supported learning, it is not likely AACSB’s new standards will have specific, dedicated standards on this mode of delivery. The current thinking is that broader standards on curricula management, curricula content, infrastructure, faculty and professional staff sufficiency, qualifications, and training, and student learning assessment can incorporate accreditation expectations for all delivery modes including distance education/technology supported learning.
  • Some qualitative dimensions, attributes, and guidelines related to all modes of delivery will likely be identified and be appropriately linked to distance/technology supported learning.  These include:
    • Alignment with mission, expected outcomes, and strategies (i.e., does distance delivery align with the business school mission, etc. , are resources appropriate to support the mode of delivery, are students admitted to such programs aligned with mission, etc. and are oversight processes in place to ensure quality outcomes and continuous improvement?).
    • Are participants (students, faculty, and supporting professional staff) prepared to successfully support and participate in the mode of delivery including design, evaluation, and delivery strategies that embrace engagement of students in active, interactive learning experiences)? Faculty and professional staff development is critical to ensure these individuals are well prepared to effectively direct and impact positive learning in the distance/technology driven supported context.
    • Do the program designs, structures, and pedagogy appropriately support independent learning while providing a significant level of successful student-to-student and student-to-faculty interactions including experiential learning experiences?  Are appropriate protocols in place to ensure the integrity of the learning process, student work, etc.?
    • Do the degree programs, regardless of delivery mode, have appropriate oversight, monitoring, and learning assessment/improvement policies and procedures that are effective in ensuring accountability and continuous improvement?
    • Is the technological/learning platform appropriate, reliable, and supported to achieve learning outcomes based on the desired level of distance delivery through which a program is offered? A related factor is the financial strategies supporting distance delivered programs and are such strategies appropriate and producing adequate resources to maintain and support quality going forward?

In summary, the emerging perspective on AACSB’s approach to distance delivery/technological supported learning is to view this in the context of qualitative dimensions that apply to all modes of delivery. In each accreditation review, regardless of the mode of delivery, business schools must demonstrate the qualitative dimensions of each degree programs meet the spirit and intent of the accreditation standards.

Post Author:

Jerry Trapnell, PhD.

Executive Vice President

Chief Accreditation Officer

AACSB International


Journey with WCET into Badges & Game Based Learning

Today WCET is pleased to announce the kick-off of Who’s Got Class? Our new badge and game-based learning initiative.  This customized multi-player game provides our members and friends with the opportunity to explore the emerging, evolving world of badges and games while learning more about WCET programs and services and engaging in a light-hearted competition with WCET members and institutional teams.

Who's Got Class?Who’s Got Class? provides an authentic experience of badges and a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at what it takes to design and implement a badge project.  Best of all, players will have multiple opportunities to show their competitive spirit through game play and earning badges as you do.  Who’s Got Class?  is open to all WCET Institutional Members as well as WCET friends, although some badges are only open to WCET members.

Many thanks to Anne Derryberry who designed and produced this custom experience for us. Who’s Got Class? would not have been possible without the dedication and talent she has given to this project.  Anne is an independent designer/producer of game-based and social media-supported learning and communications systems and an industry analyst with Sage Road Solutions, LLC. During her fellowship at University of Missouri School of Journalism’s Reynolds Journalism Institute, Anne developed journalism news games as part of her ongoing quest to extend our understanding of engagement and motivation in learning and communication endeavors.

We also want to acknowledge and thank our technology partner, Learning Times – whose Badgestack platform provides the infrastructure for Who’s Got Class –  for their implementation and ongoing technical support.

WCET started our badge explorations several months ago thanks to John Bower and the team at uBoost, a WCET member organization. We want to thank John for sparking our interest in taking this journey.

Interested in joining the fun?  Please click on the blue link to request your log-in credentials from the Gamemaster.  Please include your name, title, institution and email address.

We hope you’ll join us on this adventure lending your insights through the game.  See you online!

Cali Morrison
Who’s Got Class? handle:  calimorrison