Weaving Innovative Threads Together: A New Fabric for Higher Education

Weaving Innovative Threads Together: A New Fabric for Higher Education

Judee Richardson (University of Wisconsin – Extension, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5255-0.ch002
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In the United States, institutions of higher education have been under mounting pressure to improve. In part, this is due to increasingly high-priced academies producing graduates who possess skill levels that are out of sync with employer and societal needs. Added to this is the fact that the United States spends more than other countries to educate its citizens but continues to perform more poorly on comparative measures of literacy, math, reading, and science. To stay globally competitive, changes need to be made. Competency-based education has re-emerged and taken root as one way in which to educate students more effectively. By focusing on demonstrable learning outcomes and discipline-specific performance, competency-based education is changing the fabric of higher education. Based upon experiences garnered from the University of Wisconsin Flexible Option, this chapter presents some of the challenges encountered when developing this type of program within a longstanding traditional educational system.
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The way in which higher education arrived at this place is something of a tectonic shift. That is, extreme pressures built up over time and moved expansive educational landscapes. A significant source of this pressure has come from international comparative measures of student performance. For example, every three years the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures the reading ability, math and science literacy of 15-year olds living in 71 developed and developing countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) sponsors the PISA initiative. The most recent results available are from 2015 and place the United States 38th in math and 24th in science (OECDb, 2016). Among OECD’s 35 member countries, the United States placed 30th in math and 19th in science, overall (OECD, 2016a).

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