You don’t need to work in the education space to see that technology is playing an increasingly important role in higher education. These days, it isn’t unusual to see innovative tools such as Smart Boards, e-books, and even mobile devices in the classroom. This pervasive state of technology in higher education is especially evident at professional colleges and universities, which have been leaders in bringing disruptive technologies to the classroom.
Just as career colleges have been leveraging new technology for education, we at Blackboard have also been working to drive innovation in our own solutions. We’ve asked ourselves:
- How can Blackboard course administration become more efficient and effective for instructors?
- How can our solutions give instructors more insight into their classroom and help them retain students?
- What can we do to improve the student experience on Blackboard?
I recently had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Diane Auer Jones, the former Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education in the U.S. Department of Education, on the importance of accountability in higher education. This presentation was incredibly eye-opening to me on many levels, and has encouraged me to more deeply consider how assessment can improve the student experience at professional colleges and universities.
A Single Definition
A primary goal of Jones’ presentation was to advocate for a “single definition” in education through a rethinking of accountability and student success across institution types. Early in the presentation, Jones argued that while a distinction is often made between so-called traditional schools and career or vocational institutions, in reality program offerings at these institutions are increasingly similar to one another. For example, proprietary schools are offering an increasing number of degree programs, including advanced degree programs while at the same time, the majority of graduates from traditional, comprehensive universities are earning degrees in vocational fields like nursing, education and business.
In addition, when outcomes are assessed for all students, and not just the shrinking minority of traditional, “first-time-full-time” students, we see a similar convergence in outcomes among demographically-matched students regardless of where they attend college (including at a number of selective institutions). As highlighted by the report, Time is the Enemy¸ when part-time students are included in the statistics, public institutions that boast of graduation rates as high as 60 percent among their first-time-full-time students show far more sobering results. While the relative proportion of traditional versus non-traditional students might determine the overall graduation rate at a given institution, these averages may in no way represent the likely outcome for an individual student.
Earlier this month, the Blackboard team sponsored the 3rd Annual Professional Colleges and Universities Summit (PCUS)
along with our host, Harrison College
. We first began these summits to form a network for our clients across the professional college and university sector. From our perspective, it is critical that stakeholders at proprietary institutions come together to share best practices and communicate about the collective challenges they face, especially within the current regulatory environment and fast-paced changes in learning technology.
Through meetings like this, I firmly believe that we can work together to highlight the great things schools in our sector are doing – and that’s exactly what happened at this year’s PCUS gathering.
Of the many things I learned during the summit, here are some of my top takeaways from PCUS 2012:
- Connections between students matter, even in online learning environments. One school found that being connected to just one other person radically increased their students’ success and retention rates. The more that students participate in course-related social networks, for example, the more likely they are to graduate – and this is especially true for those who enter with multiple risk factors.
Even though online learning programs are relatively new for many institutions of higher education, Berkeley College has been proudly offering online courses since 1998. Today, Berkeley Online features over 270 courses and 28 degree programs, which complement the College’s eight on-site locations in New York and New Jersey. Blackboard began supporting this innovative school nearly a decade ago, and our role in facilitating administrative ease and student engagement continues today.
Blackboard’s partnership with Berkeley College has grown and evolved in a way that reflects the school’s commitment to frequent, open communication. The school currently leverages Blackboard Learn 9.1 to create a centralized information portal, allowing students the ability to easily view grades, transcript requests, and tuition information online. The Learn 9.1 platform even provides outlets for course enrollment, tutoring, and professional development for professors- all from one easy-to-navigate, online portal.