Competency-Based Learning, Personalization, and the Rise of the ‘Multiverse’ in Education

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Working at the intersection of institutions, innovators, and issue champions is a blessing. Of course you must be willing to ideate, engage, and explore–not to mention, bring a good amount of tenacity and grit to face tough issues, take a few stands, and learn hard lessons. However, you also have the pleasure of working with people that give you hope that the road ahead for education is bright. Dr. Marni Baker Stein, Provost and Chief Academic Officer for Western Governor University (WGU), is decidedly in this group for me. After listening to the podcast that follows, you’ll understand why. In this conversation, Marni helps us unpack the particulars and potential of WGU’s competency-based learning model. From working to gain clarity around learning objectives to curating learning resources to developing assessments, she shows how the pieces fit together and power a different kind of learning journey. She also shines a light on the faculty specialization model and how WGU embraces the notion of a community of care to help students navigate their pathway. It’s the personalization part of the conversation where Marni leans in even more. Moving from commodity offerings to personalized pathways matters for her. Pay particular attention to her notion of persistent, progressive profiles that stay with each student and helps the community of care meet students where they are and better guide them to where they need to go. Moreover, she shares how WGU is committed to learning together as a community of practice with a large and robust set of innovators across higher education. This work is not about winning against other institutions; it’s about innovators refining models that help students win. Finally, Marni challenges us to take seriously the diverse and interconnected nature of learning on the road ahead. Students are coming to us with a variety of learning experience from their traditional education, workforce training, and personal experiences. They’ll also likely move on to related learning journeys soon after leaving our caring arms. This “multiverse,” as she dubs it, calls into question the singular focus of a “universe”ity, if you will. Our institutions must become better able to value, recognize, and document the learning that students bring as they enter at different ages and stages and as they transition into their next adventures. A “multiverse” perspective forces us to open up, engage, and collaborate in new an interesting ways that will likely benefit our universities, community colleges and, more importantly, our students. It might be key to our push to move from forcing all students to be “college ready” to challenging us to be more “student ready.” If you want to listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, click here. For those who want to use SoundCloud, click here.

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