NEW EDUCATION DELIVERY METHODS
Our Louisiana Talent Commitment is anchored in the understanding that all learning counts. Thousands of Louisiana’s citizens are returning to higher education campuses annually, bringing with them knowledge and skills gained in the workplace. These developed talents, along with prior college experience and knowledge, should be systematically included in credential pathways. Census data indicate that there are in excess of one-half million adults in our state who have attended college but left without a credential; many of these adults, though, continued to gain skills after leaving through their jobs and other life events.44 In many cases, these adults could leverage their informal learning in the classroom, to complete their progress to a credential. In addition to this pool of adults who could bring their experience back to college, there are 271,000 who never finished high school and almost 100,000 ‘opportunity youth’ (ages 16- 24, not enrolled in school or working) who could benefit as well.45,46
We must evolve our system from seeing the diploma as a proxy for learning to a competency- based approach. This would allow students to advance in the Prosperity Pipeline based on mastery of skills, regardless of the environment in which they learn those skills. Students are then liberated from a schedule of knowledge transfer, and fixed benchmarks to measure progress, to move at their own pace through the competencies needed in the area of study. Focusing on skill development rather than seat time will help students master course content, and allow for the student’s competence to be demonstrated and documented. This approach is fully consistent with the evolving economy, which places a premium on demonstrated skills, self-motivation, and critical ability.
A well-defined Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) system is a critical tool for measuring the opportunities for these returning adults; institutions in Louisiana currently deploy a variety of PLA practices, with uneven effectiveness. Advancing a statewide PLA policy that covers all public campuses and ensures that credits awarded through PLA are treated equally with other credits in transfer policies is an important step. This will raise efficiency for campuses, reduce uncertainty for students, and make the system more predictable and transparent.
The rapid development of educational technologies has also enabled a myriad of new formats and types of learning experiences, extending from massive open online courses (MOOCs) that enroll thousands but provide little or no student support, to fully personalized models of teaching and learning. Through the Board’s eLearning Task Force, educational innovation of all kinds is supported across institutions, allowing faculty, administrators, and others to discover effective techniques for different learning styles and student populations. Continued, accelerated support of leading faculty innovators can build on this success, to improve student outcomes and cultivate new opportunities for student access and learning.