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Rewiring the System: Providing Educational Solutions that Work in Today’s Marketplace

About fifty years ago, U.S. higher education began to face unprecedented demand from students seeking college degrees. Now, most people agree that every citizen should have access to post secondary educational opportunities in order to insure economic well-being and personal fulfillment.

This article was written by Dan Bartell, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, at Sagence Learning, Inc.

About fifty
years ago, U.S. higher education began to face unprecedented demand from
students seeking college degrees. Now, most people agree that every
citizen should have access to post secondary educational opportunities in order
to insure economic well-being and personal fulfillment. Many news sources
have cited a lifetime earning variance of one million dollars between the high
school and college graduate. But the typical college and university
student has changed greatly from 25 years ago. The National Center for
Education Statistics reports over 50% of college students are over 22 years of
age and most of them finance all or part of their education, with 71% having
student loans upon graduation. Traditional higher education was never
designed to support the kind of programs that are needed to drive the dreams of
today’s learners, yet we continue to devote billions of dollars to colleges and
universities offering instructional programs and teaching strategies
appropriate for just a minority of students and disciplines.

The Educational Challenge

Millions of potential students cannot pursue
higher education programs bound to time and place. Thirty million Americans
have some college credit but no degree; over eight million of them are looking
to advance their careers by building new skills. Because 70% of students now
work while they are in school, and 26% have dependent children, many students
require education that adjusts to their individual
circumstances. These students don’t ask to do partial work; they are not
looking to cut corners in their learning or asking for standards to be lowered.
They want to master the skills and knowledge specifically required to earn
their credentials in order to pursue a dream, a better job, economic stability,
or personal fulfillment.

Initially,
online education offered a solution based on convenience, eliminating the need
to visit a physical campus. But it largely transferred old models of
teaching and learning from a physical classroom to a virtual space. New
technologies, like the LMS platforms that currently dominate the market, were
patterned on the practices of in classroom activity. Yet while flawed, online
education refocused educators on the need to seriously consider how students
learn, rather than just supporting individual instructor’s teaching preferences.
We have experienced a re-imagination of teaching and learning, often based on
skill mastery and teaching practices long used by certain disciplines or
colleges. Many institutions now realize that competency-based education
(CBE) programs and courses would better serve millions of potential students
who seek post secondary education. While a good number of new programs
have focused on business and education, CBE actually has its roots in health
care. Early leaders have also focused on Information Technology programs and
disciplines that serve manufacturing. And there are few disciplines where
competency-based learning design is not appropriate. This re-imagination, these
new programs must be supported by new technology solutions, not by technology designed
for traditional classroom use. Colleges, universities, and even K12
schools need a next generation technology platform along with supporting
services specifically designed for competency-based learning.

The
economy and demands of the job market will continue to rapidly evolve. It
is estimated that almost 70% of job openings in 2020 will require post
secondary education. 60% of Americans now go to college, yet less then
half of those will succeed. It is imperative we provide students with
flexible options to help them successfully earn credentials that provide the
relevant skills and knowledge needed for today’s jobs and careers. A
widely circulated report estimates that over 600 colleges are researching or
planning competency-based education programs that allow students to demonstrate
mastery regardless of place, time or
pace. Yet, too few have launched and it’s high time to move past the
planning stage. 

Sagence Learning: CBE Solutions

Sagence Learning provides the technology and services that
enables learning institutions to go from concept to creation and
delivery. We support competency-based learning models of any scale, from
delivery within the credit hour and term structure to direct assessment programs
that holistically measure student progress and completion through mastery
assessment strategies. Sagence Learning helps our clients align their CBE
model to their unique strengths. We provide expert planning and design. We
help build, test, launch, succeed, evaluate, and iterate.

Sagence Learning’s next generation learning platform went live
in July of 2014 with the launch of Brandman University’s Bachelor in Business
Administration program. This program was specifically built for working adults
who had already earned colleges credits, had relevant, real world experience,
and needed to complete a degree to further their career opportunities. Another
partner, Peirce College of Philadelphia, which has served “non-traditional”
students since 1865, recently launched a CBE bachelors degree program with a
concentration in Networking, Administration and Information Security. In their own words:
"There are thousands of people in this region who have been disconnected
from opportunity and are on a path that won't lead to a sustainable career
unless they can get an appropriate education. They represent a segment of the
American population with a huge amount of earning potential that has been
generally overlooked by higher education." Competency based education
programs can be critical to the economic success of countless potential
students.

All along the way, our clients are supported by Sagence Learning’s
design methodology, platform, and services to insure competencies are aligned
with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Their learning paths to
competency focus on skills and knowledge that match those demanded by the
current marketplace and directly relate to skills that would impress a hiring
manager.

Make a Difference

Like fully
online programs, the competency-based programs our platform supports are
primarily enrolling adult and career focused learners. However, these new CBE
programs go beyond the convenience of eliminating the need to visit a campus.
They are intentionally designed to continually support and specifically appeal
to those who are looking to develop new skills and earn new credentials that
will directly lead to improving economic prospects. Competency-based
education opens worlds of possibilities to underserved learners pursuing new
opportunities. The complete support and the job relevance inherent in
competency based education programs will surely make a dent in the 25% drop out
rate in the first year of study. 

Sagence Learning is positioned to
make CBE programs possible at any college or university, enabling them to
provide opportunities to their students to stay in college and complete, win
better jobs and create new careers. Our partners have already launched programs
where students have earned advanced degrees in education in four months, or
completed unfinished bachelor's degrees in accounting or finance. Imagine
when our college and university partners launch programs with companies like
Google, General Motors, or Lyft to help disenfranchised factory workers acquire
new skills and knowledge so that they can create the next generation of
driverless cars--in Detroit. Millions of students need a world where they
can learn on their own schedules and on their unique paths without being
constrained by the artificial deadlines set by traditional time and place-based
models. Sagence Learning is already making this happen, helping bring a
dream to life for underserved adults where life circumstances can get in the
way of education goals and economic aspirations.

CBE: an Evolving Strategy and Commitment

Sagence Learning believes in transforming an
educational model that serves too few, too inefficiently, and at too high a
cost. Personal investment in post-secondary education is necessary, but $1.3
trillion in ballooning student debt is too much. Competency based
education promises to help lower the costs of education, improve learning
outcomes, and strengthen students’ motivation and creativity. As pioneers in
the creation of competency based education, Sagence Learning excels in
delivering opportunities to those least served by traditional higher
education. Our partners use our platform and our expertise to develop and customize specific programs to broaden
educational opportunities. The outcomes and competencies are absolutely clear
and transparent to both the learner and the future employer; the degree is not
a black box. Our partners use Sagence Learning to support every learner who
wishes to enroll in a program that improves job prospects and supports career
aspirations and earnings growth.

As their programs grow, our
partners evaluate and revise their programs for maximum impact, insuring the
skills developed and knowledge acquired prepare students to win new jobs and to
move up the economic ladder. Our platform allows our partners to understand
where students excel and stall in their efforts, and they use this knowledge to
improve learning in real time. As their programs grow, our partners evaluate
the effectiveness of each program through deep analytics, adjusting the
programs in real time to improve outcomes. 

Underlying all we do is our
commitment to the creation and delivery of relevant, effective, measurable, and
learner-driven education solutions. What defines Sagence Learning is the
deep passion of its employees to help change the fortunes of all
learners. We are steeped in the higher education of tomorrow, with a
determination founded by years of experience focused on redefining and
reimagining the best of what exists today, dedicated to solving the problems
adult learners face. We must expertly support those who will spend the
necessary effort, time, and investment required to acquire skills and knowledge
that will lead to improved economic well-being. Our biggest collective
risk is not listening to those who have been underserved by the current
postsecondary education model. Our shared obligation with our clients is
to solve the dissonance between higher education and the needs of employers and
to provide competency based education programs that offer the most personalized
and flexible ways for people to gain knowledge and skills that are aligned with
success in today’s workplace.

[1] Ben Miller. “New America Foundation:
Breaking With Tradition.”

[2] National Center for Education Statistics. “Fast
Facts.” US Department of Education, 2015. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/

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