Increasing Student Success by Improving the Learning Model

By Kate Ford and Karen Vignare

For those of us in higher education, few things compare to the joy and pride of seeing our students walk across the commencement stage as their families and friends applaud and cheer their achievement of this major milestone.  Their success is also our success.  The fact that more than 11,000 UMUC students worldwide completed their degrees this year alone is exhilarating.  Yet, as we watched the ceremonies unfold last month, our revelry was tempered by the knowledge that college completion rates for traditional and non-traditional students alike  in the United States are below those of numerous other developed nations.  What we do not see at college commencements are the rows upon rows of empty seats representing students who have abandoned their higher education aspirations and those who are serious risk of doing so.

Like other forward-thinking institutions, UMUC is intensely focused on examining what we can do differently to improve not only educational access, affordability, and quality, but ultimately outcomes, as measured by college completion.  Actively leveraging technology advances and internal/external collaboration is a cornerstone of the process through which we design, prototype, and evaluate course, program and service innovations, bringing to scale those that have proven most effective.  More than moonshots, ours is a learner-centric innovation model focused on achieving sustainable outcomes through socially responsible business practices and operational excellence.  Our growth mindset is fueled by an unquenchable desire to do better tomorrow than we did today.  We remain cognizant of what works, but always with an eye to surfacing and changing what does not.

This philosophy also guides UMUC’s learning model enhancements, which were the singular focus of our spring faculty meetings.  In support of these discussions, CILSS developed a preliminary annotated bibliography of references from the most influential works on adult learning in higher education to date.  This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.   We also included several references representing recent research and emerging practices in adult educational design and delivery.   Members of our external audience can download a copy of the annotated bibliography here.

Our core learning principles are not informed by any one theory, philosophy, or practice outlined in these resources. Rather, we employ an integrative approach, continually examining newer research-based techniques, technologies, and intervention approaches alongside the fundamentals. Our goal in doing so is to identify and implement those transformations with the most promising potential to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching and learning in higher education settings uniquely designed to meet the advanced development needs of busy working adults and other non-traditional learners.

– Empty Chairs @ the Bandstand photo by Vicki Burton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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