Last week, I attended and exhibited at the University Professional & Continuing Education Association’s (UPCEA) Summit for Online Leadership & Strategy (SOLS) at Coronado Island in San Diego, California. UPCEA is a nationwide organization focused on professional, continuing, and online education. For this conference, UPCEA partnered with the American Council on Education (ACE) in order to bring education professionals together to discuss key areas that are shaping the future of online learning. Those key areas are:
- Aligning Online Education with Institutional Mission and Strategy
- How Big Data is Driving Efficiency and Effectiveness
- Innovation, Access, and Affordability: A Strategic Imperative
- Understanding the Policy Environment for Online Education
Over 300 thought leaders came together for the three-day conference to share best practices and further develop knowledge about online learning. Conference speakers included Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera; Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons; and Ray Schroeder, Director for the Center for Online Leadership and Strategy at UPCEA.
Several common themes emerged during the conference that seemed to excite me and other participants as well. Two topics seemed to stand out to me most: competency-based education and open educational resources.
- Competency-Based Education: Many colleges and universities across the United States have developed competency-based learning models in order to create self-paced learning programs at a cheaper cost than traditional college programs. Competency-based programs are structured as open enrollment programs allowing students to apply and be accepted at anytime throughout the year eliminating the need for students to wait until the next semester begins. Because programs are self-paced, tuition is far less making education accessible for the masses. Students complete programs at their own pace and test out of a subject when they have completed their modules and feel ready to move forward. Northern Arizona University seems to be the leader in the field of competency-based education providing dozens of programs in several professional fields.
- Open Educational Resources: Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons gave a exciting keynote presentation about the growth of open educational resources in higher education. The mission of Creative Commons is to provide free legal tools for professionals to share their individual work to the masses without the need to ask for permission. By providing these resources for free, colleges and universities can save millions of dollars each year on literary costs that are typically passed on to the student. The practice of open educational resources is truly disrupting higher education as schools recognize their benefits.
As an exhibitor, it was an exciting time at this year’s UPCEA SOLS conference and I enjoyed meeting so many like-minded professionals in higher education. I look forward to the UPCEA National Conference in Miami!