The Thrill Is On!

Every now and then, something happens in one’s professional life that is simply thrilling. For me, such a moment came when I was asked earlier this year to become the founding president of the Open College at Kaplan University (OC@KU).

I can’t call this a “once-in a-lifetime opportunity” because I have had the opportunity to do this twice before at the Community College of Vermont in 1971 and California State University Monterey Bay in 1995. The thrill is in embracing the opportunity to develop a third college that is as appropriate to its time and purpose as I believe the other two were and are to theirs. Given that opportunity, the challenge this time is two-fold:

  1. To develop a college that harnesses the resources of the web and big data to transform learner access, choice, persistence, and completion using evidence-based evaluations and,
  2. To serve post-high school adult learners, including those who have not completed college, who have career, academic, or personal needs to pursue further learning.

As the mission states, OC@KU offers individualized, affordable education that integrates technology and personalized service to help learners meet their career, academic, and personal goals. This mission links learner-centeredness with our intention to keep the total cost of the bachelors degree under $10,000 and remain free of Title IV.

We are developing an institution that will ultimately have three components.

  1. A free and open space that allows learners to self-assess their learning, explore career opportunities, diagnose their work-related behavior, and explore educational opportunities through learning support services that we have developed.
  2. A “lifelong learning club” that serves lifelong learners who want a home base with some guaranteed support services for a low monthly fee, but who are not immediately (or maybe ever) interested in a certificate or degree.
  3. Evidence-based Bachelor’s Degree programs that begin where the incoming learner is, helps him/her chart a path to the desired degree, and provides support while he/she travels down that path. We are beginning with one degree, the Bachelors of Science in Professional Studies. This degree will be outcome-based and tied to course-level learning outcomes. Assessment will include exams, portfolio assessments, and acceptance of other accredited or approved assessments.

For the near term, we are focusing on the free and open space (#1) and the degree programs (#3). In later posts I will discuss how OC@KU uses a group of integrated services in a new institutional design to provide these two service areas. But in the meantime, I am drawing on a fabulous staff and all the experience I have gained over the years in program development, learning processes, assessment, and learner-centered policies to get this thing up and running by September 29th. Hence, the thrill is on!

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