Teamwork, professional development, assessment. What links these concepts? The APUS assessment team recently attended the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE) Annual Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Participating in this event as a group allowed us to build and enhance team connections and share daily feedback on new ideas, alternate processes and innovative methods and how we might apply those learnings to our ongoing initiatives at APUS. With our assessment initiatives in mind (e.g., rubric integration into our classrooms using iRubric, rebuilding and reshaping the university assessment committee, continuous improvement through triennial program reviews, and several others) we went forth to attend the daily sessions.
At the recent Eduventures Summit in Boston, we were asked to reflect upon a question in preparation for the for-profit leadership panel but it was never addressed, even though it may well be among the most important: How are we preparing our students for the workplace?
Today’s employers are seeking skills and mindsets in new employees that few institutions seem able to provide their graduates. Is this gap widening? Narrowing? Why, or why not? How do we, as institutions of higher education, respond to this skills gap? Are degrees the only solution? Is there a shorter-term credential at perhaps a lower cost? And how do these choices impact the business model of higher education?
There are many benefits to seeking change for an individual or organization. Having a willingness to move from the status quo requires being aware of the need to adapt and remain relevant in an ever-changing society. This need to adapt and remain relevant in an ever-changing society became our challenge in shifting our Core Learning department’s culture to develop 21st-century practitioners. In short, our faculty needed to shift their legacy instructional practices to better anticipate and meet the corresponding needs of 21st-century learners by fostering those skills themselves, including creativity, analytic thinking, collaboration, communications and ethics, action, and accountability (Crockett, 2016). The award-winning APUS Group Coaching and Mentoring Framework (GCMF) became the strategy to affect that desired change.
As we have been training APUS faculty who will serve as mentors and subject matter experts in the new APUS Momentum competency-based education program, we have used the analogy of putting our students in the driver’s seat of their educational journey. And right there with them in the passenger seat is the faculty mentor, acting as navigator based on the student’s personalized learning map. Waiting in the ‘pit,’ by extension, is the “crew” of subject matter experts that will provide the student with all they need in order to gain the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to master the discipline competencies.
I can’t speak for all for-profit institutions, but at APUS we value our affordability and the opportunity it provides our students to pursue their educational goals. We have been able to balance operational costs and investments in the classroom, in various processes, and in the student learning experience without adding significant tuition and fee increases for our students.
With the beginning of a new year and a new leadership team in place, we have launched the first-ever APUS Leadership Listen and Learn (LLL) initiative. What is it, who is involved, and why do this?
The purpose of the LLL strategic program is for the university community and leadership team to meet in a more intimate and collaborative gathering focused on the APUS vision and direction, exploring what we need to do as a university in both the near-term and coming years to continue to strengthen our focus on academic excellence, student success and organizational effectiveness. To accomplish this goal, I, Provost Vernon Smith, COO Bob Gay, Chief of Staff Gwen Hall and other members of my leadership team will host students, faculty, staff, partners, alumni and other integral university stakeholders on our Charles Town campus and in locations across the country where we have significant populations of students and/or faculty, with additional virtual sessions to be conducted remotely.