2 + 1 + OER

I’ve been thinking of ways to bend the cost curve using OER and get to that 60% college-educated place people keep talking about, while still building on the existing Higher Education system.

And I’ve been thinking particularly what sort of education I might like my older daughter, now eleven, to have access to in six years.

There’s a bunch of concerns I have, when I consider this at this level: she’ll likely still need a degree to have the options she wants. I think a residential experience is also valuable.

Here’s my thought on a system that could be in place in six years and have broad acceptance in the job market from day one. I’m calling it “2+1+OER”.

Basically, develop high quality OER for the community college system that aligns with integrative education programs like the one we have at Keene State. Take the best thought on how we make general education relevant and issues based, and build activity-level modules that can be facilitated at the community college level. Bake in the assessment piece, right into the module.

These same modules can be used at the undergraduate level of four-year colleges for students following a more traditional degree.

So that’s the “2″ part of “2+1+OER” — two years community college, or online equivalent, delivering modules. To start, those modules might be seeded by a large foundation, but the idea would be to get a practitioner to practitioner community going so that these modules would both improve over time, and allow for forking by instructors wanting to play to their students or institution’s particular strengths or challenges.

The “1″ is one year of residential college at an existing state college. Except it’s a little more than one year — It’s one year plus two summers. (As a side effect, this helps deal with the waste of having empty campuses three months out of the year, which is an issue that I know has been a big concern of our trustees).

The model could look like this for my daughter:

Fall 2017: Community College + Online
Spring 2018: Community College + Online
Summer 2018: Intensive Summer Residence Program at residential college
Fall 2018: Community College + Online
Spring 2018: Community College + Online
Summer 2019: Intensive Summer Residence Program at residential college
Fall – Spring 2019 Full year Residential Program at residential college

To make this really work, we’d have to make sure that this was not seen as a “second-class” option — and a lot of that would have to do with the quality of the OER, and a focus portfolio-based assessment. It is probably also important that the track at the community college that uses the OER is marked on the transcript as such, so that employers can understand the level of quality of the program does not differ substantially from a traditional undergraduate experience (and in many ways may be better designed and assessed).

I think this could be a win for everyone though: the quality of the experience will likely be higher and the coherence greater than it is for many students currently. It makes use of campuses during the summer. It improves the community college system, while allowing residential colleges to focus on the unique opportunities having a residential student population allows, in terms of immersive experiences, undergraduate research, living-learning communities, etc.

Most importantly, it can exist side by side with the current system, using slightly tweaked processes for transfer, accreditation, etc. Places like Keene State could continue to serve primarily traditional undergraduates while still dramatically expanding access. It’s an extension, in many ways, of the great work that’s been going on in many states to make the transfer process for community college students more seamless. The difference here is that OER is used to create a coherent and more fully collaborative relationship between the community college and the residential college, and ensure a level of quality and impact, and to guarantee that the 2+1 option is not seen as a second-class route to a degree.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

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