Capella University is a mission-driven online institution founded in 1993 to extend access to high-quality higher education to working adults. Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees and certificate programs have been offered online through a learning-outcomes and competency-based curriculum since 2002. Capella’s programs attract professionals seeking career advancement and fulfillment of personal and professional potential. Capella learners represent a diverse population of working adults, and the university’s strategic decisions aim to serve this learning community by offering affordable competency-based academic programming of the highest quality.
Capella's innovative approach to online learning relies on the documented alignment of all curricular, instructional, and assessment components. Capella faculty and its curriculum and assessment specialists benchmark external standards (e.g., professional organizations’ expectations, industry experts, accreditors, etc.) to create expected program-level learning outcomes and operationalize those outcomes into competencies. Then, using a backward design model, the assessment system for an academic program and its courses are built to authentically assess learners’ demonstration of expected outcomes and competencies.
In 2007, faculty and assessment specialists redesigned capstone courses to directly assess program-level expected learning outcomes via aligned criterion-referenced scoring guide criteria. The university’s subsequent implementation of a fully embedded assessment model (FEAM) allows for the direct assessment of each learner’s demonstration of course-level competencies and program-level learning outcomes and near real-time reporting to multiple stakeholders via a Competency Map. In October 2013, Capella University became the first institution to offer Department of Education-approved direct assessment delivery options at the bachelor’s or master’s degree levels, called FlexPath. The introduction of direct assessment program options is aligned with Capella’s institutional mission to extend access to high-quality bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs. Congruent with this mission, Capella has built a learning delivery system firmly rooted in adult learning theory and has created an integrated learning support system serving to develop competence within disciplines and to create transformational learning experiences.