Walden University, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is an entirely online institution serving more than 55,000 students primarily at the graduate level in nursing, education, management, psychology, health sciences, counseling and social services, public policy and administration, and information systems and technology programs. Walden has extensive experience with multiple instructional delivery formats and their evaluation. Its entrée into direct assessment competency-based education is a natural progression in this institution’s mission to provide career professionals with innovative and efficient teaching and learning models. Walden will leverage the introduction of competency-based education to expand its mission of enabling positive social change through quality higher education. Walden is also part of Laureate Education’s global network of more than 80 institutions in over 29 countries.
Walden is a fully online university serving over 55,000 students who come from over 130 different countries from around the world. As of summer 2014, Walden’s student population consists of 81 percent over the age of 30, 40 percent first-generation college students, 75 percent female, over 45 percent ethnic minority, and 8 percent who are non-US citizens.
Walden’s first competency-based education programs have been developed at the graduate level and include a Master of Science (M.S.) in Early Childhood Studies, a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), a Master of Healthcare Administration (M.H.A.), a Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Administration, Management, and Leadership, and a Graduate Certificate in Applied Project Management. Walden views the target audience as adult learners who have prior work experience related to the discipline but find current time-bound education models to be a poor fit to their learning styles and professional goals.
Walden has received approval from our regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), for the introduction of a direct assessment competency-based M.S. in Early Childhood Studies and Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Administration, Management, and Leadership. Walden has submitted two additional degree programs (M.B.A. & M.H.A.) as well as the Graduate Certificate in Applied Project Management to HLC for review and approval. Walden has begun to enroll students in the M.S. in Early Childhood Studies as of February 2015 and plans to offer the M.B.A. in Q2 and M.H.A. in Q3 of 2015 pending HLC approval.
The development of Walden’s CBE curriculum is accomplished through a collaborative process that employs Walden faculty, employers, academic administration, assessment experts, instructional designers, and external subject matter experts. Through an iterative process, the cross-functional teams determine competencies that align to the program outcomes. Once the competencies for a program have been drafted, employers review and provide substantial feedback on the competencies and assessments to ensure student learning is connected to the workplace. Finally, faculty governance bodies provide governance during the process and approval for the final curricula and related academic policies.
A student’s proficiency of program competencies is measured by a variety of rigorous assessments that require students to demonstrate their knowledge in an authentic manner that mirrors real world situations. Selection of assessment method is based on the cognitive level of the individual competencies. Competencies that have a lower level on Bloom’s taxonomy will tend to have more objective assessments; competencies at the higher level will have performance-based assessments. The competency, competency assessment, and rubric are provided to students, along with a set of sub-competencies and learning objectives that break down the learning steps required for proficiency in the competency. This framework is designed to show students the direct link between competencies and assessments, and what is expected of them to demonstrate proficiency.
Walden believes that direct assessment competency-based education represents an important opportunity to expand our mission of enabling positive social change through higher education among the millions of adults around the world who do not find success in the current time-bound credit hour models.