Institutional Readiness Criteria - Example 6

Does the institution have a demonstrated commitment to learner-centered education?

This is not a yes-or-no question. What is the evidence of institutional commitment? For example, is there some evidence of implementing teaching-learning models where 1) the locus of activity has shifted fundamentally from the instructor to the learner, and 2) student engagement independent of time and location is not only permitted but promoted? Non-technology-based commitments to student-centered learning would also constitute evidence.

Here are some examples of the ways various institutions have responded to this criterion.

De Anza College (Foothill-De Anza Community College District)

Our commitment to learner-centered education is evidenced in the range of pedagogical best practices we use to address the variety of student learning styles. These include distance learning, self-paced modules, learning communities, and collaborative learning; the strong staff development program to train faculty, staff, and administration in shifting from a teaching institution to a learning institution; and the institution’s personnel practices which incent and reward those who excel at contributing to student access and success.

Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI)

IUPUI has demonstrated a high level of commitment to learner-centered education by providing "Anytime and Anywhere" access to teaching and learning resources. The IUPUI campus network provides student access to a virtual learning environment – anytime and anywhere, by providing the technology infrastructure to enable traditional and distant learners to access the University’s offerings through various media and points of connectivity. This environment increasingly provides seamless access to distributed learning applications, library resources, and student information and tools.

Miami-Dade Community College

The Mission of Miami-Dade Community College is to provide accessible, affordable, high quality education, by keeping the learner's needs at the center of the decision making and working in partnership with its dynamic, multicultural community. The College recognizes that each student is different and, therefore, should have available a variety of modalities that support their academic, personal and career development.

William Spady's (1993) model for outcome based education focuses on "exit outcomes" based on the challenges and opportunities that students will face after graduation, and then to "design down" from the outcomes for the aspects of educational delivery. At MDCC, these outcomes are derived from a community vision of the skills and knowledge students need to be effective. The Miami One Community One Goal initiative has identified seven key industries that generate the high wage, high skilled jobs necessary for the future growth of South Florida. The College has restructured its curriculum to reflect these seven community high-priority economic clusters (Bio-Medical, Film and Entertainment, Financial Services, Information Technology (software), International Commerce, Telecommunications, and the Visitor Industry) to ensure our graduates future success.

In addition, our Technology Master Plan on Distance Education has a commitment "to provide our students the opportunity to access quality instruction any time any where such access is desired and to facilitate this barrier free delivery of instruction through technology.

Rio Salado College (Maricopa Community College District)

Yes. As stated in the Rio Salado vision: "We value diversity and foster a supportive learning environment that empowers students and employees."

Concrete evidence of our learner-centered approach can be seen in a move that we made over one year ago to offer our distance learning courses 26 times a year. What this means is that when students call to enroll, they will never have to wait more than two weeks to actually start class. This move was made as a direct response to student needs in the area of flexible scheduling and involved the creation of new processes and support mechanisms to allow 26 starts to exist within our college and district enrollment system. One of the support mechanisms put in place was college staffing during what would be considered normal school holidays (i.e. spring break, Christmas break, etc.) At Rio Salado College, learning takes place all year round, and the learning support services are provided year round as well.

Additional evidence of our commitment to learner-centered education can be seen in our class timelines. Each distance class is advertised as a 14-week class, but students are allowed to accelerate or decelerate as they need to in order to meet their learning needs.

Further evidence or our commitment to learner-centered education can be seen in our devotion to the course competencies that exist at the district level. Each course in the Maricopa District course bank has a list of required competencies that was created by a council of discipline representatives from each college. Rio Salado takes great pride in its efforts to design its courses around the district competencies and to facilitate students’ learning of those competencies.

University of Central Florida

The UCF Strategic Plan emphasizes the institutional commitment to learners by stating that "students are UCF’s first priority, and education, learning, and human growth are the dominant endeavors of our institution . . . and our strategies address these areas." The plan addresses the use of information technology to promote student-centered learning. It supports the use of technology to foster student information literacy and independent learning through the use of advanced information technology resources and the infusion of technology into the curriculum as appropriate to the discipline.

IDL6543, the faculty development course for Web-based instruction, models and promotes learner-centered education. Teaching methods, tools, and learner activities are designed and chosen to enhance the development of a community of learners. The course is designed to provide cross-discipline sharing of teaching techniques and has produced cohorts of faculty across all five colleges in the university. The instructional model developed for Web-based courses and promoted in IDL6543 provides for high levels of interaction between the instructor and students, students and other students, and students with content relevant to the course. UCF’s Web-based courses emphasize asynchronous activities and communications enabling students to participate independent of time and location.

University of Southern Maine

In its mission statement, USM describes itself as focusing on teaching and learning for the benefit of the citizens of Maine and society in general. This document directs the institution to focus on the needs of people in our service area, the individual student and her or his education. This statement notes that our primary responsibility is to provide a wide range of programs to meet the diverse needs of the residents of southern Maine. USM is therefore focused on the student. As evidence of our commitment to service learning, we recently received a grant from the Maine Campus Compact to fund a full time VISTA position to promote service and the America Reads Project.

Several programs designed to support student retention and to help to ensure academic success reflect our focus on the individual student. For example, Project 100 is an effort to provide early feedback about academic progress to students in introductory courses. The goal is to enhance the experiences of those students who are not progressing well by having them work with their advisors, tutors and the Center for Teaching. The First Year Alternative Experience and soon to be implemented University College provide a learning environment that integrates faculty and staff mentoring, course work, tutoring and academic counseling. These proactive programs provide assistance in adjusting to the university environment, seminars on learning skills and learning styles and training in critical thinking. We recently initiated a weekend college and a senior college to better meet the needs of the residents of southern Maine. The focus on distance education, reducing the difficulty that many in Maine have in coming to campus, is additional evidence that we are committed to student learning, not just teaching.

In recent years the Center for Teaching has offered a variety of workshops to promote learner-centered education. Workshops have been conducted on topics such as how to use student teams to engage students in more active-learning, developing interactive tutorials on the web, teaching critical thinking and building learning communities.