Two New Designs Could be Key to Higher Education

male professor

Higher education has many paths to follow. Online universities are taking one route to keep pace while traditional brick-and-mortar colleges follow another. Some students leave credits behind with Massive Open Online Courses and others are happy to do seminars or conferences rather than commit to anything long-term.

Higher education is spreading out, but there are two new ideas that could help bring it all back together. These two ideas could fit almost any educational setting, by engaging students and helping them excel.

Competency-based education

If you ask anyone, you’ll find that we all learn at different speeds. Different topics, reading materials, professors, and other elements can all be factors. However, in most higher education structures, you must follow a strict syllabus. Why? There are plenty of reasons, which typically start with “because it makes sense for us,” but “us” is rarely the students. Flipping this around, competency-based education allows students to work ahead, take more time, or if they know the topic, test out of it completely, all while earning credits. It lets the student determine both their own pathway and the speed at which they’ll travel down it. It’s a fairly brilliant idea, but rarely used.


Lots of people go to school to learn. I’m going to take a guess that lots of those people are also bored out of their minds sitting at their desks. It’s because the lessons don’t touch anything beyond the chalkboard. Service learning quickly jumps outside this box (or classroom). It’s higher education based on doing something good. For example, an environmental studies class could start a movement. A marketing class could promote what the environmental studies class is doing. A financial class could show them how to make the biggest impact with the fewest dollars. Each class could become a part of something bigger, and at the end of the course, the students will have accomplished something better for the world. However, it appears to be complicated to set up, leaving few good examples.

So where does this leave us? With good ideas that can be extremely hard to execute. Well, there is a reason that it’s called "higher" education. It’s a higher level of learning, which takes a higher amount of effort to achieve. If we’re all expecting more from higher education institutions, let’s all come together and ensure we’re putting our best efforts into the learning environment.


Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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