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LETU Wins Grant for Competency-Based Education


LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas is one of 14 colleges and universities across the country selected to receive a grant to participate in the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) Competency-Based Education (CBE) Jumpstart program, funded by the Lumina Foundation.
"Competency-based education is particularly relevant for adult and nontraditional learners who bring learning from work and life experiences into higher education," said LETU Provost Dr. Philip A. Coyle. "Competency-based education is a crucial concept and practice in the future of higher education, particularly over the next decade. Adult learners do not want to take classes that provide the skills they already have, just to meet degree requirements.
"With the rising costs of education, students expect education that is flexible enough to meet their needs, while being relevant, reasonably-priced and provides them skills that are immediately transferable into the workplace," Coyle said. "Competency-based courses and programs are evidence-based and provide specific measure of the skills students possess that meet workforce requirements.
"This initiative will help build the capacity of higher education institutions like LETU to offer competency-based education degree programs to help our adult students earn their degrees faster based on defined competency requirements, allowing them to gain college credit for experience they have already attained, rather than just by classroom course work."
The initiative at LETU will be administered by Matthew Henry, dean of Innovative Education. Colleen Halupa, director of Curriculum Design and Technology will be the curriculum design lead. Dr. Larry Frazier, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences will be the content lead. Dr. Arturo Morales, assistant professor in Spanish, will be the Spanish language coordinator.
Development of a plan to implement competency-based degree programs at LeTourneau University should help the university encourage students to complete their degree programs by providing authentic assessment for these learners and offering college credit for competencies obtained through job and life experience. This program can give students clear pathways to improve their completion rates and respond faster to workforce needs and trends.
CAEL will provide webinar and onsite training in competency-based education and assessment to faculty and staff over the next 9 to 12 months to help them understand the impact the program may have on the university as it works toward implementation.
LETU has over 20 years of experience meeting needs of both traditional college students and adult learners, both online and at selected sites throughout the state of Texas. A large pool of transfer students with relevant career experience would benefit greatly from a competency-based model in degree programs in business, criminal justice and others.
"LETU is committed to authentic assessment of student competencies and would like to expand this commitment into the area of competency-based learning, assessment and degrees to meet the needs of the community, the East Texas region and statewide business, veteran, industry and workforce needs," said Matthew Henry, LETU's dean of Innovative Learning.
"Since Texas has a large, educationally underserved Hispanic population, this program will help us understand how to provide opportunities through bilingual assessment and competency-based programs, to close student attainment gaps," Henry said. "As we explore competency-based education, it's feasible to provide credentials for this underserved population through degrees and advanced certificates resulting in significant employment opportunities. This grant allows us to explore these possibilities."
With the additional training provided under this grant, LETU's vision is to become one of the top 10 regional and top five private university providers of education for adults and veterans by meeting the diverse needs of the student population in Texas and surrounding states.
LETU seeks to develop a process where competencies required for course credits are mapped and aligned to authentic assessments that measure students' skills in the content area. LETU faculty will be involved in collaboration with the curriculum department of the university to establish these defined competencies and assessments.
Initially, LETU would target competency-based education to adult learners and U.S. veterans, then expand the initiative to include underserved populations such as Hispanic students and students who require remediation. The competency assessments would be targeted to specific courses in the areas where students are likely to have skills and experience including business, criminal justice and psychology, according to Henry.
As the competency program expands, a competency program could also be offered for health care workers and psychologists in Spanish to provide college credit for those who are bilingual, Henry said. Eventually the competency-based program would encompass an entire degree in an area that meets the needs of the region and the state.
LETU already has education centers in two of the largest growing cities in the nation: Houston and Dallas, which allows LETU to expand its reach to where these type of competency-based programs are most needed. The Dallas area also is home to a large aerospace industry. Competency-based degrees are likely to have significant potential, Henry said.
Besides LETU, other colleges selected are:
• Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kalamazoo, Michigan
• Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Los Angeles, California
• The New School, New York, New York
• Golden Gate University, San Francisco, California
• Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, Indiana
• Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia
• Minnesota State Colleges and University System
• Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• Davenport University, Grand Rapids, Michigan
• Pace University, New York, New York
• University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio
• Granite State College, University System of New Hampshire
• Missouri Department of Higher Education/Missouri Community College Association

About CAEL
The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Chicago, Illinois, that assists adults with their educational endeavors, finding practical ways to help them earn college credit for learning acquired through life and work experiences toward the completion of a postsecondary degree.
CAEL works with the public sector, private sector industries, and higher education institutions to ensure that adult students receive the most efficient training and education to occupy a meaningful professional place in a 21st century economy. Since 1974, CAEL has assisted colleges and universities to develop programs that evaluate adults' non-collegiate learning for college credit. CAEL is the recognized national expert on a method known as portfolio assessment, and its Ten Standards for Assessing Learning are used by colleges and universities, as well as accrediting organizations, across the country. More information is available at www.cael.org.

About LeTourneau University:
LeTourneau University is a Christ-centered, interdenominational institute of higher learning offering a wide array of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in aviation, arts & sciences, business, education and engineering. The university enrolls more than 2,700 students representing nearly all 50 states, more than 30 foreign countries, and 53 different denominational groups. Around 1,300 study at its main campus in Longview, Texas, a progressive hub city nestled among beautiful pine-forested hills and lakes in East Texas, approximately 120 miles east of Dallas, Texas, and 60 miles west of Shreveport, La. Students are also enrolled in a robust suite of online programs, as well as the university's innovative hybrid programs in Dallas and Houston. Committed to its core mission, LeTourneau University is a comprehensive institution of Christian higher education where educators engage learners to nurture Christian virtue, to develop competency and ingenuity in their professional fields, to integrate faith and work, and to serve the local and global community. The university is also led by its vision: Claiming every workplace in every nation as their mission field, LeTourneau University graduates are professionals of ingenuity and Christ-like character who see life's work as a holy calling with eternal impact.
For additional information, visit www.letu.edu.

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