Washington Monthly - September/October 2016 - 62

LAURIE DODGE Brandman University Dodge, vice chancellor of institutional assessment and planning and vice provost at Brandman University, is a leader in helping adult and other nontraditional students get the college degrees they need to advance their careers. Taking advantage of an Obama administration decision allowing federal financial aid to be used for "competencybased education" (CBE), Dodge created new bachelor's programs that busy, mid-career adult can complete quickly and without having to commute to campus. Depending on the degree, students must complete fifty-six to sixty-one competencies-online classes taken at students' own pace, with assessments to show mastery-to earn their degree. Students who already know the material or have already learned the skills involved can test out of these competencies at any point. At $5,400 in Laurie Dodge annual tuition, and with degrees taking about thirty months to earn, most students can complete the entire program for $13,500 or less, a much cheaper and faster approach than the traditional bachelor's degree. Brandman's competency-based program was among the highest performing in the country, according to the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. (Brandman, part of the Chapman University system, only became a separately accredited institution in 2008, so it does not have the ten years of income data necessary to be included in our ranking of America's Best Colleges for Adult Learners-see page 23.) As co-chair of the CompetencyBased Education Network, a consortium of colleges working on CBE curriculum, Dodge also helps drive experimentation in the field more broadly. BEN CASTLEMAN University of Virginia In 2011, Castleman, then an education doctoral candidate at Harvard, was trying to find a low-cost way to address the problem of "summer melt." That's the phenomenon in which high schoolers say they plan to go to college, but fail to follow through during the summer after senior year- 62 September/October 2016 when counselors and teachers can't keep an eye on them. The issue is acute for low-income students, who are less likely to have college-savvy family members to help them with applications, financial aid forms, and so on. It's a problem Castleman observed in Providence, Rhode Island, where he worked as a high school teacher and administrator before going to Harvard. Applying principles of behavioral psychology, he realized that to change these students' actions, it would be necessary to meet them where they are. Where are they? On their phones, of course. So, along with Lindsay Page, a Harvard researcher, Castleman partnered with uAspire, a Boston-based financial counseling nonprofit, to test the effectiveness of text message-based reminders at combating summer melt. They found that kids who lacked college-planning support were significantly more likely to enBen Castleman roll in the fall if they got the texts-at a cost of only seven dollars per student. Since then, Castleman has continued to expand his text-based interventions, which he describes in his 2015 book, The 160-Character Solution. (If predictive analytics is about using data to discern which students need help, Castleman's work is about using behavioral psychology to figure out what kind of help actually works.) The key is finding organizations that have access to student information and cell phone numbers. This past winter, he partnered with the Common App to reach out to 450,000 lowincome students, and this fall, text nudges are going primetime: Castleman is working with Michelle Obama's Better Make Room campaign to get millions of high school students signed up. CANDACE THILLE Open Learning Initiative Stanford University Thille is something of a celebrity in the world of learning science. She's best known for the online statistics course that she developed in 2007, while leading the Online Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon. The OLI designs courses based on learning science and evaluates them according to student performance. The courses are adaptive, meaning they provide immediate feedback tailored to students' responses. Studies found that Carnegie Mellon students using the online stats course, with minimal instructor contact, did as well as or better than students in traditional face-to-face classes. That was a major milestone in online education, because it proved that "online" need not be synonymous with "lower quality." Since then, the results have been matched by other universities using the OLI course. The upshot: colleges and universities can use well-designed Courtesy of Brandman University; Sanjay Suchak, UVA University Communications lington, where she continues to innovate. Last month she launched TransferUTA, an online portal that not only provides information for two-year students looking to move to four-year schools but also, in partnership with local community colleges, proactively identifies students who are likely to transfer and makes sure they have access to transfer and credit information from the get-go.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2016

Contents
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