Preview Released of the 2017 NMC Horizon Report

I am continuously surprised how far behind too many academics are with respect to digital learning environments, strategies, innovations, and influence on curriculum design, development, deployment toward the emergence of High Performance Learning Environments. This is not by any means everyone but the community is slow compared to the pace of change and the rapidity with which a new global digital learning environment is taking shape. The emerging global digital environment and learning resources, are changing all of the rules, driving new metrics, pushing innovation and pulling disciplines and curricula. It was with great anticipation we await the release of the 2017 NMC Horizon Report outlining 18 Trends, Challenges and Developments shaping Higher Education today. The preview is available now, put it on you radar and share it with your colleagues.

This edition is a collaboration between the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). Learn more at and

While you are waiting for the 2017 full report to be released read the 2016 Report

nmc-horizion-report-2016The NMC Horizon Report > 2016 Higher Education Edition is a collaborative effort between the NMC and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). This 13th edition describes annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education. Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in educational technology are placed directly in the context of their likely impact on the core missions of universities and colleges, and detailed in succinct, non-technical, and unbiased presentations. Each has been tied to essential questions of relevance, policy, leadership, and practice. The three key sections of this report constitute a reference and straightforward technology-planning guide for educators, higher education leaders, administrators, policymakers, and technologists. It is our hope that this research will help to inform the choices that institutions are making about technology to improve, support, or extend teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in higher education across the globe. All of the topics were selected by an expert panel that represented a range of backgrounds and perspectives.”

About NMC

“The NMC was founded October 17, 1993 by a group of hardware manufacturers, software developers, and publishers who realized that the ultimate success of their multimedia-capable products depended upon their widespread acceptance by the higher education community in a way that had never been achieved before.”

About the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI)

“ELI is a community of higher education institutions and organizations committed to the advancement of learning through the innovative application of technology.”

Adult Learning Achieves Primacy Across Global Societies

The number of adults engaged in formal learning around the globe in any giving year is astounding. Increasingly adult participation in learning is enabled through the robust emerging Global Digital Learning Ecosystem. Globally this is  nurtured by such applications as universal language translation. Together these factors help define the rapidly evolving Learning Age. There are a number of sources for global data on adult participation rates in education and formal learning. Global efforts are not directly comparable but together they illustrate the massive investment people from around the world are making in continuous learning. The questions for higher education are a matter of Academic Strategy and are learner-centric in nature. Seven framing questions focus attention on the learner and learning:

  1. Who are the engaged learners?
  2. What objectives do engaged learners seek?
  3. What learning provider models and curricula are available to the learners?
  4. What learning theories and methods are appropriate for specific learners and the objectives they seek?
  5. What is the optimum curriculum architecture for an institution or educational entity in the 21st Century?
  6. What specific curriculum can be configured to meet the learning needs of the learner population(s) an institution has chosen or been charged to serve?
  7. What support services are necessary to enable specific learner population(s) to successfully complete the curriculum and meet their objectives?

In this post we will focus on the numbers of learners in the adult learning marketplace. We begin in Europe.

An Overview from OECD

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international economic organization of 34 countries founded in 1961 (with roots back to 1948) to stimulate economic progress and world trade. OECD maintains the Indicators of Education Systems (INES) program that provides data on the performance of the education systems in the OECD’s 34 member countries and a set of partner countries, including non-member G20 nations. In a report Skills Beyond School they report adult participation in Education and Learning in OECD Member countries. Combined the European population covered by OECD is a little more than the U.S. at just under 400 million. Findings include:

  • Across the OECD, more than 40% of adults participate in formal and/or non-formal education in a given year. (This is the same range as U.S. adult participation rates.) The proportion ranges from more than 60% in New Zealand and Sweden to less than 15% in Greece and Hungary.
  • On average in the OECD area, an individual can expect to receive 988 hours of instruction in non-formal education during his or her working life, of which 715 hours are instruction in job-related non-formal education.
  • Overall, 27% of adults in OECD countries have looked for information on learning possibilities in the preceding 12 months, and 87% of those seeking information found some.
Figure 1: Participation rate in formal and/or non-formal education, (OECD Chart C5.4)

Figure 1: Participation rate in formal and/or non-formal education, (OECD Chart C5.4)


Figure 2: Participation rate in all and in job-related non-formal education, hours of instruction per participant and per adult in job-related non-formal education, 2007 (OECD Chart C5.2)

Figure 2: Participation rate in all and in job-related non-formal education, hours of instruction per participant and per adult in job-related non-formal education, 2007 (OECD Chart C5.2)


Figure 3: OECD Expected hours over the working life in all non-formal education and in job-related non-formal education, 2007

Figure 3: OECD Expected hours over the working life in all non-formal education and in job-related non-formal education, 2007


European Numbers from Eurostat Indicating Changes in Rates Over 20+ Years

Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union situated in Luxembourg. It provides the European Union with statistics that enable comparisons between countries and regions. The Adult Education Survey (AES) is a household survey on lifelong learning. People living in private households are interviewed about their participation in education and training activities (formal, non-formal and informal learning). The target population of the survey is composed of people aged 25 to 64. The survey takes place every five years and its results are published on Eurostat website. Eurostat also provides Population Statistics of European countries.

Figure 4: Adult Learners Age 25 to 64 Who Reported Receiving Education

Figure 4: Adult Learners Age 25 to 64 Who Reported Receiving Education


The variability in participation rates among the European nations is profound. The focus on assessing and enhancing participation in educational activities however, is universally among the highest priorities. For deeper insights a visit to the OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, is worth the time.

U.S. Adult Participation Rates Numbers from NCES

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary U.S. entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. The National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) provides descriptive data on the educational activities of the U.S. population, thereby offering policymakers, researchers, and educators a variety of statistics on the condition of education in the United States. The latest numbers for the U.S. Adult Participation Rates is for 2005.

Figure 5: U.S. Summary of All Adults Enrolled in Any Program 1991-2005

Figure 5: U.S. Summary of All Adults Enrolled in Any Program 1991-2005

 Participation Varies by Age Category

Breaking out the rates by age group highlights that Eurostat begins its age classifications of adult learners at 25 where as the U.S. NHES included 17-24 year olds.

Figure 6: U.S. Adult Participation in Education by Age Group

Figure 6: U.S. Adult Participation in Education by Age Group


The U.S. Undergraduate Demographic

Reflecting on the characteristics of enrolled college students informs a deeper look at adult learning strategies. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation published an effective demographic infographic detailing what America would look like as 100 College Students.

Figure 7: Demographic Characteristics of American Undergraduate College Students

Figure 7: Demographic Characteristics of American Undergraduate College Students

Comparative rates from Canadian Study

Each nation exhibits a competitive concern over educational achievement by adult learners as a main component of their economic vitality strategy. The Conference Board of Canada has produced a  website that presents data and analysis on Canada’s national and provincial performance relative to that of 15 peer countries in six performance categories: Economy, Innovation, Environment, Education and Skills, Health, and Society.

How Canada Performs is a multi-year research program to help leaders identify relative strengths and weaknesses in the socio-economic performance of Canada and its provinces. It helps policy-makers, organization leaders, and all Canadians answer the following questions: How do the quality-of-life report cards for Canada and its provinces compare to those of peer countries? Is Canada’s quality of life sustainable? Has there been an improvement? What must Canada and the provinces do to provide a high and sustainable quality of life for all Canadians?

Figure 8:  Adult Participation in Education in Canada Compared to 15 Countries

Figure 8:  Adult Participation in Education in Canada Compared to 15 Countries

Source: Adult Participation in Education in Canada Compared to 15 Countries

Asia and Africa reflect a wide range of Participation

For Asia a great place to start is The State and Development of Adult Learning and Education in Asia and the Pacific report by UNESCO. Insights from the report help establish the climate for Adult Learners.

The history of adult learning and education is a hit-and-miss story – starting off with strong rhetoric, promises and expectation and concluding in limited success, and even neglect and disappointment in too many cases. Adult learning and education has been conflated into the broader agenda of education and development more at the level of discourse than in action. In the arena of action, it has been too often confined to a narrow interpretation of literacy skills. Hence, for most governments in developing countries where financial and human resources are limited, adult education is low in the pecking order when it comes to assigning priority to sub-sectors of the education system (Tanvir, 2008). Furthermore, NGOs are often the major providers of adult learning, although this is largely limited to adult literacy programmes, which then becomes a reason for the state not to fulfill its responsibility. (Page 7)

For Africa, the same source different publication: The State and Development of Adult Learning and Education in Subsaharan Africa.

After decades of sustained efforts to eradicate illiteracy in Africa, illiteracy rates of adults remain high with continuing gender and urban/rural disparities. Illiteracy has several correlations with low productivity, low incomes and poorer health (and susceptibility to HIV/AIDS). It hampers national development efforts. It is a bar to much adult education. The enormous growth in free universal primary education in Africa will gradually alleviate this problem, but drop-out rates from primary schooling remain high. The number of people needing adult basic education still grows and few resources are left over from primary education for children. The adult education sub-sector of state education systems remains relatively marginal and under-funded, in spite of the good economic progress in many countries since the mid-1990s.

So what does it mean?

It means the demand for curriculum among adult learners is huge and growing globally. The demand must be considered in addition to the focus on traditional 18 to 22 year old undergraduates. In order to translate that into place based learning one must define the place (the specific area in which learners reside), select the closest approximation of participation rate by curriculum category and calculate the theoretical demand. In the U.S. we begin with the U.S. and World Population Clock.  In the U.S. there is One Birth every 8 seconds; One Death every 12 seconds; One International In Migration every 33 seconds; for a Net Gain of One Person every 16 seconds. This establishes the context of rate of change over time.

Once a population and a rate is established, an adult learning population can be estimated. In the U.S. there are approximately 320.2 million people, and an estimated 180.7 million 21 to 65 year olds. Given a 40% participation rate there are an estimated 72.3 million adults in the U.S. Learning Marketplace Annually. Of course these are rough framing estimates but they indicate that adult learning is a well established and important strategic element of social and economic vitality. It must also be a strategic element of framing higher education strategies for the next millennium. To approach these markets new academic strategies must be developed.

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014

Since 2007,  Jane Hart has conducted a survey of the use of web based learning tools. She has published her results in a top 100 list annually. The Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014  – the results of the 8th Annual Learning Tools Survey –  has been compiled from the votes of 1,038 learning professionals from 61 countries worldwide and was published on 22 September 2014

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014

We developed the graphic to bring Jane’s work to life and provide an enhanced visual to help more fully understand the bigger picture. Jane’s work in workplace and e-learning underpins important aspects of the emergence of the Global Digital Learning Ecosystem. The emerging ecosystem brings together all aspect of learning into one learner integrated view. The implications for higher education are profound.



Faculty Increasing Use of Learner-Centered Education Practices

Faculty have steadily increased their use of Learner-Centered Pedagogies according to a comparison of faculty reported teaching and learning methods deployed in their classrooms. “The Undergraduate Teaching Faculty: The 2013-2014 HERI Faculty Survey,” a triennial national survey of college and university faculty has been conducted since 1989 by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

Learner-Centered Pedagogy

The concept of Learner-Centered pedagogy has deep historic roots in the work of Dewey, Piaget, Rogers’ Gardner and Bloom (and many others) as well as the innovative models of Maria Montessori and the Reggio Emilia approach. Faculty in higher education have begun to adopt and adapt Learner-Centered pedagogies in such efforts as the flipped classroom and a host of in class and in course methods. The HERI Faculty Survey has been tracking progress in the use of these pedagogies since 1989-1990.

Changes in Faculty Teaching Practices, 1989 to 2014

Changes in Faculty Teaching Practices, 1989 to 2014


Class Discussions

In 1989-90 69.6% of faculty reported using class discussions in “all” or “most” of their courses increasing to 88.2% in 2008 and leveling off at just over 82% in 2011 and 2014.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is the use of small groups through which students work together to accomplish shared goals and to maximize their own and others’ potential.” – Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (ASCD 1994)

In 1989-90 20.6% of faculty reported using cooperative learning strategies increasing to a peak of 73.2% in 2008-2009 and settling to 60.7% in 2013–2014.

Group Projects

The use of group projects was reported by 15.7% in 1989-1990 growing to just under half (45.5%) in 2013-2014.

Student-Selected Topics

Incorporating the use of student-selected topics within a course has increased 8.5% in 1989–1990 to 26.3% in 2013–2014

Student Evaluations of each others work

The use student evaluations of each other’s work in “all” or “most” of their courses has nearly tripled from 10% in 1989–1990 to 28% in 2013–2014.

Table 1: Faculty Reported Teaching and Learning Methods 1990 to 2014

Comparing the reported use of specific pedagogies over a period of fifteen years.

Method 1990 1993 1996 1999 2002 2005 2008 2011 2014
Class discussions 69.6 69.8 67.7 68.4 72.3 81.8 82.2 82.2 82.8
Community service as optional part of course 0.0 0.0 2.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Community service as part of coursework 0.0 0.0 2.5 0.0 5.1 7.1 8.1 5.9 8.9
Competency-based grading 52.4 55.7 48.4 48.4 49.3 0.0 53.0 47.6 0.0
Computer or machine-aided instruction 13.2 16.0 18.5 21.5 29.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Cooperative learning (small groups) 26.0 32.5 35.0 37.1 41.3 47.8 59.1 56.7 60.7
Electronic quizzes with immediate feedback in class 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 6.8 7.4 15.2
Essay exams 40.6 41.7 40.1 40.9 42.2 57.6 44.3 41.3 0.0
Experiential learning/Field studies 18.8 19.8 19.3 19.3 22.3 0.0 30.0 25.6 31.0
Extensive lecturing 55.7 53.6 48.5 47.2 46.9 55.2 46.4 45.0 50.6
Grading on a curve 22.9 18.2 18.5 17.5 16.8 19.1 16.8 17.3 21.2
Graduate Teaching
8.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Group projects 15.7 20.9 22.8 23.4 26.8 33.3 35.8 32.0 45.5
Independent Projects 34.1 37.1 33.1 33.1 35.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
“Learn before lecture” through multimedia tools (e.g., flipping the classroom) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 21.8
Multiple drafts of written work 12.4 14.1 15.5 16.8 18.5 0.0 24.9 23.9 34.2
Multiple-choice exams 33.7 35.4 30.8 30.8 32.5 32.3 33.1 29.3 0.0
Multiple-choice quizzes 16.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
On-line instruction 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 13.9 0.0 0.0 0.0
Performance/Demonstrations 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 34.8
Quizzes 0.0 40.9 36.1 36.7 38.7 0.0 39.8 38.9 0.0
Readings on racial and ethnic issues 11.1 15.2 15.6 16.7 18.6 19.9 23.9 0.0 26.1
Readings on women and gender issues 10.6 14.2 15.0 15.9 17.4 18.2 21.1 0.0 22.3
Recitals/Demonstrations 0.0 20.1 19.2 18.0 18.4 21.4 21.9 19.0 0.0
Reflective writing/journaling 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 18.1 21.7 17.6 25.2
Rubric-based assessment 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 55.9
Short-answer exams 34.0 36.7 32.9 33.8 36.4 36.9 45.5 44.9 0.0
Short-answer quizzes 24.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Starting class with a question that engages students 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 49.5
Student evaluations of each other’s work 10.0 12.0 12.9 13.1 14.6 19.4 23.5 21.0 28.0
Student evaluations of teaching 83.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Student presentations 25.5 29.8 30.9 32.7 36.0 44.7 46.7 43.8 52.4
Student-developed activities (assignments, exams, etc) 15.3 17.1 13.1 13.3 14.4 0.0 26.7 0.0 0.0
Student-selected topics for course content 8.5 9.8 8.0 8.6 10.2 15.0 17.0 19.8 26.3
Supplemental instruction that is outside of class and office hours 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 36.1
Teaching assistants 0.0 7.9 9.5 9.4 9.2 10.1 11.8 12.7 0.0
Techniques to create an inclusive classroom environment for diverse students 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 56.5
Term/research papers 31.9 32.1 32.8 34.7 36.7 34.7 44.3 43.3 0.0
Undergraduate Teaching Assistants 2.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Using real-life problems 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 55.7 55.4 69.8
Using student inquiry to drive learning 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 47.1 45.8 56.4
Weekly essay assignments 14.2 17.6 15.9 17.9 19.0 0.0 21.7 20.2 0.0

While the advances in the use of learner-centered pedagogies maybe laudable, faculty efforts tell only part of the story of the transformation of the learning ecosystem. While faculty are engineering and re-engineering their curricula, courses, teaching and classroom instructional methods, students are busy optimizing their access to the emerging global digital learning ecosystem. These are not competing efforts but transformations on parallel development tracks and trajectories. They are neither integrated with each other nor cohesive in a unifying purposeful design but rather opportunistic initiatives.

A Parallel Universe: Technology Enabled, Global Digital Learning Ecosystem

So where are the learners in their quest to nurture and support their own learning. Students tend not to classify technology as a learning approach but rather the use of digital tools to assist in their quest to master their course material. For students, the technology is largely taken for granted and not seen as either innovative nor at the expense of other methods and tools. Increasingly, being Learner-Centered means integrating the use of technology and the realities of the emerging Global Digital Learning Ecosystem into the curriculum and learner experiences. For a thorough understanding of the current technology status examine the Global Information Technology Report 2014.

EDUCAUSE 2014 Student and Faculty Technology Research Studies, October 2014

In 2014, ECAR collaborated with 151 institutions to collect responses from 17,451 faculty respondents across 13 countries about their technology experiences. ECAR also collaborated with 213 institutions to collect responses from 75,306 undergraduate students about their technology experiences. The research found:

  • Technology is embedded into students’ lives, and students are generally inclined to use and to have favorable attitudes toward technology. However, technology has only a moderate influence on students’ active involvement in particular courses or as a connector with other students and faculty.
  • Students’ academic use of technology is widespread but not deep. They are particularly interested in expanding the use of a few specific technologies.
  • Many students use mobile devices for academic purposes. Their in-class use is more likely when instructors encourage such use; however, both faculty and students are concerned about their potential for distraction.
  • More students than ever have experienced a digital learning environment. The majority say they learn best with a blend of online and face-to-face work.
  • Most students support institutional use of their data to advise them on academic progress in courses and programs. Many of the analytic functions students seek already exist in contemporary LMSs

Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning, September 2014

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) founded in 2008 to address issues of educational opportunity, access, equity, and diversity in the United States and internationally published a report titled Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning. It concluded:

  • Technology access policies should aim for one-to-one computer access.
  • Technology access policies should ensure that speedy internet connections are available to prevent user issues when implementing digital learning.
  • At-risk students benefit most from technology that is designed to promote high levels of interactivity and engagement with data and information in multiple forms.
  • Curriculum and instructional plans should enable students to use technology to create content as well as to learn material.
  • Policymakers and educators should plan for blended learning environments, characterized by significant levels of teacher support and opportunities for interactions among students, as companions to technology use.

Campus Technology: Report: Digital Use Up Among College Students, May 2012

Way back on May 25, 2012,  Campus Technology , in a story written by Tim Sohn, reported on a survey, conducted that year, by CourseSmart and fielded by Wakefield Research regarding the use of technology and social media by college students. Five-hundred college students between the ages 18 to 23 participated in an online survey. The survey found:

  • 96 Percent had taken traditional courses that included online elements.
  • 79 Percent had handed in assignments online.
  • 71 Percent had taken Web-based tests and quizzes.
  • 40 Percent used digital technology at least every 10 minutes, and
  • 67 Percent said they use technology at least every hour.
  • 68 Percent said they saved two or more hours daily, and 14 percent said they saved at least five hours using technology in their learning process.
  • 51 Percent said they were more likely to complete reading assignments on time if they used digital devices instead of print.
  • 79 Percent searched for information on a mobile device immediately before an exam.
  • 78 Percent said they had received updates from professors via learning management systems or student portals.
  • 84 Percent said they had access to their class syllabi online.

In Closing

Learning is the point. Technology, as enabling and essential as it is, is not the point. Neither is ‘On-Line.’ Faculty, generally, are not Luddites, but rather careful explorers and experimenters searching for effective pedagogical practices. Technology innovations and their application by scholars, educators and innovators, to building a Global Digital Learning Ecosystem are enabling learners, to transform their educational experience. The industrial model of the 20th century, while an extraordinarily powerful system then, does not align with either the power of, nor the potential of, the new 21st century constantly and rapidly evolving Ecosystem. We cannot ‘fix’ this fundamental misalignment by enhancing the efficiency or effectiveness of existing models. The elements of a comprehensive and cohesive new academic model are emerging. Higher education leaders, scholars, and policy makers must come together to shape the educational systems of the future that optimize the Global Digital Learning Ecosystem and its impact on learning.

In our continuing effort to support our clients managing the transitions through turbulent times, MGDA is offering a full schedule of Transformational Strategies Institutes for 2015. The curricula are focused on the development of academic strategies to cope with the rapid transitions and fundamental transformations now underway.

These topics and sessions are also available as workshops:

Programs of Study: Part 5


This is the fifth post in the series on Academic Strategic Enrollment Management.

The fundamental tenet of Academic Strategic Enrollment Management is “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else.” The Program of Study is the primary way by which students enroll and revenues flow to the institution. It is also a primary determinant of the costs to operate the curriculum. The Program of Study is a formal component of a Curriculum Architecture. There are normally many Programs of Study within an institutions Curriculum. The Program of Study is defined as the prescribed sequence of courses required to attain a credential. We refer to the Program of Study as a POS (read each letter). For illustration purposes we have selected a 40 course, four year baccalaureate degree program to illustrate the fundamentals of Program of Study design.

Mapping a Program of Study

Illustrative Baccalaureate Degree (Program of Study) POS Matrix

Figure 1: Illustrative Baccalaureate Degree Program of Study (POS) Matrix

A Program of Study is shaped by the specifications delineated in the institution’s curriculum architecture. In the illustration Figure 1, courses in major are designated in Green. Courses required from the core curriculum or to meet general education requirements are in Blue. Selective courses, those chosen from an options list to meet a requirement, are in Yellow, and open electives (learner’s unrestricted choice) are in Red. There is also an overload option if financial policy for the institution permits overload within full time tuition policy.

Every Program of Study and Course are endowed with specifications. Program of Study specifications include such defined characteristics as calendar model, schedule model, admissions prerequisites, program sequence requisites, and course options (elective, selective, open elective).

Program of Study Specifications (Illustrative)

  • A Program of Study is designed to result in a specific credential; and
  • inherits the credentials specifications; such as
    • Calendar Model (Defines number of terms, Credit Requirements for Full-time, Term Pattern for Course Offerings, …),
    • Schedule Model (Defines Daily/Weekly/Term Course Offering Pattern,
    • Admission Requirements,
    • Credit Accumulation (i.e. 120 credit degree limit)
    • Distribution Requirements (Defines course thematic requirements i.e. major, core, general education, upper division or 100/200/300/400 level)
  • Enrollment Specifications
    • Cohort Size (a class commencing the POS together in a 1st term)
    • Course Section Size
    • Course Sequencing Model
  • Program Design Specifications
    • Defines Course Requirements
    • Electives (includes Open Electives, Program Electives, Selectives)

Course Specifications (Illustrative)

  • are designed to define the learner engagement model, learner experience, pedagogy and resources.
  • Learner Engagement Model specifies how the course syllabus content will be encountered by the learner.
  • Learner experience is the view by the learner of how well the course facilitated learning for them.
  • Pedagogy refers to the learning methods available to the learner in their quest to master the syllabus.
  • Faculty qualified to teach the course are an essential element of the profile of course specifications.
  • Resources include room requirements, digital platform requirements, as well as supplies and equipment.

These brief descriptive lists are not intended as check list or meant to convey the comprehensive scope and content but rather to develop the concept that specifications drive cost, effectiveness, quality and recruitability of the ccurriculum. The line between Program and Course specifications is a blurry one. In our curriculum work we use our program planning system to help identify and organize the requirements of courses across a curriculum. It is a daunting task and we observe that it is common for institutions to manage the complexity of it all by exception, meaning everything is assumed fine unless someone if complaining.

In the end it all has to come together and then it must be presented to the marketplace. Crafting marketing strategies and campaigns is as much art as science. When both art and science are used they result in a narrative that rationally presents the program and courses to specific target market segments in a way that differentiates them from competitors.

 Why does all of this matter?

The curriculum architecture and the programs of study that flow from it establish both the recruitability (marketability) and carrying cost of the curriculum. They determine the success as much as the skill and design of marketing campaigns. Enrollment management strategy is bringing all of these into focus and the reason we have begun the Academic Strategic Enrollment Management initiative. Success is measured by the degree to which the curriculum together with recruitment, retention, marketing, and institutional effectiveness generates a stable financial platform upon which the curriculum is supported. The reality is “Curriculum drives enrollment, enrollment drives revenue, revenues drive everything else!” To illustrate the Margin Case Study begins to construct the nature of the relationship between curriculum architecture, program and course specifications and the financial viability of the curriculum.

Margin Case Study

This case example of margin is a highly distilled illustrative study from a client engagement illustrates sustainable scenario.


Working together, academic and enrollment management can develop very effective strategies for sustainability. It is a complex process requiring synthesis across disciplines, and integrating them into a future focused scenario. When scaled to a university the impact is enormous. The case example below illustrates the difference by summing the rooms required and the resulting square footage of academic space required to meet the needs of a fixed number course offered under different curriculum architecture models in planned growth from 20,000 enrollments to 40,000 enrollments. The difference in cost to build the most efficient (estimated at ~$2 Billion) v.s. the least efficient (estimated at ~$3 Billion) was an extraordinary $1 Billion dollars.

Room Count Comparison by Scenario and Schedule Model (Chart)

Room Count Comparison by Scenario and Schedule Model (Chart)


In Closing

The role of the Program of Study in Academic Strategic Enrollment Management strategy development and implementation is a pivotal one. It is important to keep a balanced perspective. MOOC’s, for example, as a Program of Study strategy, are primarily experiments in scalability. They are not in themselves going to cause the demise nor save institutions. Online programs are an initiative that explores and develops a curriculum delivery/learning modality. The emerging global digital learning ecosystem is a shift in the foundational repository of knowledge and information. It results in a shift in access, utilization, manipulation, and assimilation of learning into everyday life. The future is not about the doom of higher education but rather the extraordinary future that stands before it. Curriculum architecture, the program of study, and the credential are extremely important and deserve close scrutiny, evaluation and deep nurturing attention to keep them improving in both effectiveness and efficiency.

Proficiency Based Curriculum Model: Part 6

SEM Matrix: Part 4

New Study pinpoints hands not gaze as the object of parents’ and toddlers’ attention

IU cognitive scientists identify new mechanism at heart of early childhood learning and social behavior. Google Glass-like eye-tracking technology pinpoints hands rather than gaze as the object of parents’ and toddlers’ attention

Previous research involving joint visual attention between parents and toddlers has focused exclusively on the ability of each partner to follow the gaze of the other. In “Joint Attention Without Gaze Following: Human Infants and Their Parents Coordinate Visual Attention to Objects Through Eye-Hand Coordination,” published in the online journal PLOS ONE, the researchers demonstrate how hand-eye coordination is much more common, and the parent and toddler interact as equals, rather than one or the other taking the lead.

Early childhood education: Children can tell when a teacher commits “sins of omission.”

Laura Schulz, a primary investigator in the Early Childhood Cognition Lab in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT led a series of studies on building trust in early childhood education. She reports,

Children learn a great deal about the world from their own exploration, but they also rely on what adults tell them. Studies have shown that children can figure out when someone is lying to them, but cognitive scientists from MIT recently tackled a subtler question: Can children tell when adults are telling them the truth, but not the whole truth?

In the most recent explorations

“This shows that children are not just sensitive to who’s right or wrong,” Gweon says. “Children can also evaluate others based on who’s providing information that is enough or not enough for accurate inference. They can also adjust how they learn from a teacher in the future, depending on whether the teacher has previously committed a sin of omission or not.”

Melissa Koenig, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Institute of Childhood Development who was not part of the research team, commented

“The study shows yet another set of criteria that children bring to their evaluation of other speakers, beyond things like accuracy, confidence, or knowledgeability,”

Try, try again? Study says no

MIT reports:

In a new study, a team of neuroscientists and psychologists led by Amy Finn, a postdoc at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, has found evidence for another factor that contributes to adults’ language difficulties: When learning certain elements of language, adults’ more highly developed cognitive skills actually get in the way. The researchers discovered that the harder adults tried to learn an artificial language, the worse they were at deciphering the language’s morphology — the structure and deployment of linguistic units such as root words, suffixes, and prefixes.



Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom

This book by Daniel T. Willingham who earned his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Harvard University in 1990 and currently is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. A bit more about the author from Amazon “Until 2000, his research focused solely on the brain basis of learning and memory. Today, all of his research concerns the application of cognitive psychology to K-12 education. He writes the “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” column for American Educator magazine, and is an Associate Editor of Mind, Brain, and Education. He is also the author of Why Don’t Students Like School? (Jossey-Bass) and When Can You Trust the Experts? (Jossey-Bass). His writing on education has been translated into ten languages.”

I am not going to actually publish my review of the book here, today but rather steer you to a review on Amazon written by Ben Babcock. This thoughtful reflection by an individual entering teaching as a profession is a great introduction to Willingham’s book and to the field of cognitive science.


eLearning Fact vs Fiction

The following resources are great places to begin sorting out the facts about Digital Learning Environments and the development, evolution and effectiveness of eLearning. Understanding the effectiveness, design, efficiencies, and operation of digital learning environments is a process that takes longer than a five minute web flyby. But these flybys should get a first round of questions raised and framed.

The first, a quick read, is a post titled 30 Criticisms Of eLearning That Just Might Be Myths.  It appeared in the blog on January 13 2013.

The second is an excellent read (a bit older but very timely) posted by Marc Rosenberg October 11, 2011 in a two part article in Learning Solutions Magazine titled eLearning Myths Part1 and Part 2. Marc outlines and frames 11 items as candidates for eLearning myth.

While we are at it why don’t we begin to explore other education myths. As a jumping off point the 18 Myths of Education Infographic posted November 22, 2013 on  should serve to queue up some questions.