Drexel University’s Master of Science in Higher Education Program (MSHE) has been offering online courses since Fall 2005. One of the innovative practices integrated throughout the curriculum includes optimizing authentic assessment and student generated content. This effective practice builds upon the concept of “real-world problems for real-world leaders.” Data collected from the 2011 MSHE Survey, which included 240 students with a 50% response rate, reveals the importance of an experiential curriculum in fulfilling the program’s mission and learning outcomes. When students were asked to rate their “Previous Skills” (prior to enrollment) to their “Current Skills,” the data showed a 43% increase in conducting research, 40% increase in developing Power Point (PPT), 39% increase in using new technologies, 30% increase in delivering PPT presentations, and an 18% increase in both writing and decision-making. Additionally, 30% of students shared that they had advanced in their current position or transitioned to a new position prior to graduation.
Linking to the Mission & Program Outcomes
The mission of the MSHE program focuses on preparing graduates with the knowledge, skills, and experience for career placement, advancement, transition or advanced studies within higher education or related areas (non-profit organizations, government agencies, corporations, etc.). Program outcomes include graduating higher education leaders who are effective communicators (oral/written), analytical problem solvers, evaluators, researchers, data driving decision-makers, and competent in optimizing technology and leading/working with teams. To proactively fulfill the mission and program learning outcomes, the MSHE program developed an experiential curriculum to actively engage students in their courses through real-life problem-based learning. Assignments integrate Authentic Assessment and Student Generated Content into most MSHE courses. However, for the purpose of this proposal, just one course (EDHE 606 Higher Education Career Development) will be discussed in which students use Authentic Assessment and Student Generated Content assignments twice during the 10-week quarter.
Building Upon Backwards Design
Backwards design is utilized in developing all MSHE assignments. Therefore, each assignment begins with identify the desired results that link to the weekly objectives, course outcomes, and program outcomes. Next, rubrics are developed to determine acceptable evidence of learning. Lastly, the instructions and deliverables are developed in detail with faculty and practitioners in higher education who provide real-life scenarios that higher education administrators are challenged with today.
In EDHE 606: Higher Education Career Development students are engaged in two assignments that integrate Authentic Assessment and Student Generated Content: (I) Job Application with ePortfolio and Mock Interview, and (II) Presentation to the Board of Trustees.
I. Job Application with ePortfolio and Mock Interview
Students begin this assignment by identifying a real job posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, higheredjobs.com or another job-related website/executive search firm that would be considered as their next professional career step upon graduation (e.g., new career placement, advancement, or transition). Once students have identified the position, they must apply for it by submitting a formal cover letter, resume, and professional biography along with an ePortfolio. These materials are sent in through the LMS; however, the must be all tailored toward the institution for which the student is applying. Upon receipts of the application, students are sent an email from the instructor stating they are one of three finalists for the position, but, due to the economy and budget cuts, they will have to participate in a “live” synchronous interview through Wimba Classroom (now Collaborate). They are told they will have to present to a search committee and develop a PowerPoint™ presentation including: (a) a self-introduction, (b) highlights of their professional skills and experience, and (c) why they are the best candidates for the job. Students must respond to the instructor’s email within 48 hours or they lose points on the assignment. During the actual mock interview, there are two to three search committee members: (1) the instructor, (2) a specialist within the area for which the student is applying, and (3) a career advisor from Drexel’s Steinbright Career Development Center when available. Students are required take on the role of a real applicant and the search committee is required to conduct general research on each institution so they can ask specific questions relating to the position. Each interview is archived and committee members complete an actual search committee evaluation they send to the instructor. Student must send a “thank you note” to all search committee members within 48 hours or they lose points. Within 72 hours students receive the completed search committee evaluations and constructive feedback on the submitted application and the interview. This authentic assessment assignment optimizes the generation of student content that can be used for actual job applications (e.g., letter, bio, resume, PPT). The archived interview along with the ePortfolio provides exceptional materials for a follow up assignment that includes self-evaluation and reflective practice.
Once the interviewing process is complete and students have received all returned materials, including the archived interview with evaluations, they are then assigned a two-page reflective paper in which they must evaluate their own materials using the search committee evaluation form. The self-evaluation includes watching the interview and identifying what they see as their strengths and areas they can build upon or enhance for future interviews. As part of the self-evaluation and reflective practice, students need to constructively compare the feedback from the search committee to their own evaluation prior to submission. For the two-page paper, students are to reflect on the entire interview process including the position for which they applied, the content they generated, the feedback provided from the search committee, their strengths and areas for development, and their overall professional growth from the assignment. It should be noted that each time EDHE 606 is taught, many students actually begin apply for various positions and several are often hired or receive promotions.
II. Presentation to the Board of Trustees
In EDHE 606 students are assigned to groups of two or three. Each group is informed that they work within the Division of Human Resources with one person being assigned the role of Vice President and the other(s) member is assigned as an Associate Vice President or Director. The group is told the University’s President would like the Division of Human Resources to present to the Board of Trustees at an upcoming meeting. The Division is to identify the top emerging human resource management issue that should be on the University’s radar screen. Each group is to identify an issue and then develop a PPT for the presentation. Note: No groups can have the same topics so groups submit their topics as soon as they identify it. The President shares with the group that the Board of Trustees has very limited time for the presentation due to a full agenda so each group must pre-record their presentation in Wimba/Collaborate in case the Board is unable to have them present in person. Each group is required to record a 5-7 minute PPT presentation on their human resource management issue and highlight the reason it is an important issue as well as identify best practices for addressing the issue proactively as an institution. Students record their Board presentations in Wimba/Collaborate in Week 4 of the 10-week quarter. They then receive a grade and feedback from the instructor. Each group is carefully critiqued on their overall presentation, greeting to the Board, introduction of each member of their group, and the quality and detail of the PPT presentation. Each group member has to present part of the presentation.
In the Week 8 Discussion Board, students are assigned to take on the role of the Board of Trustees. They are told they need to prepare for an upcoming Board meeting by going into Wimba/Collaborate and watching the archived presentations on critical human resource topics. For this Discussion Board assignment, there are two parts. Part I - Students must identify what they believe to be the top three most critical Human Resource issues for the University based on the presentations. Within their post, they have to share the rationale for the selection of each of the three issues and provide examples of why they selected the three. Part II – Students are told to go back and watch their own group presentation. For this post, students must include a reflect and identify three things their group did exceptionally well and three things they would modify or change based on having watched the presentations of their peers and then their own presentation. It should be noted that the combination of Authentic Assessment and Student Generated Content provides students with unique opportunities to apply and actualize the knowledge and skills they are gaining in their courses. This effective practice also provides opportunities for students to reflect on their own work and work of their peers.
In April 2011, the MSHE Student Survey was distributed to 240 students enrolled in the program in spring Quarter 2011. A total of 120 students responded representing a 50 percent response rate. Of the respondents, 78% stated that MSHE Program was their first online education program in which they have been enrolled.
Highlights are provided below from (a) the 2011 MSHE Survey and (b) qualitative feedback comments by students who have been engaged in ARP assignments.
Top three reasons for enrolling in Drexel University’s MSHE Program
1. National Reputation
3. Career advancement
Quality of MSHE Program:
· 56% of the students stated the online MSHE Program offers the same quality of courses than on-campus programs in which they had previously attended
· 34% of the students stated the online MSHE Program offers higher academic quality of courses than on-campus programs in which they had previously attended
· 30 percent of students were promoted or transitioned to new positions while enrolled in the program
Previous Skills (prior to enrollment) & Current Skills
· 43% increase in conducting research
· 40% increase in developing Power Point (PPT)
· 39% increase in using new technologies
· 30% increase in delivering PPT presentations
· 18% increase in both writing and decision-making
· 90% percent of the students stated they are very satisfied and satisfied with the program
Recommend the MSHE Program:
· 95 percent of the students stated they would recommend the MSHE Program to individuals seeking to advance their career in higher education
· 89 percent stated they would recommend the MSHE Program to individuals seeking to transition into higher education
Student Comments from EDHE 606:
• One word comes to mind when reflecting upon the career and life lessons I have acquired during the past 10 weeks – invaluable.
• Unlike many of the courses I have taken so far, this course was specifically designed for me. The knowledge and experience I gained in this course really gave me confidence that I currently possess the skills and I am prepared to enter into the higher education profession.
• If I were to reflect on all I have learned in EDHE 606, I would need far more than two pages. The practical knowledge I have gained will benefit me so much throughout my career. Sometimes the things we need to learn as graduate students are the things we will use in the real world, and this course certainly proved that.
• The course material from EDHE 606: Higher Education Career Development has provided a wealth of information on topics useful in my own professional development through practical application of career assessment, networking, and professional development planning. Throughout the past ten weeks, I have been privileged to engage in these activities both within the course for learning purposes and outside the course to advance my career
• This quarter has provided me with a working knowledge of how best to develop my professional goals and plan for the future. Additionally, I have learned a variety of strengths and weaknesses as it concerns my resume, cover letter, interviewing technique, and behavioral tendencies. Specifically, I feel confident in my career path but understand that there are a number of ways to go about garnering experience and to continually develop my competencies.
• As soon as I registered for Higher Education Career Development, I looked forward to learning the skills associated with making a seamless career transition into higher education from the business industry. Even though I had garnered valuable work experience from Fortune 500 companies, I was unsure of how I could apply these skills and experiences cross-functionally. After ten weeks of Higher Education Career Development, I can honestly say that I am exiting this quarter with much more information than from when I began this course. I look forward to applying this wealth of knowledge to future instances of employment and would like to keep in touch with professor to update her on my success in this field.
• Overall I found the course extremely beneficial to my career search. The mock interview was more rewarding than expected because I was asked real world questions that I would not have expected. I am reflecting on those and trying to improve my answers, such as how I would handle management of a large staff, so that I can respond with confidence in the future.
The integration of Authentic Assessment and Student Generated Content relates to all five pillars.
Learning Effectiveness – Students are engaged in real-life problem-based assignments in which they have to apply what they are learning in the classroom. The MSHE program uses a scaffolding approach to the curriculum so students gain skills, knowledge, and experience as part of a continuum of learning through their two years in the program.
Student Satisfaction – Formative and summative evaluation supports the fact that students are satisfied in their courses as well as with the program. Many students share that they are able to actualize the skills they learning in their place of employment beginning the first couple of weeks within the program.
Access – All assignments are developed so each student can engage in the assignments. For many of the group projects, students may be paired with a colleague who is serving in Iraq or lives in another time zone or another country. Students may be paired in a group with a student who has a disability. The assignment encourages groups to work collaboratively as they would in a real-world setting within teams and committees.
Scale – Student generated content supports the scaling of assignments within a course and throughout the program since faculty are not required to constantly create materials. Student generated content provides unique opportunities for students to learn from their own work and from their peers. Many students share throughout the program that they learn to welcome feedback and become more reflective of their own work in the program and their place of employment.
Faculty Satisfaction – MSHE faculty surveys indicate faculty are satisfied in their positions. It is also extremely rewarding for faculty when students in their courses receive promotions, are offered new jobs, transition successfully into higher education, and are accepted into doctoral degree programs.
Authentic Assessment and Student Generated Content assignments do not require any additional equipment that would go beyond typical requirements for an online or blended degree program. Equipment necessary for the effective practices include: computer/laptop, microphone, camera for computer/laptop, speakers, and access to a phone if the student does not have a microphone or speakers.
As previously shared, the equipment required for Authentic Assessment and Student Generated Content assignments does not go beyond the typical requirements of online and blended degree programs. Therefore, the only costs associated with this practice would be associated with access to Collaborate (or a similar product). Blackboard provides a structured pricing model for access to one Collaborate classroom, if needed, with access to up to 200+ students depending upon the program. The cost of a Collaborate classroom can range from a couple of thousand dollars to just over five thousand dollars depending upon the access required for the number of students. Keep in mind that this one classroom can be optimized across a program. However, for institutions in which Wimba/Collaborate is already integrated into the Learning Management System, there are no additional costs. One of the greatest benefits of Authentic Assessment and Student Generated Content assignments is the optimization of the LMS.
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Betts, K. S. (2009). Charting new frontiers: A conceptual framework for online students in Drexel University’s master of science in higher education graduate co-op. Journal of Cooperative Education & Internships, 43(1), 17-31. ISSN: 1933-2130. http://www.ceiainc.org/journal.asp?PageID=214
Betts, K., Lewis, M., Dressler, A., & Svensson, L. (2009). Optimizing curricula and learning simulation to support a quinary career development model. Asian-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 10(2), 99-119. ISSN: 1175-2882. http://apjce.org/volume_10/apjce_10_2_99_119.pdf