Previous COT blog posts have saluted Michigan and Florida for their contributions to the development of open textbooks. This “hats off” offers well-deserved recognition of a truly innovative initiative developed in a partnership between the Kentucky Virtual Campus (KYVC) and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS).
In 2006 a study reported that 1.3 million of Kentucky’s working adults lacked a bachelor’s degree and were not enrolled in higher education. The research also indicated that almost 200,000 of these individuals were interested in pursuing further education if coursework was offered in a way that fit into their lives.
KYVC and KCTCS stepped forward to meet the challenge of reaching people who were motivated but busy with work and family responsibilities. Together they created the Virtual Learning Initiative to develop effective programs for serving this target population.
“Our motivation was to support educational delivery models that accommodated busy working adults to further their education,” says Allen Lind, CEO of the Kentucky Virtual Campus and Vice President for Technology and eLearning for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
KYVC provided a loan for development of an effective educational model, and the result was a modularized, self-paced, online program that utilizes five basic principles:
1. a just-in-time, open-enrollment and open-exit format
2. small learning modules of less than one credit hour
3. competency-based exit testing so that students can test out at any time
4. textbook-free education with all content electronic and integrated
5. self-paced, but with maximum time limits
According to Sandra Cook, System Director of Distance Learning Technologies for Kentucky Community and Technical College System, when looking for content providers they are seeking materials that are engaging and interactive, and that also come with “authentic assessment strategies.” One of the project goals has been to eliminate textbook costs by integrating all content into the learning management system.
Launched in April 2009 under the name “KCTS Online: Learn on Demand,” the program offers students the opportunity for earning credit both for prior knowledge and expanding their skills. Students can earn an associate degree in business administration or an associate degree in information technology. A number of certificates are also offered that address specific workforce needs. Students intending to transfer to bachelor programs can earn an associate in art or science.
With 80 percent of enrollees being new KCTCS students, the program offers a 24/7 online student services help desk and easy access to information on program requirements and course options. In future years the program plans to expand its offerings with foundation courses in reading, writing, and math, as well as a nursing career pathway.