• Army University hosts education symposium

  • Army University hosted its 2017 Education Symposium, titled “Competency Based Approach to Talent: Connecting Military Higher Education and Workplace Learning.”

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  • Harry Sarles | Army University Public Affairs
    Army University hosted its 2017 Education Symposium, titled “Competency Based Approach to Talent: Connecting Military Higher Education and Workplace Learning,” June 20-21 at Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo. The symposium brought together about 180 members of academia, industry and the public sector, including the Army, to collectively work toward developing a competency-based education approach to talent.
    Maj. Gen. John S. Kem, Army University provost, opened the event saying the Army does an OK job of recognizing learning, but “OK is not good enough.”
    He said the Army needs better approaches that capture and leverage learning in ways that benefit the learner, the Army, academia and potential employers.
    Army University partnered with the Lumina Foundation and the Competency-Based Education Network, nationally recognized non-profit organizations that share similar goals and objectives with Army University in the area of how competencies relate to talent management, to host the symposium.
    The Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. The foundation envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Its goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy. The Competency-Based Education Network is a group of colleges and universities working together to address shared challenges to designing, developing, and scaling competency-based degree programs.
    The importance of a common method of describing and validating competencies was evident from the beginning of the conference.
    “The stakes are high,” said Jason Tyszko, executive director of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in the symposium’s opening session.
    Tyszko and others have noted the “skills gap” in the American economy that leaves millions of jobs unfilled because qualified employees can’t be found.
    Tyszko appeared on a panel with Brig. Gen. Eugene LeBoeuf, vice provost for academic affairs at Army University, and Laurie Dodge, board president of the Competency-Based Education Network. Tyszko noted another challenge — the need for continuous learning.
    LeBoeuf said that for the military and its national security mission, the stakes are very high in making sure that it fields professional, competent personnel.
    “We begin our development of the individual by ensuring that they have the basic skill set that all of our uniformed personnel need to possess. And then it builds from there.”
    The military emphasizes innovative, agile, globally aware leaders who have the emotional intelligence to work in very complex environments, LeBeouf said. The challenge is in tracking and cataloging those abilities.
    Page 2 of 3 - “We may have a first sergeant, and we know that person has a great capability of leading company-level units,” LeBeouf said. “But we have to break that down into those particular competencies that they must possess and be able to articulate that to academia and the workforce.”
    The military is working to translate the learning its members obtain in terms understandable to academia and the civilian sectors, he said.
    Dodge, who is also vice chancellor of Institutional Assessment and Planning and vice provost at Brandman University, said many employers are skeptical about the degrees possessed by new graduates.
    “Employers are saying, ‘You graduated, that’s great,’” Dodge said. “But you know what? You don’t have all the knowledge, skills and abilities you need to be successful in the workplace.’”
    She said job-seekers must be able to demonstrate skills in problem-solving, networking and collaboration. Parents and students, meanwhile, are demanding to know the return on investment for their tuition money. She said more than 600 institutions are building competency-based education programs, which include transparent evidence of student learning.
    After the opening, the symposium broke into working sessions on making military competencies work in the civilian world, capturing learning across a complex system, connecting service years to credit and competencies, and organizing learning in the workplace. More working sessions followed with titles like developing a competency-based learner’s profile for the Army, development of the university alliance and 2+2 framework, and the Army credentialing strategy.
    Topping off the first day was a panel discussion featuring veterans of the Army, Marine Corps and Navy who shared their experiences in getting credit for learning achieved while in service from academia and industry. Former Marine and Army National Guard member Jim Tweedy, Army Reserve veteran Jonathan Green and Navy veteran Matti Cone related their experiences that showed the wide variety of how institutions account for military learning.
    Cone shared that the University of Oregon, where he recently graduated, accepted nearly 180 hours of credit from his military education but since they would only count those hours toward elective courses he had to complete his degree program classes and graduated with more than 300 hours of credit.
    Green said he was frustrated at first but eventually found Excelsior College that worked with him to accept as much military credit as possible. Green is now a nursing director for critical care at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffer, N.Y., and is working on a doctorate.
    Tweedy, now a journeyman lineman with the Tennessee Valley Authority, said as an infantryman he didn’t have much formal military education to bring to civilian studies but that his experiences helped to focus on studying to advance to his current position.
    Page 3 of 3 - Lt. Col. L. Trice Burkes, professor of military science at Lincoln University, sat on the panel and said as an instructor, he reaches out to veterans at his university and recognizes the importance of that community in student life.
    Cone echoed that comment saying “Veterans bring a huge resource to the classroom.”
    “Every school should have some resource for veterans,” Green added.
    The second day of the symposium was devoted to small groups conducting “deep dives” into three topics — How to Assess Competencies, Recording Learning Outcomes Resulting from Broad Learning Experiences, and Developing Cooperative Competency-based Credential Pathways. Results of the deep dive sessions were reported in general session before Chad Ahern, strategy officer for Lumina Foundation, wrapped up the symposium with a call to action.
    Symposium participants reported on reflections, findings, opportunities and challenges across the discussions they had. They also talked about actions they intend to take to follow-up on the work at the symposium.
    “We have to understand: The world is changing, and we have to be able to address that. And I think it’s exciting to bridge this,” Dodge said. “So, yes, change is hard, but, we’ll get there.”
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