By LeeAnn Rohmann, President, Legacy Education and Lori Sypher, Vice President of Sales, Private Sector Education, Elsevier Education
Standardize and simplify to improve certification and licensure
Career education has evolved throughout the years in the United States. School owners are responsible for planning and implementing best practices in their colleges. With the advances in technology and innovation, it can be daunting to keep up with the trends that are driving this sector. When a school is struggling with certification and licensure outcomes, it is necessary to understand the cause in order to determine the best solution.
When evaluating an institution’s path to certification and licensure, it’s important to consider the preparation and techniques that go into planning the curriculum. Integration preparation, adaptive learning, and end of program preparation are key factors in curriculum planning. A strategy for incorporating formative and summative learning techniques are also beneficial in this process to achieve success with certification and licensure rates.
Key factors in certification and licensure outcomes
The first step in improving certification and licensure rates is a firm understanding of the current factors leading to an unsatisfactory outcome. There are three components that need to be evaluated: students, tools, and leaders.
Student socialization, beginning on day one, is key to a successful program. Interactions with school staff influence how a student internalizes the education. Admission representatives are responsible for setting expectations and explaining requirements. Deans and faculty can help build discipline and confidence. Career services help to provide a vision of success detailing the opportunities that await certified and licensed students.
A sense of community is also important. When students interact with each other, connections are formed and networks are built. These student networks serve to provide each other daily support which can alleviate anxiety and provide motivation which drives program completion.
Tools and instruments play a key part in the successful completion of a program through certification and licensure. One of the tools that should not be overlooked is certification preparation. This should be integrated into the key organizational values of every school.
As technology advances, it’s important to make sure that the tools being used are evaluated and updated as appropriate. Often the changes that are made impact ease of use for both faculty and students.
Quality is also improved due to the data and research that can be validated to create more encompassing, yet relevant exams. Having access to this data can help schools to provide targeted remediation for students that may be struggling.
Although there is a financial commitment involved in constantly evaluating and upgrading tools and instruments, the cost can be incorporated into tuition or a reward model. An understanding of current instruments and their use helps to put the focus on gaps so needs can be identified. This allows the school to develop a plan focused on its unique needs. Taking advantage of the best technologies allows schools to create a more personalized and adaptive learning environment.
The final factor in producing more certified and licensed graduates is the leadership team. Again, students need to know what they are working towards and the job of the leaders is to ensure that students understand the goals of completing their programs. The staff and faculty need to move beyond their traditional roles as educators and work to create a partnership with students. When students feel they are in a partnership with their leaders, a team is built that is centralized around success. This philosophy should be communicated regularly across the organization and both faculty and students should be held accountable.
The pressures on today’s educators
Today’s educators are under increasingly more pressure when certification and licensing rates decline. Schools hold teachers accountable for ensuring that students who pass their coursework move on to successful program completion and attainment of the appropriate certificates and licenses. If the success rate declines, future enrollment can suffer. It is easy to put pressure on the faculty since they have consistent and direct interaction with the students. Ultimately, the success of a program cannot rest solely upon one group. The students are just as accountable for their success as well as the institution that determines and provides the instruments and tools to be used.
Managing expectations using Bloom’s Taxonomy
Students are often faced with conflicting expectations. On the one hand, they want to memorize only the material that will be tested, while at the same time they need to be able to use that knowledge and apply critical thinking skills in the clinical setting.
It is necessary to transition students from knowledge-based thinking and memorization to critical thinking. This is based on Bloom’s Taxonomy which is a set of three hierarchical models that identify educational learning objectives broken down into various levels of complexity and specificity. This model focuses on a more analytical and evaluative system of education where learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained knowledge and skills at lower levels. This takes students from passive to active learning.
Personalized learning is an umbrella term that describes a range of approaches, including competency-based learning, differentiated instruction, tutorial models, and adaptive learning. This modern approach to education identifies each student’s individual strengths and allows students to learn at their own pace, according to their specific needs.
Adaptive learning technologies
Adaptive technologies focus on personalized learning to improve student and program outcomes. Students benefit from engaging, individualized lessons and activities that address their unique strengths and weaknesses. Educators can use the rich data provided by adaptive tools for continuous program improvement and more timely interventions for struggling students.
With the advent of new technology, it is possible to engage students in more meaningful ways by facilitating the adaption of the curriculum to individual students.
Technology is able to enhance the traditional classroom model with personalized and automated content. While identifying specific strengths and weaknesses, the students are given the opportunity to focus on areas of particular challenges instead of spending time reviewing material that is already familiar.
Adaptive learning focuses on three key areas of a student’s understanding of a subject. The first is the material the student already knows and understands. Presenting this as part of the curriculum will lead to boredom and disinterest in further education of the subject matter. The opposite level is information that is well beyond what the student can understand. Trying to teach at this level can cause frustration and may lead to students leaving the program. Adaptive learning focuses on a level in between these two extremes where a student has a basic understanding but needs further instruction.
The principles of personalized instruction
Personalized instruction should be student-centered and designed to meet the diverse learning needs of each student every day. This does not mean that expectations are lowered, rather it demands a commitment to ensuring that every student meets clearly defined, rigorous standards that will prepare him or her for success.
Educators need to allow self-pacing while providing mastery-based credit. This enables students to move at their own pace and receive credit when they can demonstrate mastery of the material.
By giving students ownership of their education, they are empowered with the skills, information, and tools they need to succeed.
The role of technology in personalized education
Technology is not actually required for personalization in the classroom, but it is required to personalize at scale. Computers can easily be used to assess a student’s knowledge level and learning style by analyzing how a student answers questions and what kind of lessons they find most appealing.
Evaluations can be either formative or summative. It is important to have a balanced assessment system that uses both formative and summative assessments as part of its information gathering.
Formative assessment focuses on how the student is currently learning. This information can be used to identify strengths and target areas of weakness. Specific areas are identified early on for additional focus. The types of questions used in a formative assessment are low stakes with the goal of making adjustments to ensure students achieve their course objectives.
The goal of summative assessment is to test the student on the knowledge actually learned. This is done by comparing the students’ test results to a predetermined standard or benchmark. Summative assessments are high stakes and are typically seen as tests, projects, or papers. The goal of a summative assessment is to quantify what was actually learned.
Meeting student needs
A well designed adaptive education systems must meet the needs of the students by defining essential content coverage while allowing for personalization. A proper assessment will identify the students’ current knowledge as well as their efficiencies in studying and learning. When students are provided with tailored content they can focus on what is essential. This prioritization of subject matter allows students to study based on their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Technology allows students to assess their learning on a daily basis. This perpetual assessment of weak areas allows for targeted studying and personalized quizzing. Students remain engaged and motivated because the learning program is focused on their individual needs.
Meeting faculty needs
In order to be successful, an adaptive learning program must go beyond the needs of the students to also meet the needs of the faculty. Teachers need to know what the level of education is across a multitude of students. At the same time, they need to be able to identify different education techniques to reach the unique requirements of each student.
Again, technology is critical in allowing teachers to assess learners on a daily basis. With the data provided, they can create customized learning plans. It also allows them to identify areas of weakness sooner. By focusing on what is essential, faculty can be more efficient and lectures can be based on the needs of their students.
Case study: High Desert Medical College
High Desert Medical College is an Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training (ACCET) school member that has had success in creating an adaptive program for nursing licensure. High Desert Medical College is committed to offering a quality educational experience and assistance in individualized placement so graduates can utilize their knowledge and skills to enter their chosen career fields.
High Desert Medical College began a major revision to their curriculum in 2012. Their goal was to promote a positive atmosphere and assimilate new students into the college’s culture.
After identifying an appropriate vendor, the school worked to create a benchmark program that allowed students to take practice versions of the licensing tests. This determined their readiness for progression in the program as well as helping to identify areas where the curriculum was lacking so that revisions could be made as necessary.
Faculty and staff maintained constant contact points with the students throughout the program and after completion to keep them engaged and incentivized.
A combination of calls, texts, and emails was generated on a weekly basis offering support and opportunities to review with faculty or study in groups. In addition, the school paid for a student’s license if the test was passed on the first attempt. This kept the student in touch with the school and eliminated affordability as a reason for not attaining licensure.
In the Clinical Medical Assistant Program, High Desert Medical College found that passing the certificate test before the student has completed an extern, increased the possibility of the student becoming an extern to hire. They were also able to identify areas of opportunity for future students, such as medical facilities searching for Certified Medical Assistants due to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement incentives. Another key learning was that the test site must be convenient for students to make licensing a priority.
With a primary goal to build a better quality allied health focused school group, High Desert Medical College reported that with this new curriculum, approximately 90 percent of graduates were successfully licensed and working in 2015.
Crucial for implementation
In order to successfully implement an adaptive learning system that encourages students to attain licensing and certification, there must be consistency, clarity, and quality. Despite the variability between instructors and students, an individualized program must encourage all students’ pursuits of critical thinking. Technology should facilitate this with clarity to prevent the tools and implements from becoming barriers themselves. Quality needs to be maintained so that students can focus on the essentials. It takes a combination of student commitment, leading tools and instruments, and a dedicated leadership team to build a culture around success to certification and licensure.
LEEANN ROHMANN is the President of Legacy Education (dba High Desert Medical College) with a main campus in Lancaster, California and a branch campus in Bakersfield, California. LeeAnn founded Legacy Education in 2009 to support her strong belief in higher education as the basis for building a legacy for students and their families. She is passionate about providing the best training in the strongest job-growth industries, like healthcare.
LeeAnn began her career in higher education more than 25 years ago at USA Group and has spent every day since working to provide education opportunities. Her diverse background shows proven results at both startup education finance companies and Fortune 500 companies. LeeAnn’s corporate experience includes Chief Sales Officer at CIT Group/Student Loan Xpress as well as executive and leadership roles at EdFinancial Services and American Express Education Finance.
LORI SYPHER is Vice President, Private Sector Sales for Elsevier Education. Elsevier Education is passionate about education. The motivating goal in everything they do is preparing today’s students for successful careers in various healthcare professions. They make sure that today’s higher learning institutions and educators are well-equipped with the latest information, learning technology, and assessment tools so they can effectively guide students in becoming tomorrow’s leading health science experts and caregivers.
Lori has more than 20 years of experience in supporting education innovation. She has held various management positions with leading education technology companies and has been part of the leadership team at Elsevier Education for close to a decade.
Contact Information: Lori Sypher // Vice President of Sales, Private Sector Education // Elsevier Education // 760-803-0057 // firstname.lastname@example.org // www.elsevier.com/education // www.linkedin.com/in/lori-sypher-1068574