A Message from Acting President Javier Miyares Regarding Academic Quality

March 29, 2012

Dear Colleagues:
I offer the following thoughts as part of our ongoing dialogue. I welcome your comments on these and other topics.

Today, I would like to address academic integrity and the transformation of our undergraduate offerings to an outcome-based curriculum delivered through eight-week sessions.

Let me begin by saying that I stand 100 percent behind our academic integrity and consider this transformation to be the latest example of UMUC’s history of successful innovation in adult higher education.

As you may know, we were the first institution of higher education to head overseas to military bases and battlefields to serve our men and women in uniform. We were the first in Maryland to make college education widely available off-campus. We were among the first to develop online education. And now, we are in the vanguard of reorienting higher education toward a student learning, evidence-based model. 

By way of background, UMUC has offered eight-week, face-to-face courses for many years, both stateside and overseas. Most traditional universities’ summer sessions are delivered in eight weeks, and many other public and private institutions serving adult students also offer eight-week courses. These are widely accepted academically.

It is important to know that, in this transition, UMUC did not simply change the length of its online courses. Rather, we transformed our undergraduate programs into totally outcome-based curricula.

SEGUE is the name given to our overall curriculum redesign. SEGUE means “Supporting Educational Goals for Undergraduate Excellence.” This is more than a tag line. In 2009, we set about to design an updated, integrated, sequenced, well-mapped curriculum. In instituting SEGUE in fall 2011, we completely transformed our curricula starting from essential program and course outcomes.

Here’s how it works: We redefined program outcomes based on employer and expert feedback and designed all courses within each program to align with those program outcomes. This was achieved through the work of more than 600 full- and part-time faculty.

Before SEGUE was instituted, UMUC embarked on a year-long research program to compare student learning achieved by the same online courses in different lengths. We found that student learning is not affected by session lengths. The evidence also showed that courses offered in shorter lengths had a higher course completion rate. This is consistent with our experience with adult students, who typically perform well in accelerated courses. 

As part of the redesign and in keeping with our outcome-based, employment-oriented curriculum transformation, we moved toward what is called authentic assessment—assessment based on real life practice (for example, developing a business, marketing, or communication plan) and away from final examinations, which often involve a simple recitation of memorized facts and information. Authentic assessment is considered a best practice in the field of adult higher education. It is also important to note that most universities offer courses that do not require a final exam.

A separate issue involving final examinations is identity authentication. This is a growing concern in higher education. To meet this challenge, we are preparing to pilot new technologies and processes that will provide for identity authentication in a scalable, efficient manner that minimizes students’ costs.

We consider SEGUE an extraordinary achievement of UMUC, on par with our having pioneered online education.

We conducted our first evaluation of the new curriculum in our stateside courses during the fall 2011 term and found that our course completion rate increased five percentage points from the previous fall—a stunning rate of improvement in such a short time. Further, we did not find any differences in student course evaluations from the previous year, and 87percent of the faculty who taught in fall 2011 reported that they successfully covered the course objectives. An equal percentage of faculty rated their experience teaching the new and shorter curriculum as good or excellent. We will expand the evaluation to our Asian and European divisions at the conclusion of the current term.

In June 2011, UMUC completed a Period Progress Review for its regular Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) accreditation cycle. A panel of peer reviewers selected by MSCHE read a comprehensive summary of our practices and progress. The reviewers determined that UMUC “paints a portrait of a university that seems to know who it is, who its students are, and where it wants to go. UMUC is to be commended on the scope of its program, the extraordinary service that it renders to the nation’s military personnel, its leadership and assessment models for nontraditional students, and the quality of its submission for this periodic review.” 

In closing, let me reassure everyone that we are going forward with our core values top of mind: students first, excellence, accountability, integrity, innovation, diversity, and respect.

To the many among you with whom I have had the honor and pleasure of serving at UMUC—and to those I hope to meet in the days and weeks ahead—I say with pride that we work for a good school that is filled with good people and that fulfills a good mission with honesty and integrity.

Many thanks.

Javier Miyares
Acting President
University of Maryland University College

See Also

Message from Acting President Javier Miyares - March 22, 2012