Westminster College

What make colleges well positioned for the future? Selingo (2013) discusses how colleges have adopted strategies that teach students valuable lessons that they need in order to be successful. Students spend so much time in the classroom, reading, attending lectures, taking tests, and all of which are done with the hope of a passing grade (Hullinger, 2015). However, “all the credit hours in the world don’t guarantee students actually learn anything applicable in the workplace, and employers know this all too well” (Hullinger, 2015). A college that makes an education meaningful is the type of experience every student should have. While many of the suggested universities stood out, Westminster College looked absolutely intriguing.

Westminster College discusses the idea of students creating a meaningful life. Students have the opportunity to create a learning experience outside of the classroom. Westminster challenges students to be innovative in the sense that it encourages them to take what they are learning and apply it to real life. Whether it is through advocating for social justice or cultivating safe spaces, Westminster wants students to apply their knowledge. The shift becomes one from a nose in the notebook to one that promotes “tangible skills that are applicable” in the world (Hullinger, 2015).

I chose Westminster because it did not advocate a traditional approach to education. It gave me the idea that students learn through experiences. It also provided students the opportunities to apply the knowledge from their chosen major across a broad range of fields. “Students advance not by ticking off classes but by proving they’ve mastered specific skill sets, or competencies” (Hullinger, 2015). We often forget that it could be simple for most students to memorize and answer questions on an exam. What is challenging both for the brain and the student is allowing them to figure things out on their own by applying what they learn in the real world.   Colleges need to make the shift from a traditional education to a tangible one. Colleges can do so by creating classes that are collaborative and allow for discussion. Courses within all majors can combine students from different fields and provide the opportunity for them to collaborate, solve problems, and reach their full potential.

Hullinger, J. (2015, May 20). This is the future of college. The New Rules Of Work. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3046299/the-new-rules-of-work/this-is-the-future-of-college

Selingo, J. J. (2013). College (un)bound: The future of higher education and what it means for students. Boston, MA: New Harvest.

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5 thoughts on “Westminster College

  1. The importance of experienced based learning is critical to adult learners. You make the point that regardless of the number of credit hours earned, if students are unable to apply their knowledge it doesn’t really matter how many hours are earned. I would add to that the importance of being able to work with others when using this knowledge. Bringing together all of the skills helps to produce students who are able to have an impact on whatever their area of expertise is. I think it can be really difficult to marry these three things in an on-line setting.

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    • Kristyn,

      I think it is impossible for some majors to be taught online. Some majors will always require the traditional approach, such as architecture or computer repair. But it is important for those institutions to remember that they can teach all the skills the major demands, but students need the opportunity to apply them.

      Nicole

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  2. Hi Nicole
    Thanks for highlighting Westminster College. In 2011, Westminster instituted the use of electronic portfolios for their students. Selingo (2013) likens the e-portfolio to a personal web page. E-Portfolios are growing quite popular in higher education as an outlet in which students can showcase their works and projects to perspective employers, reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, and aggregate individualized data about themselves that builds a competency picture. Miller and Morgaine (2009) claim that a “well-executed e-portfolio is an incredible tool for higher education” as it “[provides] institutions with authentic assessments of student learning” (para. 1). All of this is very much in line with what you summarized from Hullinger (2015) who pointed to the increasing need to better quantify and qualify learning.
    I agree with you that our students must gain application skills and achieve higher levels of cognitive learning that what can be assesses through basic multiple choice. Interestingly, our faculty has had complaints that students coming through our combined BS/MS track do not seem adequately prepared for the rigors of the program once they reach the master’s level. So, even though the transcripts reflect grades that ostensibly “get them into the programs” They cannot handle the work. It seems pretty justifiable that we must change not only our teaching, but the way in which we assess learning.
    Thanks!
    Pam
    References
    Hullinger, J. (2015, May 20). This is the future of college. The New Rules Of Work. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3046299/the-new-rules-of-work/this-is-the-future-of-college
    Miller, R. & Morgaine, M. (2009). The benefits of e-portfolios for students and faculty in their own words. Association of American Colleges and Universities, 11 (1). Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/benefits-e-portfolios-students-and-faculty-their-own-words
    Selingo, J.J. (2013). College (un)bound [Kindle version]. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com

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    • Pam,
      I definitely agree with you when you say that some transcripts have the grades. In the traditional setting (which I am a product of), students can easily memorize and rattle off answers on exams. For example, I earned my masters in teaching and flew through the program with outstanding grades. When I completed my student teaching, gosh, I was terrible in the beginning. Institutions need to craft programs in ways that students will be able to apply everything they learn throughout the program. not just the part where they may serve as a student teacher or intern.

      Nicole

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  3. Nicole,
    The innovation that Westminster has created is known as the W-CORE. The W-CORE, as described by the President in an interview is a way that allows for students to, customize their degrees with courses that meet W-CORE standards that have more meaning in today’s world (Morgan, 206). The core was also designed to be taken throughout a student’s academic career and not all within the first two years making the course more relevant and complimentary to the major. It also allows for students to add a minor without adding time to the completion of the degree.

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