What you need to know about the EdPlus mission statement

The EdPlus staff came together late last month for a quarterly update from EdPlus CEO and Dean for Educational Initiatives, Phil Regier. Much attention was focused on the EdPlus mission statement, defining its key concepts, providing examples of new initiatives and illustrating how EdPlus has been imaginative in thinking through new ways to advance paradigms for the universal learner. Phil emphasized that we have barely scratched the surface and challenged us, over the next decade, to engage in the process of reimagining what education can be for all learners. Below, Phil dissects the EdPlus mission statement. What follows is a paraphrased summary of Phil’s update. A link to a full video of Phil’s presentation at the All-Staff meeting can be found here

We are a central enterprise unit for ASU. We serve the university and all learners. We serve faculty within the University. We serve academic units within the University. We serve the President’s office. 

We’re focused on the design. For example, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The WWII Museum, located in that city, was cut off from patrons for six months. They came to us and wanted a museum with no walls. Over the course of two years, EdPlus worked with our ASU faculty members, WWII Museum historians and created a singular degree in WWII studies at the master’s level as well as a non-credit certificate. Since we announced this in August, we already have 519 Requests for Information (RFIs). Classes begin in January. 

We focus on scalable delivery. An example of delivering something that is required by the world at scale is the Master of Computer Science open scale program on the Coursera platform that just launched. Anybody in the world can access this program. Parts of it can be taken for free. It allows people to earn certificates in cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, machine learning, and, if they apply and are admitted at ASU, students can take a full master’s degree in computer science for $15,000. We have 60 students in the program right now and want to have 500 students in the spring. Phil’s goal for the online MCS is that it will be the largest program ASU Online has ever delivered. He’d like to have 10,000 students in this program. 

We focus on digital teaching and learning model. We use our imagination and sense of adventure to create new models here. We’ve created a set of adaptive courses including sociology, biology, chemistry, history, macroeconomics, microeconomics, college algebra and they are all adaptive--meaning the adaptive technology knows what each of us knows and delivers different content to each of us depending on our needs. We are farther down that road than any other university. So we said, if we can have one course that is adaptive, why couldn’t we have a whole set of courses that talk to each other? Our BioSpine project is the next advance in adaptive technology. Hypothetically, what if a second semester junior in advanced genetics forgets something she needed to know from her first genetics class? She might not even realize she forgot that piece of material. But, the machine doesn’t forget. The machine knows everything she did in that first class. It’s going to figure out what she needs to know. Then, it remediates back so that she won’t fail the class because of something she forgot from two years earlier. The BioSpine project’s adaptive technology remembers everything a student has done and can prompt them at the right time. 

We increase student success. In 2012, we had 1,200 graduates total for the prior three years of ASU Online. Two years ago, we had a total 13,000 graduates and now we have a total of 26,000 graduates. If that increases at the same rate, in two years, we’ll have 50,000 graduates. We graduated 7,000 students in just the last year out of the University’s 22,000 students who graduated. That means, one third of the graduates from ASU graduated last year because of something that EdPlus created over the past 7-8 years. 

We reduce barriers to achievement. Here are some examples of how EdPlus has reduced barriers to achievement in higher education in the last year. The Action Lab within EdPlus is hitting its stride. It is doing an unbelievable job in researching what results in barriers to achievement in particular courses and particular programs. The Action Lab has a data pool that is large enough to help us figure out what particular types of students have difficulty in particular types of courses. Now, we can have instructors or instructional designers remediate our coursework to make those types of students successful. 

Earned admission is another example of how we reduce barriers. It is for anybody who wants to figure out if they can achieve at a university. The basic way it works is very straightforward. A student applies to ASU and finds out they have been denied admission because their GPA is too low. Maybe they were 18, 19 or 20 when they first enrolled full time at the local state university. They sign up to take 18 credit hours in a semester and unexpectedly get in a car accident; or their mother has a heart attack and they have to take care of her; or they find out they are having a baby. Life intervened and they just quit going to school. What happens to them? Their GPA goes from a respectable 2.6 to a 1.8 and they become inadmissible at most universities. We figured out a way around that. Through our Earned Admission program, a student who as been denied admission to ASU can take Global Freshman Academy courses. If they are over the age of 22 and pass four courses with a 2.75 GPA or above, they are automatically admitted to ASU. We’ll figure out what do do with any prior coursework they may have once they are admitted. If they don’t want to go to ASU, that’s fine. They can transfer those credits to any other institution in the world that accepts ASU credit. There is no other university that does anything like this. No other university has thought through something like earned admission. 

We advance the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities served by ASU. A university degree makes all the difference in the world for people who don’t otherwise have access to advancing themselves and their loved ones into economic mobility in the country. When we confer university degrees, we contribute to the overall health of the communities we serve. University graduates make more money, they are more economically mobile, they live longer, they are happier and contribute more back to the community. If you grew up in a household in the bottom 20 percent of income in the U.S. and you do not receive a university degree, there is a 45 percent chance you will end up exactly where you started, in the bottom quintile. And, there’s about a 70 percent chance you’ll end up in the bottom two quintiles. Without a university degree, you may be consigned to being in those bottom income quintiles for the rest of your life. However, if you are from the bottom quintiles and you get a university degree, you have an equal chance of landing in any of the five income quintiles. So, when we say that higher education is the great equalizer, this is why. 

We advance the local, national and international communities served by ASU. We have refugee education programs in Rwanda, Uganda and Jordan. We have the PLuS Alliance with universities in the UK and Australia. This is a tri-continental partnership to help find research-led solutions to global challenges and expand access to world-class learning. We are working with the Al Ghurair Foundation for Education in the Middle East providing degrees for low income students and preparing pathways for them to access higher education. We need to advance more globally and we are thinking about ways to do it. We are making tremendous strides already.