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A schema for compliant, decisive curricular changes in higher education

Lucas Kavlie (lucas.kavlie@wgu.edu) is Vice President of Academic Engagement at Western Governors University, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Western Governors University (WGU) works to educate its 120,000 students in the highly regulated fields of accountancy, educator preparation, and nursing. Its student population is located throughout the United States and its territories around the world. Helping students complete their degrees is just one step in the process of their ascent to become professional accountants, certified teachers or licensed educators, and registered nurses. Each of these fields has national and state-based oversight agencies with the prerogative to add or change knowledge, practice, and/or educational requirements to any individual’s pursuit of a state-granted license to practice.

As states change their requirements to license, the university must review its curricular offerings to ascertain whether the degree requirements must change accordingly, whether these additional requirements are part of an overall change in the represented fields, or whether these changes should be met in co-curricular and/or extracurricular manners. Our team actively searches to uncover these state-specific changes to better inform the continued development of WGU’s programmatic offerings, and other changes are brought to our department as questions that require national scans of overall or minimum requirements in statute, in practice, or in fact.

Suggested changes do not always come in this manner, however. As a large university with students in multiple states, we are approached by external organizations with partnership opportunities that may necessitate customization of our current program offerings. Each of these changes must be analyzed to maintain compliance with the multiple organizations that approve us or allow our students to obtain their professional licenses. Therefore, when a required change is flagged or when a suggested change is brought to the department, we use a specific schema for analyzing and reporting the information to decision-makers in the university by using a framework of “Can we,” “Should we,” and “Will we” make the change.

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