Lipscomb University’s online unit (formerly the College of Professional Studies) offers 12 undergraduate and graduate programs that are completely online and competency-based. Two different pacing option are offered– SetPACE allows students to work at their own pace in 8-week terms, paying for individual competencies (tied to courses). FlexPACE allows students to purchase a 6 month block of time during which they can complete as many competencies as they wish for one flat rate.
Prior Learning Assessment is handled in a unique way at Lipscomb. In additional to more traditional portfolio assessment, Lipscomb University’s workplace simulation measures 15 competencies in an 8-hour simulation using a behavioral assessment model. Students may earn up to 30 undergraduate credits or 6 graduate credits in this manner, greatly reducing the number of courses they need to take. This assessment also serves as baseline data for the coaching process which is a hallmark of Lipscomb’s programs in organizational leadership.There is no age requirement for participation in SetPACE or FlexPACE, but students who do best in the assessment center have at least 3 years of work experience, so younger students are not encouraged to participate until they have achieved some experience.
Lipscomb has collected meaningful data on the number of students assessed in the center and student pass rate. Lipscomb finds that students are 27% more likely to persist towards degree and nearly 2.5 times more likely to graduate when they participate in the assessment center upon entering the program. Indeed, Lipscomb students who participate in the prior-learning assessment, 92% graduate in one year or less. After students receive Development Coaching, Lipscomb boasts a 95% pass rate on CORE reassessment. After completing Lipscomb’s development program, students saw a 35% increase in target competency score.
Lipscomb’s behavioral assessment is a full-day experience which includes specific core workplace competencies that have been identified by employers as key to success. This behavioral assessment of core competencies allows for assessment results to drive instruction at the individual level to create a personalized program for each student and facilitates the development of these competencies before the student enters the workforce. All students in Lipscomb’s online programs and some select traditional programs have the opportunity to be assessed on these competencies and receive college level credit based on their performance.
Students may also develop the “Big 6” Leadership Competencies (i.e., communicativeness, problem-solving/decision-making, relationship building, influence, organizing/planning, and drive/energy) with Lipscomb’s competency development coaching model.
The most relevant feature of Lipscomb’s CORE (Customized, Outcome-Based, Relevant, Evaluation) Assessment Center is its behavioral roots. The assessment methodology is based on techniques adopted from behavioral science. This is particularly relevant when predicting and training performance skills. Behavioral assessment techniques have been used to successfully measure workplace competencies in corporate settings for many years (Jansen & Vinkenburg, 2006; Brodersen & Thornton, 2011; Lehman, Hudson, Appley, Sheehan, & Slevin, 2011). A competency is often defined as a “grouping of related behaviors” (International Task Force on Assessment Center Guidelines, 2009, p. 245). A competency can be considered for behavioral assessment if it can be clearly defined with performance indicators that are directly observable. When a competency is well-defined in behavioral terms and can be directly observed, it can then be accurately measured.
Behavioral assessment techniques allow for specific measurement and feedback regarding actual performance across situational contexts. There is approximately 40 years of research regarding the use of behavioral assessment techniques in the corporate context (Griffiths & Washington, 2015); thus, the rationale for its use in the higher education context is based on market demand for graduates of postsecondary institutions to enter the workforce with core workplace competencies. Bruce Griffiths of Organization Systems International states, “In fact, it’s an axiom among human resources professionals that we tend to hire for the hard skills but fire for the soft skills” (2010, p. 3). Behavioral assessment of core competencies in the higher education context allows for assessment results to drive instruction at the individual level and facilitates the development of these competencies before the student enters the workforce.