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Breakthrough Models Academy 2013: Team Projects

The twelve teams below have developed and honed designs for new higher education institutions, degree programs, or comprehensive student success systems. With support from appointed coaches, each team worked during the face-to-face week-long event in July 2013 and collaborated online since then to create these media presentations and project plans.

These projects came to fruition at a competition in front of a panel of secret judges and with those in attendance at EDUCAUSE 2013.Three teams were announced as winners of scholarships and cash prizes.


Team 1: Shelli Fowler (coach), Lauren Fancher, Kim Hunter, Kristen Schunk Moreland, Michael Sonntag

Abstract: GROK is a smartphone app that is a tool for student success. It’s a fun and easy way to build self-efficacy in life and engage with college. GROK builds an individual roadmap for success for the semester, tracks performance, prompts performance, and provides feedback and incentives for getting the job done. GROK helps students build self-efficacy and develop executive function skills through easy, device-based, integrated tools for interactive assignments and tasks, time, and effort calculations, milestone projections, self-monitoring and tracking, performance visualization, and automated prompts, feedback, and incentives. GROK will reduce the overall cost for a student’s degree by improving retention and reducing the expense cycle that accompanies students who stop out, repeat courses, and manage their debt cycle. By leveraging the performance data produced by the app to automate intervention protocols, the institution is able to increase the efficiency and timeliness of identification of and interventions for at-risk students.

Project Plan: Click here



Local U

Team 2: Roger Yohe (coach), Margery Kingsley, Russ Little, Amy McQuigge, Norma Scagnoli

Abstract:  The health of a 21st century economy relies fundamentally on post-secondary education, while the economic futures of individual citizens depend upon access to high quality higher education opportunities that will translate into marketable skills desired by employers. Traditional brick-and mortar campuses are typically expensive, with high overhead and little flexibility, putting the cost of a post-secondary education out of reach for many would-be students. Large on-line institutions have lower overhead and can leverage scale to reduce costs, but frequently offer limited degree options and have little ability to respond to the needs of local communities. Local U combines the local touch of a brick-and-mortar institution with the scalability of a large online institution: approximately 80% of the modularized curriculum is offered through a central office that controls production and quality and leverage scale to keep costs low, the other 20% is developed by a local node attuned to the business needs of the local community and the educational needs and aspirations of a local student population. In addition, a strong liberal arts core curriculum builds the soft skills that employers desire, while the modularization of curriculum, mandatory practicum experiences, and the close ties between local nodes and local business allow for the creation of programs specifically designed to move students efficiently from the classroom to the workplace.

Project Plan: Click here




Team 3: Roger Yohe (coach), Christine Pharr, Jean Runyon, James Lipnickey, Scott Hamm

Abstract: SucceedYou is a scalable, adaptable, and cost-effective program designed to address the needs of underprepared high school students in math, reading, writing and college skills. Using Open Educational Resources (OER) delivered via mobile technology, students will remediate using customized programs of study. Support systems will provide feedback on student progress and offer assistance through mobile applications or face-to-face conferences, utilizing volunteer Success Coaches. A reward system will award badges as incentives for demonstrated student learning as well as certification for Success Coaches upon completion of professional development in content and tutoring expertise. SucceedYou will not address other content areas nor are there plans at this time to expand to other audiences such as veterans or nontraditional students who have never attended college.

Project Plan: Click here




Team 4: Roger Yohe (coach), Marwin Britto, Regina Obexer, Julie Johnson

Abstract: WIL Academy is an innovative Work Integrated Learning (WIL)1 model designed to connect educational institutions, industry and learners to develop effective programs aimed to fill local skills gaps in STEM, Health and IT fields. The program is aimed at adult learners who have been out of workforce for some time. Through partnerships with local employers, students receive up to 50% of their educational experience in the workplace. The other 50% will be delivered through a competency-based adaptive learning structure at the host college. Learning technologies such as ePortfolios, adaptive learning systems, and online learning resources are important enabling components. WIL Academy will develop effective models of collaboration to deliver relevant programs that address the growing skills gaps in the economy, and help careerinterrupted learners with valuable pre-existing skills get back into the workforce.

Project Plan:  Click here


WIL Academy by Marwin Britto, Julie Johnson, and Regina Obexer is licensed under WIL Academy by Marwin Britto, Julie Johnson, and Regina Obexer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.



Team 5: Shelli Fowler (coach), Trevor Davis, Danna Gibson, Tacy Holliday, Phillip Neufeld

Abstract: Collectively, institutions of higher education have always had missions that included preparing students for the demands of their lives after graduation. However, the nature of these demands has changed. The economic reality of current graduates is that they must be prepared for multiple jobs and changes in required skills - prepared for work yet imagined. Yet, many jobs are unfilled with employers indicating students are unprepared. Universities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have not been able to fully equip students with 21st century workplace competencies. U.Belong is a student-centered initiative that enables and supports students collaboratively working within peer groups; learning through crowd-sourced competency-based modules; creating culminating portfolios; and, through their co-agency in each others’ success, developing resiliency and efficacy necessary for workplace success. U.Belong connects students with each other, community resources, and educational institutions to improve student’s ability to successfully navigate the transition from college to career.

Project Plan: Click here




Team 6: Tom Cavanagh (coach), Jonathan Huer, Jennifer Strickland, Laura Pedrick, Michael Chen


“MapEd” is a free web/mobile service that provides goal-oriented learners with personalized, yet realistic pathways towards achieving academic goals through a combination of traditional certificate or degree programs and
competency-based and online learning opportunities. What sets “MapEd” apart is its “Whole Person Profile” approach to take into consideration prior academic and work experiences, personality traits and learning preferences,
and information gleaned from their social media presence (such as Facebook and LinkedIn). “MapEd” will apply the same data analytics used by advertisers and politicians to provide learners with the best personalized options rather than generic pipeline choices. A possible pathway will also account for constraints in finance, time, commitments, and obligations (Do you qualify for scholarship and tuition benefits? Do you have kids or family? Are you satisfied with your current job?) MapEd allows students to take control of their educational journey.

Website and Project Plan: Click here




Team 7: Shelli Fowler (coach), Linda Gilbert, Vincent Miller, Lectra Lawhorne, Brad Eden

Abstract: This project involves developing an online resource that defines multiple pathways through educational offerings, both traditional and emergent, to create mass-customized, credentialed learning opportunities.  FutureEDU will serve to aggregate educational opportunities from multiple providers, much as brings together small online vendors while ensuring a level of confidence. In creating learning pathways, multiple stakeholders have been considered to create a system where “everyone wins”: students (and their parents), faculty, colleges and other traditional educational providers, emerging educational innovators, accreditors and others concerned with educational quality.

Project Plan: Click here




Team 8: Tom Cavanagh (coach), Cherry Li-Bugg, Tracy Hurley, Andrew Hamilton, Jennifer Spohrer
Abstract: Higher education instructors, attempting to improve student engagement and learning outcomes by adopting blended or other technology-enhanced pedagogical strategies, are hamstrung by current digital learning object (DLO) options. Most faculty lack the time and skills needed to make their own materials, so they must either force students to purchase expensive commercial textbook supplements or cobble together an assortment of open educational resources, which although free, are often technologically out-of-date or lack data-tracking features that make blended learning effective. dLab is an alternative publishing platform that incentivizes and supports the iterative design of high-quality, low-cost learning objects. The entire dLab catalog is available to students and institutions on a subscription basis and subscription revenues, and in turn, support a data-driven editorial peer review process that ensures effective pedagogy, universal access, subject-matter accuracy, modest royalties for content authors whose materials are accepted for publication, and on-going platform development and technical support. In other words, unlike other digital learning object repositories, dLab has a self-sustaining business model that supports continual improvement and innovation, without passing prohibitively expensive costs to learners. dLab is a meta-institutional model that provides opportunities for collaboration between higher-educational institutions, k-12, and employers to effectively improve student learning at a minimum cost to the institution and the learner.

Project Plan: Click here




Team 9: Tom Cavanagh (coach), Stacy Thompson, Dianna Fisher, T. John McCune, Vlad Wielbut

Abstract: The overarching goal of this project is to provide “rational disruption” of higher education that would seek to realize many of the promises of current wave of innovations: broadening access, supporting student success, lowering costs (for the institutions and for the students), personalization, and improved learning, while taking advantage of considerable expertise of existing institutions and avoiding many painful pitfalls and missteps that a more “revolutionary” approach is likely to bring. In the pursuit of this goal the project will establish the Cloud University a consortium of existing 2 and 4 year institutions of higher learning to introduce a new standard of delivering higher education. If proven successful, this standard will be adopted by other institutions joining the consortium, but eventually even by those choosing not to participate directly.

Project Plan: Click here




Team 10: Shelli Fowler (coach), Kevin de Kock, Andrew Meyer, Susan Opp, Sharon Silverman

Abstract: Remedial coursework has many negative consequences including contributing to high dropout rates, lengthening time to college completion, and costing both colleges and students time and money. We propose to harness the educational benefits that can be gained from students playing alternate reality games and replace both remediation and high-stakes placement tests with these games. The learning environment in games - where failure is common, repeated attempts are encouraged, working in teams is helpful and encouraged, and the successful end result is all that really matters - is significantly different than in typical classrooms. Prospective college students will embark on series of “missions” while playing games in the LifeTracks series. In the pilot year, the game will be SportTracks with a baseball theme. LifeTracks will gather student work in an e-portfolio that will be assessed by educators to demonstrate that students have met the learning outcomes necessary for college-level work.

Project Plan: Click here



Computer Assisted Resource Directory System (CARDS)

Team 11: Roger Yohe (coach), Melinda Thompson, Maurice Morency, Peter Usinger, Holly Willis

Abstract:  A robust tool that aggregates all student services in one place in an engaging, easy-to-use interactive platform designed to make it very easy for students to access information, resources, advisors and peers.  This Breakthrough Model proposes a revision of traditional/auxiliary learning support service approaches by institutions and is the Support Services equivalent of the flipped classroom. It shifts the responsibility for addressing student’s needs from the requestor, who currently needs to locate the appropriate offices/pathways to the service providers of those services. In addition, it comes as close as possible to a one-stop “solution trigger” to imminent student issues or needs for clarification, and provides additional contact/communication options that can turn this approach into a successful virtual hub for any Learning Support Community.

Project Plan: Click here



Class Mob

Team 12: Tom Cavanagh (coach), Jean Derco, Brad Hinson, Brian McNurlen, Amy Collier

Abstract: Not every learner’s needs are met by a degree program. Some learners, such as displaced workers who are trying to enter new career fields, need customizable and flexible education options without the additional requirements of general education courses or pre-requisites. ClassMob is a tool that allows learners and employers to define their learning preferences, needs, and outcomes via crowdsourcing. Learners are empowered to design, request proposals/bids on, and vote on the curriculum and instruction they desire to drive personal career change, skill attainment, or employment. Employers can define skills they most want to see in new hires, but may be missing in college graduates or displaced workers. Education and commercial training providers bid to meet the learning needs of the Mobs.

Project Plan: Click here





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