Cathy Anderson

How do we harness the energy of information? Through Education!!

#change11 David Wiley, Super Crunchers, and Future Shock

Written By: Cathy - Oct• 23•11

I listened to David Wiley’s Presentation for #change11 and, as always, found him fascinating as he detailed his career in promoting Open Education Resources.  There are a couple of points from his presentation I would like to follow up on:  the model of Western Governor’s University, the book Super Crunchers, and from that Direct Instruction.


Western Governor’s University is based upon competency.  In September 2002 the National Post-
Secondary Educational Cooperative
issued a report on competency based educational models in higher education.   From the National Center for Educational Statistics the NPSEC is:


National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) was established by NCES in 1995 as a voluntary organization that encompasses all sectors of the postsecondary education community including federal agencies, postsecondary institutions, associations and other organizations with a major interest in postsecondary education data collection. NPEC’s mission is to “promote the quality, comparability and utility of postsecondary data and information that support policy development at the federal, state, and institution levels”


They define the following:


Competencies are the result of integrative learning experiences in which skills, abilities, and knowledge interact to form bundles that have currency in relation to the task for which they are assembled.

Competency-based initiatives seek to insure that students attain specific skills, knowledge, and abilities considered important with respect to whatever they are studying or the transitions for which they are preparing. Utilizing competencies requires the development of three distinct, but interactive components:

Demonstrations are the results of applying competencies. It is at this level that performance can be assessed.


They identify the exit point for competency-based instruction as follows:


Defining competencies: usually done by members of the profession with a “public protection” perspective;




Assessing competencies: various methods used including licensing exams, completion of accredited programs, and successful experience in specified levels of practice; and


Standards for judging competence: established in practice, laws, or certifications that have credibility with employers.



Western Governor’s University states the following about competency based learning and their model for education:

Our online degrees are based on real-world competencies as opposed to seat time or credit hours. Our focus is on ensuring you possess the skills and knowledge you need to be successful, not whether you’ve attended class or not. (“Show us what you know, not how long you’ve been there.”)


WGU shows steady growth in enrollment with over 20,000 students enrolled in 2010.  They also graduated over 7000 students in that same year.  My daughter is now enrolled there and is benefitting from this model of education.   WGU demonstrated stringent admissions standards and rigorous review of courses transferred in, she did not get as many credits transferred in as we think she should have but we understand those requirements.


Based upon Wileys review of the book during this discussion I picked up Super Crunchers, by  Ian Ayers.   I recommend this book, not only does it present information on what type of data on “us” is gathered and reviewed but why.  It is very readable even if you do not have a statistics background.    Here is a link to Ian Ayers website.


This book led me to reviewing information on Direct Instruction which Ayers referred to as one of the most effective instructional models, has been proven by super date, and has provided demonstrated results.  Ayers contends that this model is resisted by teachers because it is rote, routine..each bit of information and how it is imparted is scripted.


Direct instruction is a general term for the explicit teaching of a skill set using lecture or demos of the material rather than the exploration models such as inquiry based learning.

I am going to research this instructional method more and post more on this later.


I am also going to mention Future Shock here too.. for some reason this course on change reminds me of Alvin Tofflers 1970’s book.


Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970. In the book, Toffler defines the term “future shock” as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies. His shortest definition for the term is a personal perception of “too much change in too short a period of time”. The book, which became an international bestseller, grew out of an article “The Future as a Way of Life” in Horizon magazine, Summer 1965 issue.[1][2][3][4] The book has sold over 6 million copies and has been widely translated.


What I found interesting was the documentary starring Orson Welles on YouTube:Future Shock Part One


Future Shock Part Two



Future Shock Part three



Future Shock Part four



Future Shock Part Five











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  1. Irene says:

    Hi Cathy, I like the competency based approach of WGU. I think it gives students a feeling that they can succeed, instead of fail.
    I would be interested in the Direct Instruction….it seems weird that it is a superb method when the first thing I read it than it is based on lectures…..I thought we were trying to get away from that. I can see demos being good but skills can best be learned by doing it yourself…..Or do I see this completely wrong?

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