Purdue University President Mitch Daniels challenged the Polytechnic Institute to build an innovative program based not on “seat time” in a series of courses but rather on successful student demonstration of specific skills, or competencies. To meet that challenge, the college developed a competency-based degree program that provides opportunities for students to self-regulate the pace of their studies, to become adaptable, lifelong learners, and to demonstrate competencies in a variety of situations. Students create personalized plans of study and build electronic portfolios that reflect their mastery of specific skills.
The new degree program, Transdisciplinary Studies in Technology, creates graduates who have already demonstrated mastery of key competencies. Graduates will possess broad technical competence and the abilities to think critically, to communicate effectively, and to adapt and thrive during constant change.
Technology + business literacy = success
Purdue’s Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, administered by the Office of the Provost, enrolls more than 1,800 students per year. Students from all colleges across the University, including the Polytechnic, select five certificate-related courses to complement their own areas of study. Upon successful completion of each required course, students receive an official certificate, which is also recorded on their academic transcript.
“Many universities have entrepreneurship classes,” said Nathalie Duval-Couetil, professor of technology leadership and innovation. “Our program is unique because it brings together students from all majors and backgrounds and provides them with the business literacy and entrepreneurial mindset they need to thrive in innovative, technology-driven companies.”
Reasons for the program’s success are as varied as the students themselves.
“Some students start business ventures while still in school,” said Duval-Couetil. “Others tell us they get jobs because of these classes. Many students appreciate the networking opportunities. Still others tell us the exposure to the entrepreneurship concepts helped them look at their college education and careers with a different perspective.”
Individualized study for future success
Working to prepare students for jobs that may not exist yet, the Polytechnic recognized the need for majors that integrate knowledge acquisition and skill development with immersion in design thinking, project management, communication and culture in the context of real-world problems. These majors, known as transdisciplinary studies, allow students to leverage their own individual interests to demonstrate the one skill that could be most valued by future employers: the ability to apply what they know in entirely new situations.
My goals are to be happy and to make a difference, and I do not think that my future holds only one career path. Transdisciplinary studies in technology (TST) is preparing me to be an Amazon area manager who ensures employee safety and quick, efficient and sustainable deliveries; a human resources representative focused on ensuring proper hiring procedures and a productive workplace; and a stage manager helping to create art on stage. Through TST, I will be prepared for lifelong learning and to tackle any problem holistically.
- ANNA-NIKOL GEORGIEV
sophomore, transdisciplinary studies in technology and organizational leadership with minors in biotechnology, theatre design and production, and design and innovation
Transdisciplinary studies in technology (TST), one of the first programs of its kind for traditional learners at a public research university, combines individualized learning with close mentoring by faculty experts and a curriculum that clearly specifies the competencies that students must master. The program defines a competency as an individual capability, proficiency, skill, behavior, value and/or body of knowledge. Each primary competency consists of several embedded sub-competencies, and each of those incorporates three progressive comprehension levels: foundational, emerging and proficient. TST now has five families of competencies and approximately 20 sub-competencies; faculty evaluate and revise competencies on an annual basis.
“At the foundational level, we anticipate that students have limited experience,” said Lisa Bosman, assistant professor of technology leadership and innovation, “although they can leverage prior learning to earn credit. As they advance to the emerging and proficient levels, we expect their ‘thinking and doing’ to become more integrated.”
TST graduates successfully demonstrate mastery of a wide variety of competencies and document them in an electronic portfolio that is shareable with potential employers.
All indications point to the successful transformation of the Polytechnic.
With a focus on innovative learning methods, hands-on experiences and industry partnerships, these 10 Elements of Transformation drive the Polytechnic Institute’s dedication to impactful technology education.