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Getting Smart Podcast

Dec 2, 2020

Joining the podcast in this episode is Marni Baker Stein, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at the Western Governors University (WGU).

For over 25 years, Marni has been designing and scaling programs to improve access, affordability, and student success. Prior to joining WGU, she worked for educational institutions in the United States and abroad on the development and administration of pioneering high school, undergraduate, graduate, continuing, and professional programming models delivered through competency-based, online, and hybrid formats. Marni was selected by the Department of Education to serve as a member of the National Technical Working Group, charged with expanding the 2016 National Education Technology Plan and using technology to transform higher education.

Join in on today’s conversation as Tom and Marni talk about the future of higher ed and the role of advisors and skills. Marni shares experiences during her education as well as her career, how the learning model at WGU has changed in the last three years (and what’s next on the roadmap), about WGU’s new “achievement wallet” and how it will help transcript students’ competencies, how the education landscape has been shifting away from degrees to more skill-based progression (and what this means for traditional higher education), and much, much more.


Key Takeaways:

[:10] About today’s episode with Marni Baker Stein.

[1:05] Tom Vander Ark welcomes Marni to the podcast.

[1:14] Why did Marni study French and Economics at Penn State University?

[2:15] When Marni was pursuing her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at Penn State, did she already have her sights set on higher ed?

[2:43] Marni shares how she came to launch the first English language MBA programming in the former Soviet Union after finishing up her Master’s Degree (and later in Japan and Turkey).

[4:01] The big takeaways from Marni’s experiences developing English programs abroad.

[5:07] Marni’s experience as a Curriculum Coordinator at UC Santa Barbara.

[6:28] In 1998, while helping Penn State launch their online learning program, did Marni have any visibility to Western Governors University (WGU) starting out in Salt Lake City?

[8:04] Background on the founding of WGU.

[8:33] Highlights from Marni’s four years as Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Texas System.

[11:14] Three-and-a-half years ago, Marni became the Provost and Chief Academic Officer at the Western Governors University (WGU). She shares about the state of the university at the time; what she saw that they were doing well and areas she saw as an opportunity for improvement.

[14:21] How the learning model at WGU has changed in the last three years and what’s next for the learning model.

[15:54] Marni elaborates on the progress they’ve made at WGU with regards to focusing on what learners need to know, how they know what learners know, and how they can communicate and capture that.

[16:54] About WGU’s “achievement wallet” that they’re rolling out in the spring and how it will help transcript students’ competencies.

[18:42] At WGU, mentors play a really important role. Marni describes this role and how they guide the learning journey for students.

[21:01] How a mentor helps a learner find out if they’re in the right academic program.

[22:22] If a learner is struggling with a concept in a class, do they go to their mentor or their course instructor? How would they connect to academic support?

[23:30] Are they using a Case Management approach? Is software involved in keeping the learner up-to-date?

[24:39] With a set of partners, Marni launched the Open Skills Network. She describes what it is and its overall mission and vision.

[27:42] Lately the education landscape has been shifting away from degrees to more skill-based progression. What does this mean for traditional higher education?

[32:40] Does Marni predict that more learners will be mixing and matching to create unique pathways?

[32:59] Have enrollments increased at WGU since COVID-19? How is WGU participating in the lifelong learning space going forward?

[34:41] Is WGU the largest school of education in the country?

[35:01] Marni gives an update on Mark Milliron, their Senior Vice President and Executive Dean, as well as an exciting initiative that is being worked on right now.

[36:25] Where to learn more about WGU.

[36:46] Tom thanks Marni for her leadership at WGU.

[37:05] How many learners are enrolled right now at WGU?

[37:16] Tom thanks Marni for joining the Getting Smart Podcast.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Marni Baker Steins LinkedIn

Getting Smart Podcast Ep. 228: “Michael Horn on Choosing College

The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State/PSU)

Western Governors University (WGU)

University of Texas System

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV)

Open Skills Network (OSN)

WGU 2019 Annual Report


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