Unbundling: It Worked for the Airlines, Could It Work for Higher Ed?

Published by Joana Jebsen
on Feb 26, 2020

At a time when making education more affordable, increasing speed to degree are key strategies at most higher education institutions, is it also time to finally take a page from the airline industry and unbundle the degree? While most of us don’t want the HE experience to simulate the cramped seating and multiple flight delays we often experience when flying, we do want students to enjoy multiple pathways and price points to a degree.

Paul le Blanc, SNHU president, famously embraced unbundling the degree in 2013, when he introduced SNHU’s College for America Competency Based (CBE) program. At the time it was considered radical, and at many institutions today, this would still be the case. But one look at enrollments at SNHU or WGU, with over 90,000 and 121,000 online students respectively, and we see evidence of unbundling’s merits.

In the years since airlines began this approach, we’ve learned that when their services were unbundled and the base price for tickets was reduced, air travel was opened up to a whole segment of the population previously excluded. Additionally, travelers could also customize their experience to match their needs, both in class of flight (first-class, business, coach and economy) and available perks.

Here at O’Donnell Learn, we believe unbundling the degree helps increase opportunities for students, especially in the areas of affordability, speed to degree and workforce preparedness.

We’re excited to be at the forefront of providing higher education with LXD (alt. pre-packaged, unbundled) solutions that enable them to quickly launch, grow and scale evidenced-based initiatives aimed at soft skills and professional development. While many in higher ed fear unbundling the degree will compete with traditional degree programs, and already declining retention rates, we believe it could prove an effective strategy for attracting new students.

Joana Jebsen is the President of O’Donnell Learn, a leading learning experience (LX) design firm dedicated to helping learners achieve their goals and flourish in life. ODL is passionate about partnering with institutions and their faculty to deliver learner-centered design and innovation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Higher Ed Has the Toolset, But Do They Have the Mindset to Future-fit?

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Aug 12, 2021

Imagine a fresh-faced eighteen year old, naive to the great big world ahead, hoping for an acceptance into an accredited two or four year college. They’re navigating the long hall towards their college counselor’s office, reviewing the list of schools in their mind, while envisioning a future of friends, inspiring courses and eventually a career, a life. College, whether community or four year, will be their first steps towards adulthood, towards maturity, or so they think.  What they don't know, what they aren’t told, is that most higher education is unequipped to prepare them for life. The real responsibilities they’ll meet when they exit campus are not delineated, explored or taught in school.  To make matters more complicated, the notion of the “traditional student” no longer exists. Students are opting out of four year residential colleges for two year schools and online programs. They’re also delaying the start of college in pursuit of a career. Additionally, there’s been an enormous uptick in adult learners, with families, who start school later, or attend school in tandem with a job. It’s clear: there’s a broken talent pipeline. And an enormous question: is higher education fit for the future?

Looking Back/Learning Forward: Lessons For the Now Normal

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Jul 20, 2021

Looking Back, Learning Forward, a motto and mindset to utilize as we envision the future of distance education and fuse historic learning practices with modern lifestyles. I recently co-hosted a webinar with Dr. Jim Julius, Faculty Director of Online Learning at Mira Costa College, where we walked a group of educators through insights gathered over the last fourteen months of online learning. If one thing is clear, it is that it’s been a journey for everyone: faculty, students, education consultants, learning designers, institutional leadership, and families alike. 

Launching Faculty Learning Communities: Participation is All About Perceived Value

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Jul 14, 2021

In an earlier webinar, O’Donnell Learn CEO, Carrie O’Donnell and I shared practical ideas and examples for building learning communities among faculty. These communities provide a rich opportunity for faculty to gather around a common goal, learning together and from each other while accomplishing a desired outcome.   Faculty learning communities can provide the time, space and resources for mission-critical efforts related to teaching and learning. Teaching expertise is most often not part of the faculty background, nor is instructional design a common skill. Plus, faculty often develop courses in isolation. In contrast, gathering faculty around learning design can create vibrant exchanges of what’s working, what’s not, and problem-solving around how to make improvements.