New Degrees of Opportunity: Overview of the Open College at Kaplan University (OC@KU)

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Open College at Kaplan University (OC@KU) is a division of the university that is organized around helping non-traditional students access the resources they need to enhance their lives and careers through education. The college’s unique approach is straightforward: Learners create their own pathways to reaching their goals, using a variety of educational resources from inside and outside Kaplan University. 

This presentation provides an overview of OC@KU, information on open courses at KU, the Bachelor of Science Degree in Professional Studies, Professional Competency Tutorials, and Documenting Experiences for College Credit.


Carolyn Stevenson, Ed.D Carolyn Stevenson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Master of Arts degree in Communication, and a Doctor of Education degree with an emphasis in Educational Leadership and Organizational Change. She has over 18 years teaching and administrative experience in higher education, including 13 years experience in online education. Prior to pursuing a career in higher education, Carolyn worked in the publishing field and served as a technical writing consultant. She has been working for Kaplan University since 2004 and currently serves as a faculty member for OC@KU (Open College@Kaplan University).
Kerrie Houchens possesses an M.S. in Higher Education with emphases in Assessment and Evaluation, and Administration and Leadership. She serves as Department Chair for OC@KU (Open College @ Kaplan University) and has worked in a range of student support roles including: Academic Advisor, Academic Relations Manager, and as one of the first Assessment Specialists for Kaplan University’s Portfolio Development team - assisting students with experiential learning portfolios, as well as troubleshooting early e-portfolio technology. Her current research interests lie in prior learning assessment, adult and community education, MOOCs and flipped learning.

Extended Abstract


Today’s adult learners need more flexibility option to obtain their educational goals. Many adult learners have a wealth of previous earned transfer credit, military experience, or experiential learning. Traditional degree programs do not offer the flexibility for learners to design their own pathways and often credit is lost along the way. Open College at Kaplan University (OC@KU) is linked to Kaplan University. Open College at Kaplan University offers many opportunities for student learning including offering a fully accredited Bachelor of Science degree in Professional Studies. Open College also offers open courses, course assessments, and connections with partner organizations. 

This presentation provides an overview of OC@KU, information on open courses at KU, the Bachelor of Science Degree in Professional Studies, Portfolio Assessment of New Learning, Professional Competency Tutorials, and Documenting Experiences for College Credit.

Questions posed to the audience include:

What are some of the greatest challenges facing college students today?  

What are some ways your organization delivers content in an open environment?  

What options does your organization offer for earning college credit in an open format?  

How does your organization assess prior learning experiences?  


Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies Degree

Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies (BSPR) degree is a fully accredited degree offered in a flexible, open format. The BSPR degree is an excellent choice for learners with transfer credit, open course credit, or military training, or prior learning credit.  The BSPR degree offers a wide range of practical application and flexibility making it a versatile degree meeting the needs of a broad range of students. The BSPR degree is an excellent choice for those individuals who need a degree to advance in their current position or are seeking for a new career

 Creating an Individualized Learning Plan

At the start of the degree program, learners customize their degree program around their career interests and professional goals through creation of an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP).   The ILP contains a career goal statement and outlines the coursework the student will complete as part of his or her degree plan. All prior credit is reflected in the ILP. This includes transfer credit from an accredited institution, exam by exam, prior learning credit, and military experience. It is a flexible, customized degree plan based on career and professional interest. The open and flexible nature of the Professional Studies degree allows students to finish what they started. The degree program runs on open-ended terms; not bound by traditional start dates. Students have the flexibility to choose when and how they wish to meet learning objectives of courses.




Capstone Course

BSPR Students also take a Capstone course (PR499) in their final term. The Capstone course allows students to showcase their learning through creation of a real-world project centered on professional goals. An instructor works directly with the student providing guidance and support from project start to finish. The Capstone Project can be used to demonstrate knowledge and skills learned throughout the Professional Studies degree program #

The project topic possibilities are endless and connect the classroom experience with the student’s career goals. In PR499 students create a project that will make a real difference in their careers, community, job search, or resume. Students take charge of their own learning process and exhibit confidence and professional expertise in a project addressing real-world problems   


LRC 100 and EL 206

Two portfolio classes are available where students can document experiences for college credit. LRC100 is an open, self-paced course for learners who are interested in earning undergraduate credit for learning acquired outside of the classroom. This comprehensive course guides learners through the process of creating an experiential learning portfolio to showcase the learner’s knowledge. Because this course is offered in an “open” format, there is no cost for the course and no instructor  

EL206 is an instructor-led portfolio development course offered in the 10 week online format   

Faculty members guide students through the process and provide feedback and assistance on each component of the portfolio. Students collect all of their previously credited learning and articulate and organize learning not already credited.

What is a PANeL?

The Portfolio Assessment of New Learning (PANeL) is a single course portfolio containing evidence of college-level learning that will be assessed for undergraduate credit at Kaplan University. The PANeL allows students to document learning acquired from open educational resources, video courses, textbooks, or other sources to demonstrate your mastery of given course outcomes. The contents of the PANeL may include essays, presentations, problem analysis, video/audio submissions, etc. Each of the required activity assignments aligns to the specific outcomes of the course and is evaluated by a subject matter expert.


Professional Competency Tutorials

Professional competencies comprise many of the skills learners need to contribute to a positive, productive, and cohesive work environment. Professional Competency Tutorials (PCTs) are case- and scenario-based learning tools that provide learners with the opportunity to engage in real practice using teamwork, leadership, personal presentation, and multiculturalism and diversity. Each PCT is organized around a single professional competency.  


Professional Competency Tutorial: PC-1 Teamwork is focused on the knowledge, skills, and attributes of effective teamwork in professional contexts. Throughout the tutorial you will learn ways to promote cooperation and commitment within a team to achieve goals, complete tasks, and make group decisions. Topics related to goal setting, collaboration, and conflict management strategies will be covered.


Professional Competency Tutorial: PC-2 Leadership is focused on the knowledge, skills, and attributes of effective teamwork in a given profession. Throughout the tutorial you will learn more about the importance of leadership and ways to strengthen your leadership abilities. Topics such as setting goals, formulating solutions for initiatives, demonstrating integrity, creating mission, and developing trusting professional relationships will be covered. 

Professional Competency Tutorial: PC-3 Personal Presentation is focused on the knowledge, skills, and attributes of projecting a professional image in the workplace. Throughout this tutorial you will learn and share knowledge related to demonstrating professionalism in a variety of situations. Topics such as professional appearance, presentations, and attitude will be covered

Professional Competency Tutorial: PC-4 Multiculturalism and Diversity is focused on leveraging the strengths of multiculturalism and diversity for the benefit of the organization and community. Throughout this tutorial you will learn and share knowledge related to ways multiculturalism and diversity positively impacts organizations. Topics related to assessing the value of multiculturalism and diversity in a global environment; understanding how one’s perspective toward multiculturalism and diversity impacts an organization; and applying concepts of multiculturalism and diversity to become an agent of change will be covered.