Education is one of the main pillars of economic development. For this reason, and in the face of the challenges of globalization, companies and government need professionals who can find innovative solutions and alternative approaches to resolving today's challenges and problems. Creating these future professionals is a challenge that higher education institutions are confronting through the development of programs and tools that help students learn the vital problem-solving skills they need to be high performers.
Starting in March 2011, nine degree programs from Universidad Privada del Norte (UPN) will follow a new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC ) that will connect programs and enrolled students more directly with labor market requirements. The CBC, which redefines the profile of graduates, curricula and course syllabi in these select programs, was developed more than three years ago using information gathered from a variety of sources, including students, graduates, teachers and employers.
According to Ariadna Hernández de Tejeda, director of educational quality at UPN, "We are aware that we must change as the world around us evolves. Thus, we determined it was time to rethink our curricula to ensure it focuses on the skills our students need to become much more competitive graduates. In the process of designing this new curricula, we had meetings with executives, academics and business advisory councils to confirm the skills our students need to develop. We consulted with our alumni to determine if what they learned in college is serving them in the workplace and external auditors who evaluated UPN's work in program design and delivery. With all this information taken into consideration, we established the CBC."
UPN's skill-based and student-centered educational model highlights seven general competencies—leadership, teamwork, effective communication, critical thinking, problem solving, independent learning and social responsibility. These competencies are the foundation of UPN's educational philosophy and are used to align objectives, goals, plans and methodologies to ensure that faculty members work together so graduating students can be successful.
For the implementation of CBC, Romy Díaz Fernández, director of research and development, noted that teachers have been trained in active methodologies, the use of instructional resources, class design and the use of the Argos virtual classroom, which uses technology to optimize student-to-faculty ratios.
Hernández noted the importance of the Laureate International Universities network in training teachers, as faculty has access to not only UPN resources but also those made available through Laureate Network Products and Services. "A few days ago, in a ceremony chaired by the Vicerrector Guillermo Sánchez Hernández, the work of the UPN academic leaders was recognized for successfully leading the project, which will make UPN one of only a few universities in the country to implement this approach in multiple degree programs," said Hernández.