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CAEL Features Dr. Amy Smith’s Insights and Research Analysis into Academic Rigor

Issue Brief_Rigor
Download Issue Brief on Rigor


Higher education is being disrupted more than ever. 

Following the pandemic-driven rush to online learning, six in ten people say they prefer fully online or hybrid education over in-person classes. However, the quality of higher education could be diluted absent standards for delivering these experiences. Academic rigor is widely considered to be a critical component of higher education. But what Dr. Amy Smith, Chief Learning Officer at StraighterLine, discovered when digging into the existing research is that faculty and students define rigor quite differently.

"In the world of learning, rigor is a challenging concept to really define," notes Dr. Smith. "As a faculty member, I felt I knew what rigor was when I saw it. And as a student, I knew what rigor was when I experienced it. So why talk about rigor? Talking about rigor keeps us grounded in qualitythe one thing every provider of education should offer their students."

In her years as an associate provost and dean and now in her role of leading the research arm of StraighterLine, Dr. Smith has spent a lot of time thinking about academic rigor and how it's defined by various stakeholders. To help bridge the gap between the faculty and student perspectives, she reviewed the existing research and formulated a definition of rigor that can serve as a baseline for discussions in higher education.

Learn what she discovered in the issue brief, Rigor and College Credit.

CAEL recently featured on its blog Dr. Smith’s insights into her academic rigor research analysis, detailed in her article, "The Need To Better Understand Academic Rigor".