Marie Cini is widely known for her work, over more than 30 years, with adult learners. She has served as a, career counselor, faculty member and director, and designer of adult-focused programs and currently senior administrator shaping one of the largest adult learning institutions in the world at the University of Maryland University College.
Cini is one of few adult educators have degrees in liberal arts, counselor education, and social psychology. This strong academic background has provided her with unique tools in practice and research in the adult education field and also supports her highly acclaimed leadership and management skills. While at City University of Seattle, she focused on underserved populations both domestically and internationally. She reorganized and led the e-campus initiative, promoting distance education across the schools that resulted in greater efficiencies, enhanced quality, and improved service to students. While at Thomas Edison State College, she developed strategic alliances with partner institutions such as community colleges, proprietary colleges, and specialty institutions including the military.
Her recent eight years of innovation at University of Maryland University College focused on improving strategies and systems for adult students including active military and veterans. When she arrived in 2008 as dean of the undergraduate school, online courses varied in length from 4 weeks to 14. Face-to-face courses had not moved to blended learned. She used adult education principles to re-design using a program-centered and outcomes-based curriculum model. She introduced the idea that design was more important than length and changed all face-to-face courses to hybrid and created consistency among all undergraduate courses at eight weeks in length. Currently, she is involved in developing data-based curriculum improvement and student retention models that eventually will be embedded into the evolving UMUC learning system supported by a technological platform that integrates best-in-class performance. At UMUC these approaches will be focused on serving adult students but the work at this scale will also have broader implications for higher education in general.
Cini’s single greatest accomplishment has been her leadership in transitioning all of UMUC to Open Educational Resources (OERs). Few if any OER efforts internationally have been at the scale of that accomplished in this project. This work assures that adult and nontraditional students, including military students in remote locations, can have the learning resources they need when they need them. This saves UMUC learners approximately $17 million a year compared to purchasing textbooks. Use of OERs ensures that every student has the same access to course materials from the first day of class. In evaluating the effort, they found no significant differences in grades.
Cini is unabashedly an advocate for adult learners and her entire career has been devoted to sound adult learning scholarship resulting in theory, practice, and policies - at institutional, national, and international levels that create access to and assure tangible outcomes for adult learners most in need. This approach has made her a strong voice as president of the Online Learning Consortium, as co-chair of the 100th anniversary conference for the University Professional and Continuing Education Association and in forums such as the Economist Higher Education Forum in New York.
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