Published on 2013/03/15

Competency-Based Learning Movement

The struggle continues for many higher education institutions across the United States to remain relevant and to their prove value to prospective students and employers in the workforce.

Some post-secondary leaders are most challenged by the need to offer degrees that are timely, relevant, cost-effective and above all, high quality. To strive towards these important elements, some institutions across the U.S. are experimenting with a new education model that does away with traditional class credits. Competency-based learning — still in its initial testing phase at some institutions — focuses assessments on students’ skill mastery rather than basing credits on time spent in class.

Western Governors University has been successfully offering competency-based degrees online since 1997. A few other institutions offer similar programs, one of which – the University of Wisconsin – recently announced their new flexible degree program to start in the fall of this year.

While many colleges and universities may be reluctant to change the accreditation system, it is expected that the introduction of competency-based learning degrees may mean that institutions can reach a much wider range of students, especially those who are non-traditional. Competency-based degrees may also help encourage lifelong learning among adults.

“We’re trying to address the mastery of learning rather than just seat time.” Mary Hawkins, president of Bellevue University, told Inside Higher Ed.

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