Rise Of Customized Learning

The credit hour is still higher education’s gold standard, even after President Obama’s vague endorsement last month of competency-based education and its focus on “performance and results” rather than seat time.

It’s unclear whether Obama’s call could help open the door for competency-based approaches by spurring changes to the current system of accreditation or the rules governing federal financial aid. Even so, colleges aren’t waiting on the feds.

Several institutions have continued to expand competency-based offerings aimed at working adults. And while all but one are still grounded in the credit hour, these online degree programs are typically self-paced and emphasize the testing of competency, sometimes even of learning that occurs outside of the traditional classroom.

A notable example is the continued growth of Western Governors University, which is launching two new state-based versions of its online, low-priced model — in Missouri and Tennessee. Governors of the two states announced the new universities last month, and both said they hope to cover some of the start-up costs with money from state coffers. The two new WGUs will join similar branches in Indiana, Texas and Washington.

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