While many in the higher education community have, over the past two years, argued about the advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs, another “disruption” has quietly been taking place. Competency-based degrees, are awarded based not on time spent in a tradition classroom or online, but rather through a demonstration of skills and knowledge in a required subject area through a series of carefully designed assessments.
Students take tests, write papers, and complete assignments. But the focus is not on seat time or credit hours, but tangible evidence of learning. Outcomes and assessments are the bookends of competency-based learning.
The U.S. Department of Education is interested in supporting competency-based learning because 37 million Americans have some college credits but no degree. To support this initiative, the Department recently invited colleges to submit programs for consideration under Title IV federal financial aid. Colleges and universities in New Hampshire, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin, rushed to meet the deadlines set by the Department.
Competency-based learning can save students both time and money and creates multiple pathways to graduation. It’s not for everyone. As with MOOCs, this is a highly disciplined method of learning. Only individual students can determine if they have the motivation and determination to earn a college degree through assessment and competency.
Students from around the world and from emerging economies, especially African students, are more likely to embrace alternative educational delivery methods.
Competency-based learning has the potential to increase, not shrink, enrollment in the future. For many colleges and universities it may mean financial stability and survival in the future and is a “disruption” worth exploring.
My article on this subject was published by University World News, Issue 00307 February 14,2014.
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