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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Competency-Based Degrees Come to UW

Competency-based degree programs have been the domain of schools such as Western Governors University and for-profit online institutions. Now, the University of Wisconsin has entered the arena, launching the UW Flexible Degree, becoming the first publicly funded college to offer students such a program.

“We know now which features and benefits many adult students want,” UW Chancellor Ray Cross told eCampus News. “Our goal is to address these needs in a new way, but we can only achieve that goal by efficiently leveraging all the UW System’s resources in a truly collaborative fashion.”

The online program will allow students to take classes at their own pace and save money by cutting down on the time it takes to earn a degree. The program will focus on health care, manufacturing and engineering, and information technology and systems and offer associate, bachelor, and master degrees.

Coursework and assessment is supervised by UW faculty and academic staff. Students are able to earn college credit for knowledge already gained through the workplace or life experiences.

“What we are saying is, ‘I don’t care where you learn it. Can you prove it?’” Cross said. The pricing model is still under review and could include a per-course charge or a flat fee for six months that would allow students to complete as many classes as they are able.

The competency-based model should also provide incentive for the nearly 20% of Wisconsin residents who already have some postsecondary course credit to return to school. It is aimed at nontraditional students and individuals who are working while attending classes.

In addition, the office of the governor of Wisconsin has provided an online pamphlet describing the program in more detail.

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