"All-online bachelors programs at UofL, WKU help students and businesses by making marketable skills transparent" reports Debra Gibson Isaacs, correspondent for The Lane Report.
Beginning next year, the University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University launch the commonwealth’s first “competency-based,” fully online public postsecondary degree programs. UofL will offer a bachelor of science degree in healthcare management leadership and WKU a bachelor of science in advanced manufacturing.
|Photo: The Lane Report|
The degrees are considered a next step in online learning. Dropping conventional semester or intersession time boundaries, students earn class credit hours when they prove they’ve acquired designated skills rather than passing or failing time-limited instruction sessions.Traditional online courses and programs – those offered online by a professor teaching a group of students simultaneously – have proven successful. Since the first such courses were offered to state students in 1997, the sector has grown 10 percent a year. Sixty-five percent of commonwealth students graduating with four-year degrees in 2010-2011 (the latest figures available) had taken at least one online course, according to Allen Lind, vice president for innovation and eLearning for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
Competency-based programs take the two most popular features of online learning – accessibility and flexibility – and extend them further. The ability to earn an entire degree, not just a few course hours, takes online learning yet another step.
The term competency-based is an important distinction. Under the traditional postsecondary approach, even online classes occur during a fixed time period, and students must learn as much as they can during that interval, typically 16 weeks (a semester). In competency-based programs, time is no longer relevant. There still are certain tasks students must learn, but they can take as long as needed to absorb them.
The new method requires change at every level.
“The U.S. Department of Education is spending a lot of time to adapt its rules and policies to make competency-based learning doable and fundable at the federal level,” Lind says.
Among those sure it is time well spent is Jeffrey Sun, J.D., Ph.D., professor of higher education at UofL.
“I believe this to be the new format of delivering courses in the future,” Sun said. “This is a real movement in higher education. It is not the way we normally deliver education. It is a new access point.”
Source: The Lane Report