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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Competency-Based Education: 4 Considerations for Online Students

Follow on Twitter as @DevonHaynie

Devon Haynie, education reporter at U.S. News reports, "Prospective students should compare program costs and make sure they can get financial aid."

Photo: U.S. News & World Report
Traditional brick-and-mortar education was not a fit for 27-year-old Tyler Harris. He tried attending classes at a few colleges in his native Utah, but didn't find the courses challenging.  

"I would go and get bored," he says. "I felt like I was wasting my time." 

Then ​Harris discovered the competency-based program at Western Governors University, which allowed him to move through online courses at his own pace. He enrolled in July 2014 and aims to earn his bachelor's degree in information technology in only 18 months.

"The goal is maybe a little ambitious," he says. But so far he's actually ahead of schedule, and guesses he will have earned close to 70 Western Governors credits out of the required 120 by the end of his second semester.

Generally speaking, competency-based education, which is gaining steam in the U.S., aims to cut back on the time and money necessary to complete a degree. Under most of the programs, students can zip through courses where they already know the material and spend more time on subjects they find challenging.  

Students are assessed not simply for their knowledge but for how they can use that knowledge to demonstrate their "competencies." To demonstrate those competencies, students often complete a project, such as a balance sheet or a business plan, or take an exam. 

While competency-based education is a great fit for some students, it's not for everyone, experts say. Below are several considerations students should keep in mind before pursuing a competency-based degree.

Source: U.S. News & World Report