Finally, A Competency-Based College Gets Approved

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Days are numbered for colleges that award degrees based on the amount of time students sit in a classroom. The U.S. Department Of Education approved financial aid for a new self-paced, online learning college, where students demonstrate competence, rather than earn credit hours in a semester-long class.

From the Chronicle Of Higher Education Wired Campus Blog:

“Unlike the typical experience in which students advance by completing semester-long, multicredit courses, students in College for America have no courses or traditional professors. These working-adult students make progress toward an associate degree by demonstrating mastery of 120 competencies. Competencies are phrased as “can do” statements, such as “can use logic, reasoning, and analysis to address a business problem” or “can analyze works of art in terms of their historical and cultural contexts.”

For instance, instead of signing up for an arts class, students are directed to online resources and are awarded the equivalent of arts credit by demonstrating mastery of the material through a presentation of a museum exhibit.

Southern New Hampshire college boasts that its Gates Foundation-funded College For America Program is “the first degree program to completely decouple from the credit hour.” Online Education pioneers, such as Sal Khan, have long advocated for a system that rewards students only for what they know, rather than for how long they pretend to learn inside of a classroom.

Humans don’t learn in pre-determined intervals, but as they progress from fact to fact and skill to skill. Khan, for instance, found that so-called “failing” students are often just stuck on a particular concept. Once they got over the hump, they raced to the head of the class, proving that not all students should learn the same material at the exact same time.

At Southern New Hampshire, “coaches” help students along the discovery process. It’s already attracted some big business partnerships, including Anthem Blue Cross and ConAgra Foods.

Keep these innovations coming, Department of Education. We’ll get education right soon enough.