Competency-Based Learning At The College Level

Twenty years ago, Western Governors’ University pioneered competency-based learning: the educational model that enables students to demonstrate what they know and get credit for it. It is used at both the secondary and university levels, wrote Sophie Quinton of The Atlantic in a December 2013 article. The potential to graduate early or to take a bit longer if they need to makes competency-based learning an appealing option for many students.

There is a push from the Obama administration, funders, and state governments to get students out of college faster. Students graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Western Governors’ University an average of two years faster than other students in the country. Colleges are listening to the call for faster graduation times. The University of Wisconsin is one college that has established a competency-based learning option for its students.

Competency-based learning can be done online where students work through online training courses as quickly or slowly as they want. Another option is for students to take an exam that allows them to get college credit for training on the job, volunteer and work experience, as well as for their hobbies. If they can show what they know, they may be able to get credit for it. This allows students to focus just on the courses that they really need to graduate. Some workplaces and universities have teamed up to enable their employees to earn college credit for the training they receive on the job. Starbucks and City University of Seattle have such a partnership.

This model could revolutionize how computer science students earn college credit. If software companies, game developers, media companies that build websites, etc, partner with a college to get their employees college credit, the potential for success for both parties would be great. The opportunity for employees to earn college credit for the conferences and trainings they attend can enable the employees to advance their careers by earning a degree, or perhaps a graduate degree. It Companies gain skilled employees who learn even more relevant to their current position. Students gain new ideas and learn about innovations that can give the company a competitive edge.