Colleges will design competency-based, self-paced courses

Community college students will be able to demonstrate competency to earn credits in self-paced classes, reports the Texas Tribune. It’s the Western Governors University model — but classes will include classroom instruction as well as online learning.

WGU Texas and three community colleges — Sinclair Community College in Ohio, Broward College in Florida and Texas’ own Austin Community College — have received a shared $12 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to develop curricula for key technology fields that allow students to move at their own pace in courses that aren’t purely internet based.

ACC hopes to offer self-paced computer programming courses as early as the fall of 2013. Students who earn an associate’s degree will be able to go on to WGU Texas for a bachelor’s degree.

(ACC President Richard Rhodes) said using “competency units” rather than credit hours would allow the school to be more responsive to the region’s workforce needs. If, for example, a company wanted employees to acquire certain skills quickly, they might be able to “invert the degree” by teaching the requested skills first and then later adding general education requirements necessary for an associate’s degree.

Computer science students could earn 11 industry certifications, an associate degree and a bachelor’s, says Mark David Milliron, chancellor of WGU Texas, a former Gates Foundation official.

The competency model could expand to other majors, Rhodes says.

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