Credits for competence

More colleges are looking at competency rather than class time in awarding credits, reports the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.

In some cases, colleges add competency measures to traditional courses. For example, Delaware County Community College (DCCC) in Pennsylvania identifies the learning outcomes expected for each course as well as the competencies expected of degree earners. These range from mastering reading, writing, speech, math and technology to developing a “concept of self” and appreciating diversity.

 A few colleges and universities are using a competency model to “disrupt” higher education.

At DePaul University’s School for New Learning (SNL), students can demonstrate they’ve mastered the competencies required for a degree by preparing portfolios showing their prior learning or taking courses.

At Western Governors University (WGU), there are no required courses, just required competencies. Students gain knowledge and skills on their own, with the help of  faculty mentors, but they can demonstrate competencies at their own pace and earn a degree based on what they have learned from a variety of sources, including work and other life experiences.

Arizona’s Rio Salado College, which has a huge online enrollment, incorporates competency assessment into each course.

Assessed learning outcomes are critical thinking, writing, information literacy, reading, and, recently adopted, sustainability.

Both DCCC and Rio Salado offer a quality guarantee: If a graduate’s skills or competencies do not meet the expectations of employers or, for DCCC, transfer baccalaureate institutions, the student may enroll for more coursework at no charge.

Last week, the University of Wisconsin announced a flexible degree program:

The unique self-paced, competency-based model will allow students to start classes anytime and earn credit for what they already know. Students will be able to demonstrate college-level competencies based on material they already learned in school, on the job, or on their own, as soon as they can prove that they know it.

The goal is to make a college degree “significantly more affordable and accessible to substantially more people.”


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