Competency-based programs: ‘Low cost, high quality’

UW Extension School, Brandman University launching all-you-can-learn

The University of Wisconsin’s all-you-can-learn, competency-based flex program—designed for adult students—started in January. Students can pay $2,250 for a three-month, all-you-can-learn subscription, or just $900 to work on a single set of competencies, says Vice Chancellor Aaron Brower, the interim provost of the UW Extension School.

Tuition covers assessments and faculty mentoring, and students’ get help organizing their studies from an academic coach—a new role that combines duties of an advisor and tutor. All work is graded by University of Wisconsin faculty.

“The pricing, it’s really based on progress by doing the assessment—you can go at whatever pace you want,” Brower says. “We needed a pricing model that allowed students to do as much as they wanted.”

The program benefits the institution because it opens up its program to more students. And Wisconsin’s program is different from other competency-based programs because the degrees and certificates students will earn will come from the University of Wisconsin, Brower says.

“There’s no asterisk after it,” he says. “That’s important because employees and also the students want a real UW degree.”

Brandman University, an online institution in the Southern California-based Chapman University network, will launch it’s all-you-can-learn program this summer. Students will pay about $2,700 for a sixth-month period. Those who finish the program can earn a bachelor’s in business administration programs, says Brandman Chancellor Gary Brahm.

The tuition covers all course materials and content. Students can focus on four areas within business administration: management, marketing, logistics and information technology.

The program runs on a platform that uses adaptive learning software so students will only be taught what they don’t know, Brahm adds, and faculty will use analytics to monitor students and intervene when students get stuck.

Brandman has had to make some administrative changes. For instance, financial aid will be distributed based on student assessments rather than credit hours. But this kind of model can succeed financially, Brahm adds.

“We have done a significant amount of modelling and projections and feel it’s a very sustainable model,” Brahm says. “We think a low-cost, high-quality competency based program is something that is very, very doable.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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