Major hurdle cleared for on-line education – Dep’t of Education approves financial aid for degree based on demonstrated competencies, not number of semester hours

A huge barrier for on-line education will be getting approval from the education regulators for financial assistance. Next hurdle will be accreditation for a stand-alone institution.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports in Competency-Based Education Advances With U.S. Approval of Program:

The Education Department has approved the eligibility of Southern New Hampshire University to receive federal financial aid for students enrolled in a new, self-paced online program called College for America, the private, nonprofit university has announced.

The college does not rely on credit hours. Instead it is based on students demonstrating 120 specific competencies. Here’s what that looks like:

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.”

The article gives an example of a student preparing a PowerPoint presentation as if it were to be given to a museum director explaining which of several pieces of art should be added to the museum’s collection to illustrate how artists have changed their presentation of human bodies over time.

Complete 120 of those competencies and you will have demonstrated a worthwhile body of knowledge. Then you get your associates degree.

Getting ED approval for a program that relies on demonstrated knowledge instead of time in the chair is a big deal.

Via Meadia whole-heartedly approves – Washington Blesses “Stuff Learned vs. Time Served” Degree Program.

We’re happy to see Washington giving aid to higher ed programs based on a “stuff learned vs. time served” model. There are better measures of competence than the number of hours per week a student spent sitting in lecture halls, a fact that is not lost on employers. 

(Side note – major post to follow on Monday tying this story to big trends in the economy.)

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