As more people doubt the value of a four-year college education and pass on committing the time and money it takes to earn those degrees, alternatives such as online degrees and MOOCs have flourished. One recent alternative gaining favor is competency-based education, which focuses on what a student knows or has learned rather than how long he or she has studied.
Aside from the time and money concerns that traditional degrees bring forth, there is also a lack of actual learning — or rather a lack of proof of it. Since the 1900s education has been limited to semesters and credit hours, but these measurements do very little in telling employers what their potential job candidates have actually learned. The competency-based model plans to change that, reports WNKU.
Something is clearly wrong when only 11% of business leaders — compared to 96% of chief academic officers — believe that graduates have the requisite skills for the workforce. It's therefore unlikely that business leaders are following closely what's going on in higher education. Even the latest hoopla around massive open online courses (MOOCs) amounts to more of the same: academics designing courses that correspond with their own interests rather than the needs of the workforce, but now doing it online.
These courses measure how well a subject is mastered opposed to the amount of time it should take. This allows greater flexibility for students and more skillful candidates for employers.
This type of education is ideal for adults already in the workforce who realize that they need to bolster their skill set in order to excel in their job or attain their dream job, reports Michelle Weise for Bloomberg Business Week.
According to NPR, this is a common need. The largest pool of current and potential students in the US is no longer 18 to 22 year olds, but people in their twenties to middle age who need to add to their skill set or earn their first degree.
While competency-based learning isn't an entirely new concept it has yet to see its full potential since it has largely been kept offline. However, there are a small number of institutions that are beginning to offer these programs including College for America, Brandman, University of Wisconsin, Northern Arizona and Western Governors, according to Michelle Weise for the Harvard Business Review.
Another bonus to these programs is that tuition costs are comparable or less than community college and most offer a subscription model so students can take as many courses as they like in a set amount of time.
This type of model does make it hard to set a standard of learning, writes Yasmeen Kamel for the Daily Trojan.
Education based on time ensures standardization and structure for all students, and four-year universities should not be discounted. Though competency-based education and online education are great alternatives for those who have a "full-time life," it is also important to consider those who are entering college straight from high school.