New online degree program rewards what students already know

June 26, 2012

This past Tuesday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and officials from the University of Wisconsin announced a plan for a new and innovative online degree program.

Keeping adults in mind
Titled the UW Flexible Degree, the program boasts flexibility and aims to help adults begin, continue and complete their degrees after taking time off from school. Walker included himself in this demographic, as he worked for the Red Cross during his senior year and never finished his degree.

"This takes a system that's already very vibrant - that's online learning - and really builds beyond that," he said at a press conference at the University of Washington-Madison. "We're going to do it in a way that's worthy of a University of Wisconsin degree."

Building on past knowledge
What sets this model apart from other online education systems is the fact that it's competency-based, allowing students to earn credit not only for the classes they take, but also what they already know. By demonstrating knowledge and skills previously learned in school, at work or on their own, students don't have to start from scratch.

The proposal not only encourages earning credit for past knowledge, but also makes the acquirement of new knowledge more versatile and affordable for adults with other responsibilities. The source of funding, however, is yet to be decided.

Creating a team
A group led by UW chancellors will develop a solid approach to assessing prior knowledge and learning outcomes. Ray Cross, a UW Colleges and Extension chancellor, said they will make it their goal to address the features and benefits that adults want by utilizing the university's resources.

"This new model for delivering higher education will help us close the skills gap at an affordable price to get Wisconsin working again," said Walker. This is good news for adults with college scholarships who are still struggling to afford the return to school.

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