Online, competency degree is aimed at adults

Washington state community colleges plan to offer an online, competency-based associate degree in business designed for working adults. Students should be able to complete a degree in 18 months or less for $2,666 per six-month semester.

With college costs rising, competency-based degree programs are expanding.

Colleges try competency ed

Competency-based programs in information technology are in the works at 11 community colleges. In competency programs, students progress at their own pace as they demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills. Learning– not time — is they key variable.

Rubio: American Dream must be affordable

Education and the American Dream was the theme of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s keynote speech at Making Community Colleges Work, a National Journal event at Miami Dade College. The son of immigrants, Rubio started his career as an attorney with $100,000 in student loans. He proposed income-based repayment of student loans and Income Sharing Agreements, expanding vocational education, easing accreditation for online educators and testing to prove competency.

Pay It Forward repayment schemes for student borrowers are flawed but fixable.

Top higher ed stories of 2013

The rise of MOOCS lead Ed Central’s Top Ten Higher Ed Stories of 2013. Also on the list: Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America, “the first school to award federal aid based on direct assessment of students’ learning,” instead of credit hours; President Obama’s plan to rank colleges by “value” and “merit aid madness.”

Core enforces college prep for all

Career tech could be sidelined by Common Core standards and tests, worries  Anthony Carnevale, who runs Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “In theory, the Common Core says, we just want you to be able to do a certain set of things, we don’t care how you learn it. But when I look at the assessments, basically it looks like very academic kinds of learning goals to me.”

Competency-based education is super-hot — but what is it?

From competency to credentials

Awarding credentials for competency — not just seat time — is helping workers move up career ladders. But there are concerns about the quality of competency-based programs and whether students should qualify for financial aid.

Also see: After college, what?

Let adolescents grow up

Let’s give adolescents a chance to grow up, writes Ted Kolderie of the Center for Policy Studies in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Adolescence “infantilizes” young people, he writes, citing psychologist Robert Epstein, author of Teen 2.0, on adolescent stupidity.

Deny them serious responsibilities, keep them out of real work, give them virtually no contact with adults, tell them they have no function except to be schooled (and marketed to): Why wouldn’t they behave as they do?

(Check out School punishes sober driver.)

High schools are filled with disengaged students, writes Kolderie. “Though not everyone’s aptitudes are verbal/conceptual/abstract, today only academic success is rewarded.” There are few vocational schools or opportunities to learn from experience.

Young people can do amazing things when they’re challenged, he writes. “In his history of the Battle of Britain, Michael Korda writes that by late summer 1940, more and more of those flying the British Spitfires and Hurricanes were, in our terms, high school seniors.”

How could we tap the talents of the young?

We’d begin by changing school to let young people advance as fast and as far as their efforts and abilities will take them, in every field.

In traditional school, students are sorted by age and “instructed” as a group. Most students move a grade a year, however much (or little) they’ve learned.

If learning were personalized, those who needed more time would get more time and would learn more. Those who could go faster would go faster and would learn more.

. . . Finland, much praised for its students’ success, ends compulsory education at 16. Students move to “upper secondary,” almost half of these into vocational school that leads on to postsecondary “polytechnics.”

A competency-based system would let young people “test out” of conventional schooling, Kolderie suggests. Some might start college early. (“Dual enrollment” in college classes is a growing trend for high school students.) Others might start learning a job, like young Finns.

Performance funding doesn’t boost success

President Obama’s higher education plan lauds states that link college funding to student success measures, but there’s “little evidence that performance funding improves student success,” new studies find.

Obama also praised competency-based education, but federal financial aid is based on “seat time” rather than learning.

Competency pilot produces first graduates

An experiment in online competency-based education has its first graduate:  Zach Sherman, 21, earned a self-paced associate degree from College for America in three months while working 56 hours a week at a Slim Jim plant in Ohio. The night sanitation worker has applied for a promotion to supervisor.

Educating for ‘competence’

“Competency-based” education is hot, but what does it really mean? The Christian Science Monitor looks at New Hampshire, a leader in the competency movement.

At Sanborn Regional High in Kingston, N.H, students must be proficient in four “competencies” — concepts and skills — to pass each class. They show their competence through quizzes and tests, projects, portfolios of their work and class performances.

If they fall behind, they’re expected to keep working during flex-periods, where teachers reteach key concepts. Students reflect on and revise their work until they meet expectations. “They take ownership of it,” says Aaron Wiles, an English teacher.

In a freshman Global Studies classes, competencies include understanding the role of conflict and cooperation among individuals and governments and applying knowledge of geography.

For the unit on World War I, teachers divide students into teams representing six fictional Balkan countries. Students create flags and anthems for their countries — and seek alliances covering nonaggression, right of passage, mutual defense, or mutual support.

. . . “I didn’t really know what caused wars,” Brianna (DeRosier) says. “I knew it was conflict, but I didn’t really understand why – I was like, why can’t everybody just get along? But now I understand that there are other parts to it, with the allies, and sneaking around each other’s back.”

The simulation takes several class periods and drives home lessons on nationalism, geography, economics, military strategy, and culture, so when the teachers incorporate the facts of World War I, students can take away more than just a string of events.

Playing Risk in school sounds like fun. Is it worth the time? And how does the teacher judge whether Brianna has achieved competency in understanding conflict and cooperation?