Competency catches on

Competency-based certificates and degrees — what counts is mastery, not “seat time” — are expanding. Students work at their own pace.

Rhode Island will go all-blended

Rhode Island will use blended learning — self-paced online learning for part of the day —  in all its schools, says Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist. “We know that students learn at different rates, and we want to make sure they are challenged and that they get support when they need it.”

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.

Beyond blended learning

After trying blended learning for a year, two San Jose charter high schools redesigned the math program, writes Diane Tavenner, CEO of Summit Public Schools, on Getting Smart.

In our pilot this year, we have five math instructors and two learning coaches who work as a team to support 200 students at one time. . . . Our math team serves as coaches and mentors, curriculum curators, developers and intervention specialists.

. . .  students are not in ninth or 10th grade and are not taking a defined math course such as Algebra or Geometry. Instead, they are progressing through a competency-based curriculum dependent on their own path and pace.

Each student has a personalized Math Guide that details what they already know (highlighted in green), what they should be focused on today (highlighted in yellow), and what they are not quite ready yet to tackle (highlighted in red). Students use their guides to set daily and weekly goals.

Our students begin math each day at their individual workstation.  They first log into their email to read a daily message from the math team, including a schedule of learning opportunities offered that day, along with available projects and seminars. Depending on their learning goal, our students can choose whether to remain at their workstation for individual, or with their peers, learning and practice using a host of online resources available to them as ‘Playlists,’ or participate in a seminar and other small-group projects taking place in the four learning spaces off of the main room. For those students who struggle with this autonomy, our math team provides mentorship and coaching to ensure students are on the right path.

Summit is collecting data to see how well the new system works.

Learning ‘on demand,’ in bite-sized pieces

Kentuckians can complete self-paced, online modules in as little as three weeks, earning community college credits that can be “stacked” to earn vocational certificates or associate degrees. Learn on Demand is designed for working adults, but on-campus students are signing up too.

Also on Community College Spotlight: The real trouble with online education is that critics won’t give it a chance.