Despite the promises of universities and the wishes of politicians, competency-based education has remained almost exclusively an online-only affair. A new Department of Labor grant might change that.
Western Governors University and three community colleges—Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Broward College in Ft. Lauderdale, and Austin Community College(where is it)—received a joint $12 million grant to develop a residential model for competency-based IT education. Each of the three community colleges will focus on a different aspect of computer science education and share the new curriculum with the partner institutions.
Overall the project has goals of increasing current completion and employment rates by 20%, and creating a more seamless transition for students wishing to complete a bachelor’s degree. To reach those goals, the brick-and-mortar colleges are expected to roll out their first competency-based classrooms by fall 2013 and, after testing the new curriculum for a year, be operational by 2015.
The new curriculum will use a mixture of digital-only and blended classes to rethink the way degrees are awarded. Austin Community College, who will be redeveloping computer programming courses, has already begun considering “inverted degrees,” which teach critical skills first and only later add general education requirements.
Additionally, Austin Community College has signaled its intention to embrace a competency-based approach to entry-level mathematics courses, like algebra. The Department of Labor grant follows a series of announcements showing that, after years, competency-based education may have finally crossed over into the mainstream.
Among those who believe that competency-based education will soon have a larger footprint in academia is Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes, who recently told the Texas Tribune that he expects competency-based education might spread further throughout the state.
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