U of Wisconsin’s Competency-Based Degrees –

One of the many strengths of online education is its adaptability, and the ability to tailor the learning experience to the student’s individual needs. Still, many online programs continue to follow the same sequence of courses as traditional online programs. While this works for some, that model doesn’t always fit the educational needs of all students.

The University of Wisconsin System, which encompasses 26 campuses, is making online education more customizable for nontraditional students who begin their college careers with knowledge gained from life and work experience.

The new UW Flexible, available in Fall 2013, is a competency-based, self-paced online learning option that allows students to earn credit for previous knowledge by testing out of certain courses. In addition to progressing through required classes through assessment, students will also be able to take self-paced courses at any time, described in a promotional video produced by the University of Wisconsin.

“This Flex Option offers a distinctive value and a unique promise to working adult students. They can start the Flex Option any time, without constraints imposed by the academic calendar. Once under way, students will determine the pace of their learning. Whenever they’re ready to demonstrate mastery of a given subject, they complete the assessment and move on to the next step,” UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross said in a press release.

The Flexible option will apply to degrees in fields such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, business, English, Spanish, and geography. Business-related programs include a Bachelor of Science in Information Science & Technology and a certificate in Professional and Technical Communication.

Before the program launches, UW will conduct a pilot program, offering Flexible Option courses in college algebra, elementary statistics, and a non-credit business mathematics and personal finance certificate.

Curriculum for the new program has been modified by UW faculty from existing college programs, paying close attention to maintain the rigor and academic standards expected in all other UW teaching formats.

“Our faculty comes to this effort with very high standards and a strong commitment to quality. I have every confidence that we can provide a very rewarding, highly personalized learning experience for the students who choose this new pathway. I’m equally confident that the UWM degrees they earn through the new Flex Option platform will carry the same prestige in the workplace,” UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Michael Lovell, said in a press release.

Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion on Twitter @elisermarrion.