March 25, 2013


Beyond the Credit Hour | By Paul Fain

The U.S. Department of Education has endorsed competency-based education with the release today of a letter that encourages interested colleges to seek federal approval for degree programs that do not rely on the credit hour to measure student learning.

Department officials also said Monday that they will give a green light soon to Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America, which would be the first to attempt the “direct assessment” of learning – meaning no link to the credit hour – and also be eligible for participation in federal financial aid programs.

Southern New Hampshire won’t be the last to give direct assessment a whirl, or at least that’s what the department is hoping. And a wide range of institutions have discussed the approach with department officials. One is Capella University. Others could include Northern Arizona University, Brandman University and Bellevue University, to name a few.

“This is a key step forward in expanding access to affordable higher education,” said Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education, in a written statement. “We know many students and adult learners across the country need the flexibility to fit their education into their lives or work through a class on their own pace, and these competency-based programs offer those features.”

Southern New Hampshire last fall received approval from its regional accreditor for College for America. More colleges will need to take that step for the direct assessment form of competency-based education to spread. But now they know the feds are supportive. Read More...


Image Courtsey of U.S. Department of Education

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