Western Governors University, the “Competency” Model, and the Next Wave of Higher-Ed “Innovation”


Between 6:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. this morning, the Discovery Channel aired the following three 30-minute infomercials:Sexy in Three Weeks!; The Graduate: Learn about Innovative Grad and Undergrad Degrees; and No More Wrinkles!

The middle of those three infomercials has been produced by Tribune Media for Western Governors University.

One alternative to conventional, on-site delivery of courses is to combine the “competency” model, the awarding of credit (though not necessarily of credit hours) for demonstrated knowledge, with online education.  This model is most singularly illustrated in Western Governors University (WGU). a non-profit online university co-sponsored and overseen by the governors of 19 states—all of the states of the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Great Basin, Desert Southwest, Pacific Coast, Alaska, Hawaii—and, most recently, Indiana. Since its founding in 1997, the enrollment has grown from 1,000 to about 35,000.

WGU is different from most universities–and from the online for-profits–in…

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