Could a regulatory overhaul open up the gates for competency-based education?

educationdive | March 14, 2019

Nearly 25 years ago, 18 governors gathered in Park City, Utah, and found common ground in the problems that plagued colleges in their home states. Their complaints are familiar, even today: There was too much regulation, too many hang-ups with accreditation and too much resistance to meaningfully improve higher education.So, they decided, they would build their own university from the bottom-up.Two ideas emerged during that 1995 meeting that formed the backbone of the hypothetical university, according to an account by Kevin Kinser, now head of the education policy studies department at Penn State University.One was using the newfound capabilities of the internet to reach students across state lines. That would be critical to address growing enrollment in the nation's western states. The second was a more radical suggestion: awarding credentials based on whether students could prove they mastered a skill, instead of how much time they spent in the classroom. Colorado's governor, Roy Romer, suggested the governors create a university to pilot the idea.The idea, competency-based education (CBE), traces its origins back hundreds of years with the use of outcomes-based learning in fields requiring technical skills or licenses, such as the military and the law. But it had never before been attempted at scale. That would change when the governors' two ideas came together in 1997 with the opening of Western Governors University.

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