The University of Wisconsin System has its UW Flexible Option degree program. Now, the University of Michigan is following suit, now that its regional accreditor has signed off on a new competency-based degree that does not rely on the credit-hour standard.
“Give competency-based college programs a chance” is the headline over a guest column on the USA Today opinions site this week. The authors are James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley. It’s a typical call-for-reform essay, but might be of special interest here because it mentions Gov. Walker’s Flexible Degree initiative, offers a link to a fall Chronicle of Higher Education article summarizing skepticism by some UW System faculty, and includes a reference to “faculty at the Green Bay campus.”
That’s the headline over a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story. It says working adults who want to finish a college degree through the University of Wisconsin System’s new Flexible Option degree program will likely have two options, starting this fall: the all-you-can-learn in three-months term, or assessment-only to immediately gain credits toward a degree.
Plenty of news coverage – statewide, regionally and beyond – for this week’s announcement concerning the first progress on the UW System’s “flexible degree” initiative. A fairly lengthy Associated Press report is representative, explaining that the target audience is adults — those who want to advance in their current careers and those who are unemployed and need to freshen their skills – and quoting UW System President Kevin Reilly: “This is a new direction in American higher education and Wisconsin is at the forefront.” Read the full story.
The University of Wisconsin System announced Wednesday the first degree programs that will be offered under its innovative UW Flexible Option starting in Fall 2013. The System is expected to be the first public university system in the nation to offer this kind of competency-based, self-paced learning option. The UW Flexible Option is designed for nontraditional adult students who often come to college with substantial learning acquired in a variety of venues. It will allow students to earn college credit by demonstrating knowledge they have acquired through coursework, military training, on-the-job training, and other learning experiences. It was announced Wednesday that UW-Milwaukee will offer four degree programs and one certificate program. UW Colleges will provide an array of general education and liberal arts courses in the new format, in core fields such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, business, English, Spanish, geography, and others. UW Colleges will also work to provide the Associate of Arts and Science degree via the UW Flexible Option, which may also meet the general education requirements of four-year degree programs launched by other institutions. Several other UW System institutions, including UW-Parkside, are working to develop Flexible Options for their degree programs, and additional offerings should be ready by Fall 2014. You can read the full UW System news release.
Media coverage of Wednesday’s UW System announcement
Here’s a link to Wisconsin State Journal coverage of this week’s update from UW System officials on progress involving the new UW Flexible Option initiative: http://host.madison.com/news/state-and-regional/uw-milwaukee-to-offer-flexible-degree-programs/article_1dd7845e-c0af-5548-aa59-6e4601ca20da.html
Wednesday’s announcement by UW System wasn’t news to administrators and faculty at UW-Green Bay who are involved in Systemwide planning and study of the new UW Flexible Option. Both Provost Julia Wallace and faculty representative Brian Sutton are members of work groups evaluating the initiative and implementation. UW-Green Bay officials say it was anticipated that several institutions — in this case, Milwaukee, Parkside and UW Colleges — would be in a position to describe limited program plans for as early as fall 2013, but there was no expectation that Wednesday’s news conference would involve anything resembling a statewide rollout. (Incidentally, officials here have previously noted that UW-Green Bay is relatively well-positioned to address issues of flexibility and serving the needs of nontraditional students, given the University’s success in online learning, Adult Degree programs and use of learning technology.)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who earlier this year with UW System President Kevin P. Reilly and Chancellor Ray Cross of Colleges and Extension announced a “competency-based degree model that will transform higher education in Wisconsin,” released the following statement Wednesday:
Using a competency-based degree model coupled with online testing has the potential to revolutionize higher education. Today’s announcement is the next step in that direction. There is a need for skilled workers in a number of high demand areas such as manufacturing, information technologies, and healthcare. We can help bridge the skills gap by allowing individuals who have learned skills from their employment, from military service, or from other areas to work toward a degree at their own pace. I would like to especially thank President Kevin Reilly and Chancellor Ray Cross for the work they have done, and will continue to do, to support new methods of learning through programs like this. I look forward to the continued development of additional UW Flexible Degree option programs.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was in Green Bay Tuesday, June 19 to announce “Flexible Degree” initiative, an effort designed to open new pathways toward a UW System degree. The new program is designed to offer needed flexibility and cost savings for students while giving them credit for knowledge and experience already obtained. Walker, UW System President Kevin Reilly and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross announced the plan at Bellin Hospital during one of three statewide stops. A selection of media coverage and a link to more details follow:
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Journal Sentinel Online
UW Flexible Degree (PDF)