Published Jun. 14, 2014
By Ty Beaver, Tri-City Herald
College students typically complete a specific number of
credits in a certain amount of time to earn a degree -- whether it's an
associate or a doctorate.
But a new pilot program involving about a
dozen of Washington's community colleges, including Columbia Basin
College in Pasco, aims to take the issue of time out of the equation.
colleges are on track to begin offering in January a new online-based
degree in business administration that is competency-based, meaning
students can move as quickly as they can prove they have mastered what
"We're more focused on what's learned, not time spent," CBC President Rich Cummins told the Herald.
are pitfalls, specifically that students and educators will need to
adjust their approach to learning, officials said. But they added that
this is where education needs to go to be accessible and meet the demand
for qualified workers.
"I think we all recognize we have
different kinds of students," said Connie Broughton, project director
for the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges.
The individual colleges and state officials have spent months developing the pilot program.
are expecting as many as 222 students from across the state to enroll
in the first year. It will cost $1.4 million to get it all rolling,
including hiring about a dozen instructors and other staff. Tuition is
estimated to be lower than that for a traditional degree but is still
being determined, college officials said.
will take 18 courses on the same material as any other student pursuing
an associate degree in business administration, which typically takes
two years, Broughton said.
But officials said a competency-based
system could provide students a degree six months faster so long as they
demonstrate knowledge. Students also will be able to transfer to
four-year universities with the degree.
Online programs aren't new
to community colleges and already reach thousands of students, college
officials said. But a competency-based degree would be attractive to
people who perhaps started a degree but weren't able to finish because
of the time required or others with relevant experience in a technical
area, such as veterans.
"Even our younger students are working in
high school and developing good skills," said Janet Gullickson,
president of Spokane Falls Community College in Spokane.
models on which to base the pilot program, including Spokane Falls' new
competency-based certificate in business technology. But there will
have to be an even stronger emphasis on assessment and testing, Cummins
said, to ensure only students who have shown proficiency are moving
Students may struggle, too, officials said. They'll be
expected to earn the equivalent of a B on assessments before progressing
to the next unit. They'll also need a lot of self-motivation if they
want to earn their degree quickly.
"It turns all kinds of things on their heads," Broughton said.
officials said they are confident they'll be able to make sure the
program's graduates are fully trained. They're also taking steps to make
sure students have guidance and encouragement along the way, as part of
the seed money for the pilot would pay for completion coaches who would
help students with questions and concerns.
Members of CBC's board
also indicated at a recent meeting they were pleased with where the
program was headed, with board member Kedrich Jackson specifically
noting how it would rely upon adaptive learning to make sure students
fully understand lessons.
"That's the best way to learn," he said.
Published with permission of the Tri-City Herald. Additional news stories can be accessed online at the Tri-City Herald.
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