We have been singing the praises of competency-based education for years and predicting that it would bring significant change to the higher education world. Well, it is starting to happen. The Wall Street Journal reported on January 24, 2013 that the University of Wisconsin is now offering “a program that promises to award a bachelor’s degree based on knowledge” regardless of the source or method of learning.
There has been a lot of attention given to MOOCs (massive open online courses) that provide instruction to enormous amounts of students at one time. Often MOOCs are taught by the top leaders of a field at little or no cost. However, educational organizations offering MOOCs and academic institutions offering credit and degrees have not been able to sort out the credentialing issue. The University of Wisconsin (and the Antioch School long before it) addresses credentialing through rigorous, multi-faceted, and trustworthy assessment.
Some have responded to the University of Wisconsin news by declaring that “it just won’t be the same” as a traditional campus-based education. Well, how will you know? You have to assess! And if you say that there are things about a traditional campus-based education that you “just can’t measure,” then how can you ever be sure that a graduate has them?
The bottom line is that competency-based education is forcing higher education to rethink its fundamental assumptions. No longer can we just assume that a student on a traditional campus is getting a high quality education, even if that institution has a prestigious reputation. It all comes back to assessment. And that is where the Antioch School thrives with its portfolio transcripts, e-Portfolio, and multi-faced church-based assessment system.