NEXT: The Future of Higher Education

Competency-Based Education Goes Mainstream in Wisconsin:

(By Scott Carlson)

Twenty years ago, Aaron Apel headed off to the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, where he spent too little time studying and too much time goofing off. He left the university, eventually earning an associate degree in information technology at a community college.

Now, as a longtime staff member in the registrar’s office at Wisconsin’s Madison campus, he has advanced as far as his education will let him. “I have aspirations to climb the ladder in administration, but the opportunity isn’t there without a four-year degree,” he says.

Spending months in a classroom is out of the question: In addition to his full-time job, he helps his wife run an accounting business, shuttles three kids to activities, and oversees an amateur volleyball league. Now he may have another option. Later this year Wisconsin’s extension system will start a competency-based learning program, called the Flexible Option, in which students with professional experience and training in certain skills might be able to test out of whole courses on their way to getting a degree.

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