Is the University of Wisconsin going to do away with the credit-hour model? Perhaps not, but it’s taking a big step in that direction. This fall, the university system is beginning to accept applications for a new program called the “Flex Option,” which dispenses with credit-hours entirely. Essentially, rather than paying to take individual courses, students pay a flat fee to receive unlimited access to the full range of course materials and advisors for a fixed period of time. During that time they can take “competency tests” for credit.If the program works, it could allow motivated students to learn more and rack up credentials in a much shorter period of time. Fast Company reports:
In theory, students could wrap up an entire degree in three months without touching any official course material—perhaps because they chose to get their learning elsewhere or already know most of the required information through their professional careers. There will also be a cheaper $900 option for students who want to focus on one skill for each three-month period while balancing other life demands.
Initially, each degree program will only be open to ten students. The program is also aimed primarily at older people who didn’t complete their degrees or skipped college entirely.Clearly, this program is still in the testing phase. It’s still a wide open question, obviously, whether this model could be scaled up from a niche program into something suitable for mass consumption.But we like where this idea is headed and hope this program and others like will pass all the early tests. Higher education should reward students for what they learn, not how long they’ve spent sitting in classrooms. This program is a promising first step.[Mortar boards image courtesy of Shutterstock]