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2 Texas Schools Pursue Competency-Based Liberal Ed Degree

Two Texas institutions are developing a degree program that will use competency-based credits. Texas A&M University-Commerce and South Texas College are creating a bachelor of applied sciences in organizational leadership. While faculty from both schools will be leading the curriculum design, the institutions will be using the services of Pearson Education to develop online courses that go along with the program.

Competency-based education moves away from Carnegie hour "seat time" credit and allows students to prove mastery of topics through assessments, work experience, and other mechanisms.

The project is being overseen by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as part of a "Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Project." The goal is to identify and scale technology-enabled approaches to improve college readiness and completion. Participating organizations hope to draw students with associate degrees or little or no college credit but with work experience into a highly affordable education model.

Tuition will be a flat rate fee, about $7,000 to $14,000 for the entire degree. The expected enrollment for the first year, which starts in 2014, will be 250. By 2019, enrollment is expected to be about 6,000 students.

The organizational leadership curriculum focuses on a 21st century-definition of liberal education, as defined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Topics will include the knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative and applied learning.

The degree will have three parts: 42 semester "credit hours" of core curriculum, 48 hours of lower division electives, and 30 hours of upper division applied coursework. Those first 90 hours will be available through technology-assisted learning; that's what's being developed by Pearson. The upper division hours will be problem-based coursework with a blend of face-to-face and online instruction.

"We are excited about the growing adoption of the innovative competency-based learning model, and its promise to significantly improve learning outcomes, accelerate degree completion and provide more practical skills for the workforce, all while reducing costs to students," said Pearson President David Daniels.

Funding is coming from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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