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Northern Arizona U Launches Online Competency Based Degree Programs

Northern Arizona University (NAU) has launched a competency-based online degree program using a subscription model for tuition.

Dubbed "Personalized Learning," the program's first degrees include Computer Information Technology, Liberal Arts, and Small Business Administration, offered for $2,500 per six-month term, with costs such as books and lab fees included.

The new program will also allow students to skip some classes by demonstrating mastery of the material. "It's simple," said Alison Brown, associate vice president, NAU-Extended Campuses, in a prepared statement. "Say you've been handling the accounts for a small business for years. You know business accounting backward and forward. With Personalized Learning, you can test out of the parts of accounting where you are already competent. Before, you would have had to sit through, and pay for, unnecessary classes."

Developed in part with a $1 million grant from Educause and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the program is the first of its kind to be developed by a public university, according to NAU President John Haeger.

"Personalized Learning takes the learning objectives of traditional college coursework and reorganizes them to be more engaging and applicable to today's workplace," said Fred Hurst, senior vice president, NAU-Extended Campuses and creator of Personalized Learning. "This program is about creating a skilled and inspired adult workforce with the necessary critical thinking skills that meet the demands of employers."

More information is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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