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Competency-Based Learning

Walden Expands Competency-Based Master's Program

A university that already offers one master's degree that uses competency-based learning has just added two more. Walden University, a for-profit online institution, was already offering a master of science in early childhood studies that follows two approaches for its students: either course-based, in which the courses have a preset start and end date and take 24 months to complete; or competency-based, in which the student demonstrates mastery of learning through assessment and moves through the course material at his or her own pace.

Now the university is adding two more competency-based degree programs — a master of business administration with a specialization in project management and a master of healthcare administration. Both of those will also be offered in the two formats.

The competency approach is being delivered under Tempo Learning, a Walden structure that follows an "all-you-can-learn" model. Instead of paying by the course or credit hour, students subscribe to three-month learning periods in which they can complete as many competencies as possible, based on their skills, experiences and available time. Assessments take multiple forms: projects, case studies, presentations, papers and tests.

Traditional cohorts do not exist in the Tempo Learning model. Start dates for new terms begin on the first Monday of every month. Students move through their programs of study at their own pace.

Although the model is self-paced, Walden students also have access to faculty and other support staff, who serve in one of three roles:

  • Academic coaches serve as mentors and monitor student progress;
  • Subject matter experts share their expertise in a given competency; and
  • Assessors evaluate work according to set rubrics.

"We developed our Tempo Learning programs with the help of industry and academic experts in business and healthcare to create a unique learning experience," said Jonathan Kaplan, president of Walden, in a prepared statement. "Now students will spend less time on what they already know and use their professional experience — with support from Walden faculty — to advance more quickly toward completing their degree."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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