Online Learning

Peirce College Debuts Competency-Based IT Degree

This fall, Philadelphia's Peirce College will launch its first competency-based degree program: a bachelor's degree in information technology with a concentration in networking, administration and information security. The fully online, self-paced program is aimed at reducing the time to completion and cost for adult learners.

In competency-based education (CBE), students receive college credit based on their mastery of specific competencies — the learning objectives of each course. Typically those competencies are aligned with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Peirce has worked directly with employers to define the competencies for its new program, "ensuring they match those desired by today's hiring managers and [align] with the current demands of the marketplace," according to a press release.

"All of the competencies for which we are testing are directly related to skills that would impress an employer," said Brian Finnegan, assistant dean for information technology and general education. "If it will not help you land a job, it is not a part of our program."

The Peirce CBE IT program allows students to work toward their competencies at their own speed, without the need for in-class attendance. Students receive credit for past college courses and relevant industry certifications, as well as for prior knowledge and experience, allowing them to focus solely on the areas they still need to learn. Tuition is a fixed price per term, with no limit on how many credits a student can earn. A dedicated "CBE Coach" helps each student develop his or her own degree pathway, and graduates receive the same accredited degree as Peirce's other online and on-campus students.

The college plans to expand the CBE model to more program areas over the next few years. It has also rolled out an additional delivery model called Peirce Fit, which "allows students in accelerated courses to choose from week-to-week whether to attend class in-person or online" — helping them to balance the demands of work, school and family.

"We want to ensure that working adults who choose Peirce have the greatest chance for success," said Rita Toliver-Roberts, vice president for academic advancement at the college. "The quicker our students complete their degrees, the quicker they are able to use their newly realized knowledge to meet the demands of the Philadelphia-area workforce."

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at rkelly@1105media.com.

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