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Why Fast Company Says WGU is One of the World’s 50 Top Innovators

Feb 11, 2013

When the cutting-edge business and media publication Fast Company released its list of the world's 50 most-innovative companies this morning, students and alumni were proud—but not surprised—to find WGU among the ranks.

According to the Fast Company article about WGU, the online university was chosen "for showing public schools another way to do business."

Most of the innovators on the list included a paragraph or two about what makes them so innovative. But in that single paragraph, the reasons that WGU is an innovator in education were many. Here are some of those reasons that we pulled out of Fast Company's description of us:

  • Competency-based education. This is the core of WGU's approach to education and one of the innovations that gains us the most attention (and that is changing the way many other educational institutions are approaching their own programs). Competency-based education is simple: We measure what you know and your ability to prove you know it; we don't measure seat time in the classroom or your ability to trudge through semester-length courses. At any university, no two courses are alike in difficulty of subject matter, and no two students are alike in what they already know or how long it takes them to learn what they don't know. So why would all courses be made to fit into the same predetermined term or semester? At WGU, learn what you need to learn, demonstrate your competency by test or assessment, and move on to the next course.
  • Technology. Too many online universities simply offer traditional lecture- or classroom-style education delivered over the Internet. Fast Company notes that WGU isn't just another online university—we focus on "technological efficiencies, such as replacing in-person test centers with virtual ones."
  • Affordability. Fast Company notes that those "technological efficiencies" result in a low, flat-rate tuition. "And while public university tuition was rising by about 5% a year, WGU's has held steady at $6,000 since 2008," Fast Company writes. The competency-based format's knack for letting students accelerate as they master course material means a flat-rate tuition—one where you pay the same amount per semester no matter how many courses you complete—contributes to our affordability.
  • A focus on employability. WGU's students are very often busy, working adults going back to college because a bachelor's or master's degree will help them further their careers. So it's important that what our students learn translates directly into on-the-job success. Fast Company points out that our programs and curriculum are developed with input from corporate board members and third-party councils made up of companies throughout the industry. "And [WGU] obsessively tracks metrics like this one: 95% of employers say WGU grads are as good as or better than those from anywhere else," Fast Company writes.
  • Where we come from. Fast Company points out that WGU has a unique history—we're a nonprofit, private institution that was founded by 19 U.S. governors looking to expand access to higher education for the residents of their states. It's a pedigree we're proud of, and one that makes WGU uniquely equipped to provide the education employees need and the smart, highly skilled workers employers are looking for.

So what do you think? What makes WGU one of the world's 50 most-innovative organizations? Are there any innovations that the Fast Company article missed? 

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