By Dr. Steven Johnson, WGU Texas Former Chancellor
As our nation grapples with the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, school systems and higher education institutions are quickly adapting to online learning without knowing how long this will continue.
WGU has been a fully online university since our launch in 1997, so while we’ve never offered in-person classes that we’ve had to transition to an online environment, we have created high-quality online learning experiences that meet or exceed in-classroom instruction.
The key to our success as an online learning institution is our student-centered competency-based education model.
WGU pioneered competency-based education (CBE) and remains the only institution offering CBE degrees at scale, creating a model other colleges and universities are increasingly striving to replicate.
WGU defines competency as the ability to perform a job to defined, established standards in the real world. Competent graduates are those who are conversant with the content of the domains of knowledge and skill of their particular degree program and are ready to succeed in the working world.
CBE is ideal for adult learners, who come to college work with different learning styles, backgrounds, time constraints, and a wide array of existing knowledge and skills. It measures skills and learning rather than time in a seat.
Students progress through courses as soon as they can demonstrate they’ve mastered the material, rather than advancing only when the semester or term ends. If a student can learn faster, spend more time on schoolwork, or lean on the knowledge they already have from previous work or school experience, they can accelerate.
They study and learn on a schedule that fits their lives – with personalized, one-on-one learning support by course faculty, ongoing support from a program mentor who stays with them throughout their academic journey, and 24/7 access to online learning resources to engage with on their schedule, offering a learning journey tailored exactly to where their knowledge currently is—and where it needs to be.
Another key factor to our success as an online learning institution is our student-centered focus – ensuring that faculty are prepared to engage with students at every phase and personalize their instruction to individual student’s needs.
Some students like the visual interaction of video chat; others might be fine with just a phone call. Sometimes instructors can create videos to share with a class or cohort, especially for material that needs to be shown, not just explained.
In many ways, the digital realm offers more flexibility and room for personalization than a traditional in-classroom setting.
At WGU Texas, we understand that this sudden shift to online learning is a challenge for many educators and learners under normal circumstances, but especially so during these exceptionally stressful times. If faculty are struggling, ultimately their students suffer, which is why we stand ready to help support the many faculty and students impacted by this sudden disruption in the academic year.
Visit our website for more information on CBE and WGU Texas.