2011 March 27 Sunday
Western Governors University For Online Learning

Washington state legislators want to easy the use of courses earned thru Western Governors University, an online non-profit school founded by 19 governors of the US west. State budget crunches are helping to feed increased interest in lower cost online educational options.

At a time when Washington's higher-education budget is being slashed, some lawmakers believe a partnership with Western Governors University, a private, not-for-profit online school, could provide more access to college programs without costing the state any money. Critics say the legislation raises philosophical questions about just what constitutes a college education.

The lawmakers want to make it easier to transfer WGU course credits to Washington state universities.

Go as fast as you want to go and then demonstrate your competency when you are ready to do so. This is the way education should work in the future.

Western Governors University, a non-profit, online university and an innovator in distance education, was founded by 19 U.S. governors to provide working adults with affordable access to a quality college degree. WGU is not only all online, it uses a unique competency-based learning model. This competency-based approach to learning allows students to advance in their online degree program by demonstrating their knowledge and skill, instead of logging hours in class. Rather than “attending” classes online, students have 24/7 access to a variety of learning resources for each course. They can complete their studies on a schedule that allows them to meet their job and family responsibilities. WGU faculty do not teach—they serve as mentors, working one-on-one with each student to provide coaching, support, and guidance.

Since the WGU “campus” is online, its nearly 24,000 students live and work in all 50 states, and WGU faculty members are also located across the U.S. Unlike universities established using a traditional, brick-and-mortar approach, WGU’s academic model was designed for the online environment.

Have we reached Peak Classrooms yet? Will online now take off so fast that the number of people attending classes in-person will enter a long term decline? With upper end universities charging over $50k per year the bricks-and-mortar model has become far too expensive. People spend years, even decades, trying to pay off the loans they took to attend college. This is a crushing burden with which to start out one's working life. Online education is the best hope for freeing the young from becoming beasts of burden, saddled with debts that can't even be discharged in bankruptcy court.

Michelle Mills, married to a military man, could not complete a degree at a few colleges she attended because they moved too often. But she was able to complete a degree quickly as she continued courses while in different states and countries.

Then she stumbled on a website that led her to Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit online institution. The school's reasonable tuition—just $2,890 for a six-month term—coupled with an academic model that lets students accelerate their completion of the degree based on prior subject knowledge, seemed at first "too good to be true," says Mills, who enrolled in the school's BS program in marketing management in the fall of 2008. WGU's unconventional structure was ideal for Mills, who earned her college degree in one year and, last year, received her MBA from the school.

Conventional colleges not only tie you to a location but also to a schedule. Can't take the time some week to attend classes? Not a problem when the classes are video recorded. Got a block of time where you can study all waking hours? With many online courses you can speed up, watch lectures more rapidly, and choose to take tests as soon as you think you are ready.

Autodidacts should be able to take a test to find out their weak areas, go study on their own with some suggested readings, and then come back and take a test again. Online tests for each subject should have enough versions and variations that someone can try to pass a class several times and gauge their progress each time.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 March 27 01:55 PM  Education Online


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