UWF in the Community

Florida educational leaders meet to advance competency-based degree programs, encourage adults to return to college

The University of West Florida Innovation Institute recently hosted educational leaders from across the state for a two-day workshop to advance Florida’s competency-based degree programs. The new approach will make degrees more meaningful to students and more marketable to employers by providing academic credit for work experience. The proposal is part of Complete Florida, a statewide initiative to help adults with some college credit return to college to earn their degree.

“Competency-based education makes sense for students, especially for adults returning to college,” said Dr. Pam Northrup, senior associate provost and chief executive officer of the UWF Innovation Institute. “With competency-based education, students can earn credit for the knowledge and skills they’ve gained on the job. That will save time and money toward a degree.”

Competency-based education requires students to demonstrate specific knowledge and clearly defined skills. Courses are not based on credit hours or the traditional academic calendar. Instead, students learn at their own pace, spending as much time as necessary to master the requirements of the degree program. Self-directed study, practical projects and real-world experience replace classroom lectures. Content can be delivered in a variety of formats, including online. Faculty members serve as coaches, mentors and advisors.

“Adults returning to school don’t need to take courses for skills they’ve already learned in the workforce,” said Northrup. “By recognizing the knowledge they already have, college becomes more relevant because they are filling the gaps in their skill set.”

The workshop addressed opportunities and challenges such as admissions processes, funding and financial aid, which are tailored toward credit-based degree programs offered on the traditional academic calendar year. The team worked on building prototypes for how competency-based education could work in Florida. While the topic warrants further discussion, the workshop provided a valuable launching pad for efforts toward competency-based education.

For more information, visit completeflorida.org.