The Future Lies in Competency-Based Education

Fred Hurst, Sr., Vice President, Extended Campuses, Northern Arizona University


Competency-based education (CBE) is the online higher education trend to watch. CBE awards credit based on what the student knows about the subject matter, rather than how much time they spend in class.

Today’s students are used to having everything at their fingertips in the moment that they need it; from watching television shows to shopping, people want to do things online on their own schedule and at their own pace. Students are demanding the same service from their education provider. Competency-based education offers a much needed solution to the many students who want to achieve their degree at their pace.

Mediaplanet: Why did you go for degrees in fashion and business?

Venus Williams: Every athlete hits a peak in their sport, and I believe that the smart thing for athletes to do is to think of their future, one that doesn’t depend on their athleticism. I’ve always coveted getting a degree as much as I did having my own business. I studied business because it can be applied to many industries and every organization depends on the basic principals of business for success.

Since I’m so hands-on in my businesses, I felt like I needed the tools to be a better leader, planner and ultimately a stronger business professional. I also studied fashion because design and style has always been a passion of mine. I really enjoy creating and being innovative. I also studied fashion and earned an associates degree in fashion design because I wanted to improve on the skills I already had.

MP: What are the benefits learning online?

VW: For me, the greatest benefit of earning a degree online was the flexibility it provided and the variety of courses offered. I travel all around the world most of the year, and studying online is the only way I would have been able to earn my degree while still competing as a professional tennis player. Being able to do school work and study at my own pace took a lot of pressure off of me, allowing me to give my absolute best to both. 

MP: How did you balance that life with school?

VW: Balancing my travel, training and tournament schedule with my school obligations was easy at Indiana University East. Their classes allowed me great flexibility for studying and handing in my assignments and projects. The staff and instructors are very supportive and encouraged all of my dreams. 

MP: Any advice for readers considering online education?

VW: I recommend that they thoroughly research options to find the right program for them. It’s important to look for a school that offers the degree they are interested in earning and can accommodate their personal schedule needs. I also recommend that they be honest with themselves about their ability to work independently, start projects and meet deadlines. Lastly, there are so many fraudulent programs out there. Look for the legitimate schools and academic programs—the best ones are accredited. You can find the accreditation status of any program on their website.

MP: What do you see for the future of online education?

VW: I believe online education will continue to grow and become a popular alternative in pursuing higher education. There are a variety of personal and professional situations that make attending traditional on campus classes challenging or impossible. Online education cuts down costs, travel time and gives flexibility to those who have rigid schedules with family or a career. Online education will open up the opportunity for more people to pursue their degree or simply take classes by accommodating a variety of lifestyle challenges.

MP: What do you think you would be if you weren’t a tennis star?                                     

VW: If I weren't a tennis player I probably would have run track! I ran the 400 and 200 as a child.