The College of Technology at Purdue University introduced a new program last week that allows students to decide the progress of their education outside of the traditional academic calendar.
Students can work on their own timelines to master specific skills at their own pace.
School officials says this approach is better than letter grades at indicating when a student is competent in a subject area.
Haley Dover of the Journal & Courier reports the new program is an initiative to get more people into skilled technology jobs.
College of Technology Dean Gary Bertoline said the move is part of a larger effort to fill the skills gap in business and industry.
“There are plenty of high-skill, high-wage technology jobs available, but students just don’t have the skills necessary to fill them,” he said.
The program offers students a chance to learn those skills and how to work together. For example, in an object-oriented programming course, students would need to successfully complete three competencies: object-oriented foundations, programming control structures and complex data structures. Within each competency, students work at their own pace to master specific concepts, vocabulary, software and uses.
Dover also reports with so many industry specific and technology opportunities at Purdue, this program will prepare students for a technology focused world, no matter what profession they end up in.
Students will graduate with the same degree but with one or more concentrations that reflect their interests and passions. Some concentrations will correlate with existing Purdue majors; others will emerge from the program’s environment.
The program could allow an agriculture student learn how to create an app to help farmers or help an English student interested in writing game scripts learn how to animate storyboards.
Earlier this year, Purdue president Mitch Daniels offered a $500,000 grant to a school at the university that wanted to start a competency-based program, which is how the College of Technology is funding the new venture. Daniel said in a statement he hopes this new program will become the norm at Purdue.
“We hope that this degree program will serve as a model for other Purdue academic programs that lend themselves to competency-based education,” he said. “Many postgraduate jobs in our market are structured around entirely competency-based models, and so by introducing students to such a model early, we can prepare them for a lifetime of professional success.”
This year, 36 students are enrolled in the program and starting next year, Purdue will admit students straight to the program.