Sunday, December 26, 2010

Online Western Governors University Profiled

The LA Times today contains an article about Western Governors University, an entirely online institution said to be founded by 19 western governors. Exactly what role California plays in this institution is not clear although I found some reference on line to Governor Schwarzenegger as one of the governors involved. As readers will know, the report of the University Commission on the Future contained support for expansion of this type of education by UC. Below is an excerpt from the article and below that a related TV video news report.

The full article is at,0,1315053.column

This college lets students earn their degrees online: Western Governors University is a nonprofit focused on keeping education affordable: Students work at their own pace, making WGU popular with those who have jobs and families.

Kathy M. Kristof. Dec. 26, 2010, LA Times

Halfway into her junior year, Orleatha Smith dropped out of college. She had been juggling a full academic course load at Loyola Marymount University, a pricey private college near Los Angeles, and a full-time job.

…But Smith eventually got her degree from the school that Time magazine once called "the best college you've never heard of" — Western Governors University — which takes a different approach to online education.

…WGU President Robert Mendenhall also recently won the McGraw Prize in Education awarded by McGraw-Hill Cos. to innovative educators. Judges cited the university's "flexibility, accessibility and affordability."

…What makes WGU unique? Although the entire school is online, each student has a mentor who works essentially as a college counselor, helping manage the student's course schedule and checking regularly on his or her progress. The course instructors hold webinars and online study sessions, and can be reached to help students having difficulty with their studies…

…WGU instructors don't get tenure that guarantees them a job, nor are they encouraged to publish academic papers. Instructors are evaluated based on how well their students do in class and whether their students are satisfied and progressing well in their programs. Even more unusual is what the school terms its "competency-based model." In a nutshell, that means students study at their own pace. A student can go slowly, of course. But a student who knows the material can get through a class in record time. Whereas a bachelor's degree takes at least four years to get at a traditional university, the average WGU graduate receives a BA in 2 1/2 years…

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