Where’s the teacher? Online college debuts self-paced courses

Imagine a college program where there’s no required reading or weekly assignments. Where teachers no longer teach class or hand out grades, the Star Tribune reports.

Welcome to FlexPath, a new twist in online education, which is making its debut in October at Capella University in Minneapolis.

The program, one of the first of its kind in the country, is built entirely around the idea that people should be able to earn a degree by proving what they know, not by sitting in class.

It’s part of a trend called “competency-based” education, which is putting a provocative new spin on what it means to go to college.

In the new Capella program, it doesn’t matter how students acquire their knowledge — whether it’s on the job or in textbooks or online, says Deb Bushway, the chief academic officer. All that matters is that they can pass a series of “assessments,” designed by the faculty, to show that they know the material well enough to earn a degree.

“This insists that you’re demonstrating a basic level of competency,” said Bushway. “We are agnostic as to the source of the learning.”

Supporters say it’s the kind of innovation that can save time and money in the pursuit of a college degree.

But skeptics wonder what kind of education it will be, especially if it marginalizes the role of teachers.

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