Walden's Pioneering Efforts Pave the Way for Competency-Based Education

December 15, 2016

In light of rising college tuitions, Walden steps forward to provide a new solution that can save students time and money.

For those in the market for a graduate degree, the price tag can be more intimidating then the actual coursework that lies ahead. And while virtually all universities—both traditional and online—are more than happy to steer students toward financial aid, few universities are developing new business models designed to combat the expenses of higher education. Walden University is an exception.

The term pioneer is not new to Walden University. Walden was an early leader in the development of online degree programs, and later showed the world a new side of its pioneering spirit by incorporating social change into the higher education experience.

In a recent article published by Inside Higher Education, Walden University was singled out as a pioneer in the development of competency-based education. The article, which focused on this new approach to learning, shared results from a report by the rpk GROUP that examined competency-based education in greater detail. According to the study, competency-based education attempts to use lower price points, efficiencies in content creation and delivery, and economies of scale to reduce the university’s operating costs and improve affordability for students.*

“We view competency-based education as not only a way to reduce the overall cost of earning a degree, but also a way of providing students the freedom and control to earn a degree on their own terms,” said Brendan Farley, Walden University’s executive director of product management. “By doing both, we believe we can make high-quality degree programs more accessible to those who don’t have the time and money to complete traditional course-based programs.”

With competency-based education, students don’t enroll in courses. Instead, they master specific advanced skills, or competencies, at a pace that is within the scope of the program but works well for the student. Faculty members and academic coaches play a large role guiding students through the program. In addition, the online university provides specific learning resources while students apply their own knowledge acquired through work, life experiences, and prior education. As a mastery of each competency is demonstrated through competency-based assessments, credit is earned. Once a mastery of all the competencies in the competency-based program is shown, a degree or certificate is awarded.

When it comes time to compare colleges and universities, it is important to consider the competency-based education programs being offered. Walden University currently offers three competency-based master’s programs and two online graduate certificate programs. They include:

Explore competency-based learning through Tempo Learning™ by Walden University, an accredited university offering online education programs, and earn your degree at your own pace in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

*rpk GROUP, Competency-Based Education: A Study of Four New Models and Their Implications for Bending the Higher Education Cost Curve, October 2016, on the Internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,


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