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Western Governors University and Competency-Based Education

Western Governors University and Competency-Based Education
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Author(s): Douglas B. Johnstone (Western Governors University, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch346


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Western Governors University (WGU) was formally established in 1996 by the governors of 19 western states. From its inception it was committed to delivering all of its programs through distance technologies and to graduating its students only on the basis of their demonstrated competency. It is today the only regionally accredited university in the United States to award its degrees exclusively on this basis. Developing the university and proving its viability, however, have not been easy. The enthusiasm surrounding its launching in 1996 rapidly gave way to the hard realities of establishing a new educational paradigm. Within five years, after accreditation seemed slow in coming and enrollments in the new university even slower, many in the higher education establishment wrote WGU off as a failed experiment. Some even breathed a sigh of relief that the claims of competencybased education could be written off. But eight years after its formal incorporation, WGU is very much alive. It has received national accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council (2001) and unprecedented regional accreditation by four of the nation’s regional accrediting associations.1 No other institution in the history of American higher education has received multi-regional accreditation, and given the complexities of such reviews, WGU achieved that milestone in a remarkably short time. By January 2005 the university had an enrollment just over 3,200 students and was growing by more than 200 students a month.

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