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Sep 05, 2014 04:28 PM EDT

Purdue University to Launch Competency-Based Bachelor's Degree


Purdue University in Indianapolis plans to create a new cross-disciplinary bachelor's degree, school officials announced.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced Thursday that has awarded a $500,000 prize to the College of Technology, newly redesigned as Purdue Polytechnic Institute, for a proposal to create a transdisciplinary bachelor's degree program based on learned and demonstrated competencies.

"I'm very pleased to announce that Purdue Polytechnic Institute has created a dynamic, integrated degree program proposal that will allow students to move as fast as their ability and diligence will permit, reducing their time to degree and their costs as they do so," Daniels said in a statement.

Competency-based degrees are awarded based on demonstrated mastery of concepts and skills rather than performance measured only at fixed calendar intervals of classroom time.

In traditional grading, letter grades serve as a general indicator of a student's classroom accomplishment, while competencies, such as those that are a part of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute's proposal, effectively let employers know what graduates are able to do, according to school officials.

The degree program will be open to students in any discipline. Learning will be organized around themes and driven by problems rather than "seat time," and students will receive credentials based on demonstrated competencies.

"We hope that this degree program will serve as a model for other Purdue academic programs that lend themselves to competency-based education. 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," Daniels said.

Through the program, students will graduate with the same degree but with one or more concentrations that reflects their interests and passions. Some of these concentrations will correlate to existing Purdue majors; others will emerge from the program's environment.

For example, the degree program can allow agriculture students interested in mobile app design to learn how to create an app that helps farmers identify the best markets for their crops. Similarly, the program can allow an English student interested in writing game scripts to learn how to animate storyboards as he or she scripts them.

Purdue Polytechnic Institute plans to admit about 100 students into this degree program for fall 2015. Students in the fall 2014 cohort will be able to transfer to the degree program once it begins admitting enrollees.

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