A growing number of educational institutions are offering online life degrees, which are degrees based upon an individual’s past work experience and accumulated skills. While some of these institutions are legitimate, many are nothing more than scam operations.
The most legitimate way to get a life degree is though competency-based educational programs. This article explains competency-based education, reviews the best online competency-based program, and offers prospective students warning signs to look for in programs which are illegitimate.
Life Degrees Through Competency-Based Education
Competency-based education is a unique educational model which focues on skills rather than class hours. In competency-based degree programs, students prove mastery over a required set of skills in order to graduate, rather than take a required number of classes. Such programs simply shift the focus from credit hours to mastery of skills.
Competency-based degree programs typically provide students with a list of skills which must be acquired, as well as learning materials (both text and video) meant to teach those skills. In order to graduate, students must pass competency examinations demonstrating that they have mastered all the required skills.
The benefit for professionals with work experience is this: upon enrolling, students can begin taking competency exams immediately for those skills they have already mastered on-the-job. Some students are even able to immediately take all of the examinations and receive a legitimate degree in a matter of weeks or months.
This is no different than public universities which allow adult students to pass out of courses by allowing them to take the final examinations for courses they’ve never attended.
Online Life Experience Degree – Western Governors University (WGU)
Western Governors University, an online, nonprofit university supported by 19 state governors and accredited by four different organizations, including the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, offers the only accredited online competency-based degree programs in the United States.
While some refer to an online skills-based degree as an online life degree, it is more accurate to call them competency-based programs; such programs can reward students with work experience who are able to pass examinations.
WGU, which is well-regarded for its academic seriousness and integrity, offers students the following benefits:
- Accelerated degree schedules for those students with work experience and skills already mastered
- Competency-based learning in which students have the flexibility to review materials and take examinations whenever it is most convenient for them
- A host of generous scholarship opportunities
- Very affordable tuition rates which are among the lowest for any legitimate university
- Strong student support services
Instead of take classes, students are provided with both online and physical learning materials, including online access to group discussions and individual student mentors who help students build learning plans.
However, those students who are masters in their field are able to jump right in and begin taking competency examinations.
Online Life Degree – WGU Options
WGU offers a number of undergraduate and graduate online life experience degree programs (competency degree programs) in the following disciplines:
- Information Technology
- Health Professions
All of these disciplines offer a number of specialized bachelor’s and master’s programs for which professionals with work experience can immediately, upon enrolling, begin taking competency examinations.
Life Degree Schools – Warning Signs
While there are a number of schools, both competency-based and not, which offer legitimate online life experience degree programs, students should watch out for the following signs which indicate a school is working a fraudulent scam:
- The only thing a school wants from students is money. In education, as in life, it is not possible to get something legitimate for nothing. A school which does not demand that students demonstrate mastery of skills is likely selling worthless degrees;
- A school has no accreditation. If a school does not have accreditation from a board recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, stay away.
Students who explore schools offering life degrees are encouraged to ask them about their accreditation, and check to make sure it is legitimate.
Online Life Degree Benefits
For working and professional students who are masters in their fields, but who have yet to earn a degree, online programs offer the ability to maintain active careers while gaining the professional advancement a degree often affords.
Students are encouraged to shop around amongst the many programs offering online life experience degrees and find those which are both legitimate and good educational fits.
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