- Western Governors University, a fully online nonprofit college that uses a competency-based educational (CBE) model for its 100,000-plus students, announced Tuesday that it has added a pathway for prospective students needing remedial classes.
- Starting May 1, WGU Academy will offer college-level developmental CBE courses in subjects such as writing, math and general studies as well as in some degree paths. Western Governors expects students to take roughly three months to complete the Academy program, paying around $500.
- The program initially will be available for prospective students "who are not yet ready for admission" to Western Governors, the university said in a statement, but it hopes to expand to those needing bridge courses for other institutions.
With its announcement, Western Governors is bringing to the table an alternative to traditional developmental courses that have been found to hamper some students entering college, particularly those who are the least likely to graduate.
About one-third of students entering less-selective four-year colleges need to level up their math and language skills before starting college, according to one recent report. A program like the WGU Academy could make the courses designed to do that more accessible.
In another recent study, developmental courses were listed among community college students' top barriers to success, behind making time for work, paying expenses, personal life demands, poorly run online classes and finding parking on campus.
A number of universities are attempting to reform the system, including California State University, which recently eliminated non-credit developmental courses in math and now places participating students in credit-bearing courses and provides them with extra support. The effort has so far had mixed results across the system's campuses, though on the whole the number of students who passed credit-bearing math classes grew to 7,800 this past fall from 950 the year before, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Western Governor's approach bears some similarities to that of the City University of New York, which redesigned its developmental program as an intensive semester for which students pay a $75 fee, helping them reserve their financial aid dollars for credit-bearing programs.
In an interview with Education Dive last month, Western Governors Chief Academic Officer Marni Baker Stein explained the CBE model's philosophy, noting it is based on a personalized learning approach that requires analysis at every level as to whether a student is prepared for the next course.
Western Governors' move into remedial offerings is also in line with efforts by other online-focused educators to expand their reach.
Online program management company 2U on Monday announced it was buying boot camp provider Trilogy, doubling its roster of university partners and positioning it to add technical skills education throughout its offerings. It is another move pushing 2U beyond the graduate-level degree and certificate courses it has traditionally delivered.
On Tuesday, Zovio, formerly Bridgepoint Education, announced it has acquired the online tutoring services company TutorMe, part of a broader rebranding as it shifts from college operator to educational services provider. And Arizona State University recently launched a public benefit corporation to partner with employers on workforce education. Other statewide higher ed systems also are expanding their online platforms to reach working adult learners.