UW offers flex option for nongrads
By Allyssa Novak
The UW System is premiering a new degree program called the UW Flexible Option that will launch at UW-Fox starting in fall 2013.
The program was designed to create a learning plan that can be fit to any individual, and to provide a more accessible way for non-traditional adult students to graduate college.
"This is a great benefit to adult students primarily because it aids those hoping to get a high quality degree and at the same time becoming more convenient by reducing the cost," campus dean and CEO, Martin Rudd, said.
The UW System revealed they would be offering the learning option on their website Nov. 28 of last year.
According to the announcement, the UW System will be the first public university system to propose a competency-based, self-paced program like the Flexible Option.
"With innovative new approaches to higher education, we can expand college degree opportunities for potentially thousands of residents," UW System president, Kevin P. Reilly, said in the news release.
"This is a new direction in American higher education, and Wisconsin is at the forefront."
Flex Option students will have a selection of free educational resources available to them, but will be held to the same rigorous standards as other UW System schools.
The program’s structure will vary from campus to campus, but all will follow a similar outline. UW faculty members will serve as advisors to aid students in creating a customized learning plan. They will also create assessments for students to test their comprehension.
"There was a video that was created that enables anyone to go out and find the learning resources that match specific needs and unique learning styles," executive director of communications, Dave Giroux, said.
To maintain a high quality education, those faculty members will continually oversee these revisions to ensure student success.
One of the many perks of flexibility is saving time and money. The program makes it possible for students to test out of introductory courses due to gaining credits from on-the-job experiences by using prior knowledge from previous courses, military training and other learning instances.
This helps students determine what they already know and what they need to learn to be able to graduate. Students progress towards completing their degrees by deciding when they are ready and eventually passing mastery assessments.
"We have high hopes this program will offer a more affordable and convenient option for working adults," Giroux said.
Non-traditional students can learn at their own paces and not feel overwhelmed by the outlines of a traditional young adult student.
Traditional students will also be allowed to benefit from the program.
"Although the platform is designed with busy adult students in mind, it will be open to all," Giroux said.
"[The Flexible Option is] entirely possible for traditional students, but they most likely haven’t taken prior work experience," Rudd said.
Finishing college has been a struggle for many adults in the state.
"One in 5 Wisconsin adults have some college credit but no degree. This is a huge underserved market."
This means only about 20 percent of the state’s population has graduated college with a degree. Increasing that number could benefit not only the students themselves, but also other Wisconsin residents as well.
"Increasing the number of college graduates will strengthen our local economy by meeting the needs of employers for qualified employees," Rudd said in the Nov. 28, 2012 news release "UWFox to Participate in UW System ‘Flexible Option’.
Governor Scott Walker, who has expressed his own personal account of struggling to finish school, first sparked the idea. He had a desire to help other struggling adult students and guaranteed enough money in the state budget would be put towards the program.
"I took a job, got married, had a kid. Every time I thought about finishing a degree, something else cam up," Walker said in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel update "UW System unveils first flexible degrees for working adults" Nov. 28, 2012.
The Flexible Option was created to help eliminate obstacles involved with getting an education.
All interested in the degree program should visit http://ecampus.wisconsin.edu/.