WinLoseorDraw remembers when there was only one computer for the faculty only at his school. It was in the back of the library, and teachers could take turns typing in tests and other teaching materials for copying and duplication.

Two years later he was assigned to teach in the first computer lab with thirty TRS-80’s.

At the time, he naively thought computers would revolutionize education in the coming decade. On some level that revolution has begun, but only just begun.

Forty years later, there’s a very real chance the next decade will be the one he envisioned back in the 1980’s.

The future of education:

Education, like shopping, is beginning a transition from brick and mortar to online. The possibilities for choice in education will exponentially expand. The best educational programs will be highly competitive, available to anyone, and geographic location will no longer be a hindrance.

A basic model for this revolution in education by choice is already in existence. Western Governors University (WGU) is a private, online university. The university has no physical campus and does not participate in intercollegiate sports. They are pioneers in the emerging field of Competency Based Education (CBE).

In a competency-based education framework, students demonstrate their learned knowledge and skills in order to achieve mastery. Students are generally assessed in various competencies at various points during a course, and usually have the opportunity to attempt a given competency multiple times and receive continuous feedback. The students chose their programs of instruction instead of being forced to fill a meaningless seat to fill out an instructor’s teaching load. CBE allows different students to move at an individualized pace within a course.

Key concepts that make up the CBE framework include demonstrated mastery of a competency, meaningful types of assessment, individualized support for students, and the creation and application of knowledge. Experiential learning is a key component. Competency-based learning is learner?focused and often learner-directed.

The university’s National Advisory Board consists of leaders from private corporations and foundations which support the university. Current members include Google, Microsoft, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and AT&T, among many others.


WGU online degree offerings as of 2018
Bachelor’s degrees Master’s degrees
College of Business 6 options 6 options
Teachers College 9 options 19 options
College of Information Technology 8 options 3 options
College of Health Professions 4 options 7 options

Students will primarily interact with three types of faculty at WGU, program mentors, course instructors and evaluators.

Program Mentors

After being cleared for enrollment, each student is assigned a Program Mentor. The program mentor is an expert in the field who will create a personalized term plan, provide information on programs, policies, procedures and assess students’ strengths and development needs to help establish a study plan. The assigned program mentor will work with the student each semester until graduation.

Course Instructors

The primary instructors for each course are subject matter experts who have advanced degrees such as a doctorate or other significant post-graduate work in the courses they instruct. Course instructors work with students via one-to-many or one-to-one forums. They provide instruction both proactively and re-actively, with the type and intensity of instruction varying based on a student’s needs in a particular area. Additionally, they provide content expertise for students who are struggling with course material.


Evaluators are subject-matter experts who review assessments to determine if competency has been demonstrated. Evaluators are experts in their areas of evaluation, with doctoral degrees or other significant post-graduate work. They review submissions extensively, providing clear and comprehensive feedback to support student development. Their primary focus is on evaluating student performance, free of bias and other barriers to fair and timely evaluation because they do not personally interact with students or develop the curriculum and assessments.

WGU has been recognized as a military-friendly institution. Not only soldiers, but people working in any field can now balance work and school better than ever before.

CBE is pass/fail. Does it work for everyone? No, not unless the student makes well informed and motivated program choices. Many do fail in this pass/fail environment. It works best for people who want to move ahead in a field in which they are already working.