University of Phoenix Dean of Operations Ward Wesolowski Discusses Competency-Based Education in a New Book


“Career Ready Education Through Experiential Learning” is a new reference book publication from IGI Global Book. The text is designed to guide academic administrators in their review and use of competency-based education (CBE) in program design. Editors incorporated the advice and experience of educators and administrators to provide a multi-faceted view of CBE in higher education.

One of the experts incorporated in the reference book is Ward Wesolowski, dean of operations for the Center of Competency-Based Education (CBE) at a baptist university atlanta ga. Wesolowski detailed his insights in a chapter titled “Experimentation With Competency-Based Education at the University of Phoenix.”

Wesolowski shared what competency-based learning meant to him and his team at the University. After many years of experimentation and observation, he has established several pillars for how to help prepare students for new career paths using this model.

What Is Competency-Based Education?

CBE is meant to introduce a framework to teachers and students to assess both the material and skills gained by students after a course is completed. The goal is to prepare students for employment in real-world roles, regardless of the industry or economic sector they pursue.

With this methodology, credits are awarded based on demonstrated competency. Many non-traditional students enter higher education armed with many of the necessary skills required for the field, either from professional experience or learned on their own time. A CBE structure allows them to demonstrate their understanding in exchange for credit. A byproduct of this is the time it takes to complete a degree program is often reduced.

Empowering students who possess applicable skills on their path toward a career has long been a mission of University of Phoenix. The University is designed to accommodate the demanding schedules of non-traditional students with flexible classes that form a foundation for a brighter career path. Reducing the time (and thus also the cost) it takes to complete a degree program can also contribute to the viability of an education for adult learners. And with access and interaction empowered through improved digital access, the University takes pride in helping students adapt to new horizons while also leveraging these solutions to improve outcomes.

What Did Ward Wesolowski Learn Working at University of Phoenix?

Wesolowski’s chapter and contribution to “Career Ready Education Through Experiential Learning” represents the culmination of his work to analyze and improve the student experience. His insights are featured alongside other well-respected professionals in his field and help to round out a textbook designed to provide guidelines for how CBE can support student success. In his own work, Wesolowski assessed education from a variety of modalities including technology, curriculum and faculty at the University. Wesolowski found that failure was necessary when it comes to education but that it was important to harness the lessons quickly to reframe and adjust curricula to support students.

For Wesolowski, experimentation in education is a matter of timing and building. Improving upon each new iteration and trying again is the crux of CBE, a principle that should not can’t be taken for granted. Working iteratively also allows educators and administrators to determine which tactics are most effective and which require additional consideration.

Wesolowski established that CBE can help students “accelerate necessary competency development and demonstration.” Using the time-constrained model employed at University of Phoenix, students are also able to display competency in less time than traditional formats.

How CBE Programs Are Designed at University of Phoenix

All programs created at University of Phoenix are done so in service to the students. This requires quite a bit of research and analysis to help reach real solutions for a wide variety of student enrollment.

Wesolowski said that research was at the center of every decision made at the University: “I wanted to make sure that the design of our CBE programs, including the technology solutions, policies and faculty roles, are always serving the needs of our students. There was no better way to find that out other than iterative experimentation with our courses and students who attend the University.”

He also took into account feedback from students to help shape the programs. At all times, he kept the two biggest concerns for students — time and money — at the forefront of his mind.

Advantages of CBE Degree Programs at University of Phoenix

At University of Phoenix, students can complete one of several CBE degree programs in under a year’s time for less than $11,000. Wesolowski considers this option to be a great choice for students who:

  • Work in a professional setting related to their preferred degree
  • Would like to learn independently on their own time
  • Would benefit from instructor support while working at their own pace
  • Have excellent time management skills

Students in a CBE program need to be incredibly organized to succeed, but the benefits are well worth their efforts. The system is designed to support students who demonstrate skills while reducing time and money spent. The program is tailor-made to every student and allows students to move quickly through subject material they already know so they can devote their focus fully to new information and skills needed to earn the degree.

CBE programs currently offered with University of Phoenix include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Information Systems
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing

These advantages are invaluable to anyone who does not have a moment (or penny) to waste. Students can take several 16-week courses simultaneously, allowing them the chance to keep up with all of their responsibilities including work, home, and school. By the time they graduate, they can feel better equipped with the knowledge and skills to take on a more challenging career.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix has always pushed back against traditional education models and sought to enable more people from all walks of life to get ahead academically. By offering a variety of certificate and degree programs, the University provides students with options when it comes to how and what they learn. Coursework and curricula are designed to help individuals round out their skills so they can improve their communities and personal situations on a fundamental level.