Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University (NAU) is a public university offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees with a main campus in Flagstaff and other regional campuses across Arizona.

In January of 2012 NAU started to build capacity for the Personalized Learning initiative. A full-time, associate vice president for academic affairs was hired, followed by lead faculty and staff. Lead faculty deconstructed existing three credit-hour courses into learning outcomes and competencies and reconstructed them as interdisciplinary courses. The curriculum design and development as well as the assessments are original and took about nine months per degree program to complete. The program was launched in June of 2013 with three programs: Liberal Arts, Computer Information Technology, and Small Business Administration.

Northern Arizona University's Personalized Learning enables motivated students to earn a high quality degree more efficiently and at a lower cost by customizing coursework to fit individual learning styles and previously acquired knowledge. This competency-based approach provides students with a level of personalization that is not possible in the traditional classroom. Students may transfer prior formal learning such as courses from other accredited institutions, CLEP (College-Level Examination Program), Advanced Placement, and ACE. Before a student is admitted, he or she must complete a readiness assessment to determine candidacy. The assessment provides insight on whether the student has the motivation and prerequisite competencies required to succeed. If the student has developmental deficiencies in math and writing skills, for example, those deficiencies are addressed in free developmental modules before the student is admitted. Students might take a couple of weeks or several months to address various deficiencies, working at their own pace and at no cost to them.

While in the Personalized Learning program, coaching faculty members advise students concerning their success in the program, including career options, learning skills, and life-work-study balance. Social spaces at the program, course, and lesson level ensure students interact not just with students in the same course but also with other students who have completed courses. Interim assessments, quizzes, papers, and projects provide feedback to students on their progress. Students decide when they are ready to attempt to complete the post-assessment (final exam). To complete the course they must score a minimum of 86 percent.

NAU’s target goal was to enroll 500 new students during the first year. As new course offerings and degree programs are introduced, enrollment is expected to double every year, reaching 8,000 students by the fifth year of the program. NAU’s Personalized Learning was designed to serve the current population of Extended Campuses students. NAU is highly regarded for the number of degrees conferred to minority students and administrators hope the Personalized Learning model will provide another option for these students.