University of Wisconsin-Extension

The University of Wisconsin System (UW System) is one of the largest systems of public higher education, serving more than 181,000 students. The UW System is made up of 11 comprehensive universities; two doctoral institutions, including the flagship Madison Campus; 13 freshman-sophomore UW College campuses; and a statewide UW-Extension service. University of Wisconsin-Extension was established to extend the boundaries of the university to the boundaries of the state and help build new points of higher education for the residents of the state and beyond.

UW-Extension fulfills its mission through its four divisions: Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning; Cooperative Extension; Broadcast and Media Innovations; and Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. In 2012, the Division of Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning (CEOEL) recognized the immense promise of competency-based education. The dean of the division worked closely with the chancellor of UW-Extension and others to build a system-wide competency-based program for the UW System. This program has been named the Flexible Option, and it currently consists of four degree programs and one credit certificate.

Structural development of the UW Flexible Option began with the formation of faculty advisory and administrative oversight committees that included broad representation from the majority of UW System campuses. In winter 2013, an inter-institutional operational advisory committee was formed. The work of the three committees guided the development of the UW Flexible Option throughout 2013. On November 18, 2013, the Flexible Option began accepting applications for admission, and on January 2, 2014, students began their competency-based programs.  Now, the UW Flex Option consists of four degree programs and five certificate programs.

The UW Flexible Option programs are drawn from the existing program array in the University. Programs are self‐paced, competency‐based, and developed with commitment to the same quality, rigor, and student learning that guides program and degree development across the UW System. Students are held to the same standards of review and accountability as all UW degrees and programs. Students participating in the programs are provided with academic support, advising, and mentoring to help them succeed.

At the heart of the UW Flexible Option are clearly articulated competencies -- what students must know and be able to do to earn a degree. UW faculty develop competencies for each degree or certificate program and identify appropriate performance standards and the corresponding assessments to test students’ competency mastery. Competencies are evaluated through rigorous, faculty‐developed assessments used to determine whether a student has mastered a competency. When appropriate, the types of assessments developed reflect activities that students are likely to perform in their chosen professions.

In keeping with University of Wisconsin System tradition, UW Flexible Option is committed to providing greater access to a quality UW education across all race, ethnic, gender, age and income ranges. As the program prepares to scale, the number of student services support staff will be correspondingly scaled to ensure a high touch approach to holistic student support.