The University of Wisconsin plans to start a “flexible degree” program online focused on allowing undergraduates to test out of material they have mastered. . . .
In the university’s new program, college courses will be broken down into units. For example, a higher-level mathematics class could include units such as linear algebra and trigonometry. Students can then test out of certain units (instead of full courses) and spend time learning only material that is new to them. Eventually, the units will build into courses, and then a degree. The flexible-degree program and traditional-degree program will have identical course requirements, and since each flexible degree will be associated with a specific campus, the student will receive a diploma from the originating campus and not from the system.
“We’re trying to find ways to reduce the cost of education,” Mr. Cross said. “Implicit in the model is the idea that you can take lectures online from free sources—like Khan Academy and MITx—and prepare yourself for the competency test. Then take the remaining courses online at UW.”