Problem: People who already work have problems keeping up with traditional higher level courses that involve lectures, which can become tiring and boring. In addition, universities usually have expensive annual fees. College for America offers workers in the USA the chance to do courses online. These courses are inexpensive and do not involve common classes or tests. The University was created in 2013 as a non-profit venture and is associated with the Southern New Hampshire University, where it was created in an innovation laboratory.
Solutions: In College for America, students do not have classes or tests. They can also take as long as they want (or need) to finish the course. In order to pass, they need to carry out projects that prove that they developed a set of skills demanded by the course. They do not receive a grade and can do the activities in their own time, until they prove that they have acquired the expected skills and knowledge.
With an online system, the students have access to instructions, resources and sources. They even have direct contact with a tutor who will help them to define and plan projects, clarify doubts and provide guidance. The quantity can vary from 20 to 55 projects, with different levels of complexity. Essays or expositions, for example, can be considered as projects. A commission of educators assesses the projects to determine if the objectives were satisfied. In total, 120 skills need to be acquired, including communication, critical thought and business awareness.
The course costs US$ 2,500 per year, which is less than half the price of similar courses aimed at low-income students (community colleges). Only people who have been recommended by companies or community associations can participate. Upon graduating, the student receives an “Associate Degree”, which is the equivalent of the first two years of a bachelor's degree in the USA. On average, students take between two and two and a half years to complete the course.
Outcomes: Workers who may have given up on the idea of further study can return to university and get a higher level diploma through the institutions flexible programs. This is also beneficial to employers whose employee’s talents and leadership qualities become more attuned, while they also develop important skills that they can use in their workplace, without affecting their present workload. In addition, the low investment involved is beneficial to students and employers, who often pay for the course. By June 2015, 120 students had graduated from this university.