Distance Education Demonstration Program

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Project Descriptions - Western Governors University
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Western Governors University (WGU) is a private non-profit institution of higher education. The principle mission of WGU is to improve quality and expand access to postsecondary educational opportunities by providing a means for individuals to learn, independent of time or place, and to earn competency-based degrees and other credentials that are credible to both academic institutions and employers.

The WGU model is based completely on competencies that are demonstrated via assessments in a distance learning environment. Each student is assigned a mentor who helps the student draft an Academic Action Plan (AAP) and the mentor continues to guide the student through the completion of the program. The AAP provides a standard path through the degree programs and clearly identifies the assessments and learning resources to be taken each term. Since WGU does not deliver its own content, WGU relies on partnerships with its affiliated education providers to provide content to aid students in developing competencies and skills needed to pass the WGU competency-based assessments. Students are required to maintain continuous contact with their mentors.

Initially, WGU's academic model was nonterm. In 2004, WGU made several changes in its program structure that resulted in its model being nonstandard term. WGU 's academic calendar is based upon six-month terms. New students can begin their program on the first day of any month and they remain in that cohort throughout the program. WGU's satisfactory academic progress is based on the students' successful completion of assessments (competency units) each term.

The following academic programs are offered:

AS Information Technology
BS-Computer Information Systems
BS-IT Software Development
BS-IT Security
BS-IT Network Management
BS-IT Project Management

AS Business
BS Business Management
BS Business Professional Studies
BS Business-IT Management
BS Business-HR Management
BS Finance
BS Management Accounting
BS Marketing Management

Associate of Arts
BA Interdisciplinary Studies (preK-8)
MA Teaching (preK-8)
Post-Baccalaureate Teaching Program (preK-8)

BA Mathematics (5-8 or 5-12)
MA Teaching - Mathematics (5-12)
MA Mathematics Education (K-6, 5-8, or 5-12)
Post-Baccalaureate Teaching Program - Mathematics (5 -12)
Teaching Endorsement Program in Mathematics (5-8 or 9-12)
Teaching Endorsement Program in Science (5-8 or 9-12)
Professional Development Program Specializing in Mathematics (K-6)

BA Science (5-8 or 5-12)
MA Teaching - Science (5-12)
MA Science Education (5-8 or 9-12)
Post-Baccalaureate Teaching Program - Sciences (5-12)

Bachelor of Arts, Social Science
MA Teaching - Social Science

MA Learning & Technology
MEd Instructional Design and Technology Integration
MEd Instructional Design and Evaluation
MEd Technology Integration and Evaluation


WGU is the only university to receive regional accreditation from four regional accrediting commissions at the same time. (Regional accreditation is considered the highest type of accreditation.) WGU's accreditation has been approved by the following four commissions:

  • The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (considered WGU's "home" commission);
  • The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools;
  • The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges; and
  • The Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


Western Governors University has been granted the following waivers as part of the Distance Education Demonstration Project:

  1. Requirement that WGU be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency.
  2. Requirement that the institution itself provide an educational program (instruction).
  3. Requirement that an institution offering more than 50 percent of its courses by correspondence is ineligible.
  4. Requirement that an institution becomes ineligible if the institution enrolls 50 percent or more of its students in correspondence course.
  5. Definition of a telecommunications student as a correspondence student if 50 percent or more of the courses are offered by correspondence or telecommunications.
  6. Requirements of minimum semester hour, quarter hour or clock hours for eligible programs and minimum weeks of instruction.
  7. Definition of the academic year requiring at least 30 weeks of instructional time.
  8. Definitions of full-time student, enrollment and enrollment status based on credits or hours.

Financial Aid Issues/Alternatives

Determine regulatory issues with cost of education and disbursement based on direct educational costs only.

Additional Goals for Participation

The primary goal of this project is to develop a framework and processes to support the delivery of Federal financial aid in the context of competency-based programs.

WGU will assess the benefit of the waivers for students and the level of protection accorded for Federal funds.

WGU will review the framework and processes for input into possible future changes in the Federal aid delivery system, which would benefit students and protect Federal funding.

WGU will evaluate the impact on students of Federal aid funding direct costs only to determine if this is a factor in students' ability to be successful and retention.

Partnerships with Education Providers

WGU does not offer instruction itself. Rather, it brokers the instruction provided by its affiliated institutions. WGU-affiliated education providers are institutions of higher education, corporations, nonprofit organizations and other entities that meet the quality screening criteria established by the WGU Board of Trustees. This affiliated status is awarded by the Education Provider Selection Committee, a committee made up of appropriate WGU staff.

Affiliated education providers may offer an unlimited number of courses that meet the criteria for listings through the Catalog. The instruction related to these listings may be delivered by any one or several information technologies of the education provider's choice.

Partnership with the University of New Mexico General Library

WGU students have access to comprehensive library resources, full-text and citation databases, interlibrary loan, e-reserves, document delivery, and other services that are critical elements in supporting distance education programs. The Central Library is an Internet accessible Web site supporting a variety of Web browsers and related applications. The Central Library can also serve WGU students as an Internet Service Provider for students needing an Internet account.

Other Relevant Information

In 2001, WGU was awarded a Department of Education Star Schools grant to help launch its Teachers College. The grant provides $2 million per year over five years to help develop and acquire educational programming for pre-service and in-service teacher education programs and to operate and maintain the existing Internet telecommunications system of WGU.

Demonstration Program Cohort

Western Governors University joined the Distance Education Demonstration Program in July 2001 as part of the initial cohort.

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Last Modified: 04/16/2007