NAU’s Personalized Learning Students Give High Marks to Program

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Independent survey finds high levels of student satisfaction in Northern Arizona University’s groundbreaking competency-based education program

The strength of the Personalized Learning program is in its Mentors, Graduate Assistants, support staff and teachers.

A recent survey by an independent research agency reveals that Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) competency-based education (CBE) model, Personalized Learning, exceeds students’ expectations.

Personalized Learning is an innovative way to earn a college degree online. This competency-based education program reimagines the college experience by focusing on developing key skills and knowledge areas called competencies. The online, self-paced degrees are designed for non-traditional students who have work and life experience and want to earn a bachelor’s degree for career advancement.

In 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded NAU a $1 million grant to establish Personalized Learning. Recently, the Foundation contracted WestEd, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the rpk Group to survey Personalized Learning students to evaluate the success of the initiative.

The Gates survey results reflect high levels of satisfaction across several measures:

  •     96% of students rate their interactions with their faculty mentor positively.
  •     93% agree that the skills learned will help with future employment goals.
  •     89% would recommend the program to friends, family, and/or coworkers.
  •     37% expect $0 debt when they finish their degrees, and more than 50% expect to accumulate less than $5,000 in debt.

Students cite affordability, flexibility and the self-paced, competency-based education model of Personalized Learning as some of the top reasons for enrollment. Eighty percent of the Personalized Learning students surveyed reported that they work full-time while pursuing their degree; the self-paced, online structure best accommodates their professional and family commitments.

Students reflected on their degree programs, saying:

“The business courses are extremely well put together. Easy to follow, easy to read, and full of useful information.”

“The one-on-one interaction with the professor about the assignments provides more individualized instruction than the traditional classroom setting.”

“It is flexible and self-paced, so it is easy for someone with a job and a family to manage.”

“The course work is flexible, and places a lot of focus on analysis and critical thinking as opposed to memorizing facts and dates.”

“The strength of the Personalized Learning program is in its Mentors, GAs (Graduate Assistants), support staff and teachers.”

NAU’s Personalized Learning program offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in:

  •     Computer Information Technology
  •     Small Business Administration
  •     Liberal Arts

More information about Personalized Learning can be found here.

About The Extended Campuses of Northern Arizona University: For more than 30 years, the Extended Campuses of Northern Arizona University has delivered a respected, accredited and affordable university education to students wherever they want to learn. Non-traditional students, including working adults, are empowered to advance personally and professionally through a network of more than 30 satellite campuses throughout Arizona and extensive online options offering over 100 degrees, certificate and endorsement programs across various disciplines. NAU-Extended Campuses continues to introduce innovative educational options to fulfill the growing need for public administrators, health professionals, teachers, business experts and community leaders within the state of Arizona, and beyond. To learn more about The Extended Campuses of Northern Arizona University, go to

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Kaitlyn Wightman
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