MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System announced today the first degree programs that will be offered under its innovative UW Flexible Option starting in Fall 2013. The UW System is expected to be the first public university system in the nation to offer this kind of competency-based, self-paced learning option.

The UW Flexible Option is designed for nontraditional adult students who often come to college with substantial learning acquired in a variety of venues. Built by UW faculty members who oversee traditional degree offerings at the 26 UW campuses, the new UW Flexible Option will allow students to earn college credit by demonstrating knowledge they have acquired through coursework, military training, on-the-job training, and other learning experiences. Students will make progress towards a degree by passing a series of assessments that demonstrate mastery of required knowledge and skills.

UW-Milwaukee will offer four degree programs and one certificate program:

  • Two Nursing degrees (R.N.-to-B.S.N. and R.N.-to-M.N.), for Registered Nurses who need additional college to qualify for higher professional credentials
  • A bachelor’s degree-completion program in Diagnostic Imaging, targeted toward certified diagnostic imaging professionals
  • A B.S. in Information Science & Technology, preparing students for jobs in tomorrow’s digital culture and economy
  • A Certificate in Professional and Technical Communication, providing students with the essential written and oral communication skills needed in today’s workplace

UW Colleges will provide an array of general education and liberal arts courses in the new UW Flexible Option format, in core fields such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, business, English, Spanish, geography, and others. The UW Colleges will work to provide the Associate of Arts and Science degree via the UW Flexible Option, which may also meet the general education requirements of four-year degree programs launched by other institutions.

Several other UW System institutions, including UW-Parkside, are working to develop Flexible Options for their degree programs, and additional offerings should be ready by Fall 2014.

“One of our core goals is to help Wisconsin create a stronger workforce, and I’m proud to say that our first cohort of UW Flex Option programs aligns closely with some of the most pressing workforce needs in Wisconsin. With innovative new approaches to higher education, we can expand college degree opportunities for potentially thousands of Wisconsin residents looking to expand their horizons and advance their careers,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “In June, we announced with Governor Walker our intention to pursue this bold new model. Today, our faculty is stepping forward to embrace that opportunity.”

“This is a new direction in American higher education, and Wisconsin is at the forefront,” said Reilly.

Under the UW Flexible Option, UW faculty members modify existing college programs into self-paced, competency-based formats. To maintain UW System’s rigorous academic standards, UW faculty will continue to oversee the academic quality of these newly reformatted degree programs. The degrees and certificates will continue to be granted by the accredited campuses already offering them via traditional teaching formats.

“This Flex Option offers a distinctive value and a unique promise to working adult students. They can start the Flex Option any time, without constraints imposed by the academic calendar. Once under way, students will determine the pace of their learning. Whenever they’re ready to demonstrate mastery of a given subject, they complete the assessment and move on to the next step,” said UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross.

Students will be able to take full advantage of free educational resources available online and elsewhere, including the growing number of massive open online courses, or “MOOCs.” They will demonstrate their knowledge through robust, reliable assessments designed by UW faculty members, and will be held to the same rigorous standards for all UW degrees.

“Our faculty comes to this effort with very high standards and a strong commitment to quality. I have every confidence that we can provide a very rewarding, highly personalized learning experience for the students who choose this new pathway. I’m equally confident that the UWM degrees they earn through the new Flex Option platform will carry the same prestige in the workplace,” said UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Michael Lovell.

To gain valuable experience with this new learning platform, UW-Extension will offer some individual courses in the Flexible Option through a pilot program developed by UW Independent Learning. The first courses will include College Algebra, Elementary Statistics, and a non-credit Business Mathematics and Personal Finance Certificate.

The UW Flexible Option is one of the featured initiatives in the biennial budget request forwarded to the State by the UW System Board of Regents.

For more information about the UW Flexible Option, visit


To see a video overview of the UW Flexible Option, visit:

UW Flexible Option FAQs pdf
Media contacts:
David Giroux
UW System
Tom Luljak
Teri Venker
UW Colleges and UW-Extension