FAQ 2017-08-15T12:42:40+00:00

Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

Competency-based education refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2016): “Transitioning away from seat time, in favor of a structure that creates flexibility, allows students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning. Competency-based strategies provide flexibility in the way that credit can be earned or awarded, and provide students with personalized learning opportunities.” (U.S. Department of Education, 2016)
The CB program at NSU is a non-credit, self-paced curriculum and is not aligned with traditional semesters. Competency-based education allows students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning.  In the CB program students can pass assessments that allow them to move faster through  a course than traditional class structures have allowed before. If students pass pre-assessments, they can proceed through modules allowing them to advance through the course more quickly, or receive credit for the course in its entirety without having to complete any additional coursework.
Courses are available online through Northwestern State’s learning management system (LMS). The system currently in use at the University is Moodle.
The length of time spent on a single CB course depends on the student’s knowledge and rate of completion. Students may be enrolled in the course for a maximum of 6 months, but ultimately each student will complete the courses at his/her own pace. Should an emergency occur that would keep a student from completing the course in 6 months, there is an extension application for specific extenuating circumstances.
Each CB course begins with a pre-assessment. The pre-assessment determines the level of pre-existing knowledge and how it relates to the course. This pre-assessment could include, but is not limited to a test, assignment, or project specified by the course instructor. The more work/life knowledge in a content area, the faster a student might complete all assessments.


There are two ways to participate in this program. Answers to these questions will be specific to one of the two. Students may take the courses as non-credit, (courses that do not offer college credit but may be taken for personal or professional interest), or students may have the courses converted into an official NSU transcript for credit toward the Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems degree. Within the first year of enrollment in competency-based courses, students who elect to complete the courses for credit towards the degree program must apply for admission to the University. Upon acceptance, the courses will be converted into college credit hours towards the Computer Information Systems bachelor’s degree.

  • If the student is pursuing non-credit, no credit towards degree, the student must be of legal age (18) for the State of Louisiana to apply for the CB program at Northwestern State University. There are no educational prerequisites for the program, but the student must have some level of technological awareness with the ability to access the online course and any technology specified in the courses.
  • If a student is pursing college credit towards the completion of the degree he or she must begin the process for admission to the university.  The student will need to complete the NSU application for enrollment and meet the required university admission requirements. Official transcripts will also be required.
Once a student is registered, classes begin every Monday, with the exception of holidays and university closures. Please note: Students CANNOT register for a CB course and regular semester courses at the same time.
Non-credit courses are valid for 12 months following completion. If the student chooses to stop taking classes for more than 12 months he or she must re-apply for the CB program. Courses which are already converted into credit with the university remain a part of a student’s permanent academic record.

Tuition and Financial Aid

$250 per course.* In addition to tuition cost, students may also be responsible for purchasing textbooks, other computer programs or materials, and fees associated with certification exams (which can include authorized testing facilities) and test proctoring. This will be on a course by course basis.

*Course fees are subject to change without notice.

The CB program at Northwestern State University does not qualify for financial aid (grants, scholarships, loans). The cost per course has been reduced to provide a more affordable, flexible option for students.
The CB program at NSU will accept payment from any source. The student can check with his or her employer to see if they are willing to provide compensation for employees who obtain work related certifications/degrees.
There are no refunds issued after the student has gained access to the course.

Program and Services

If the student chooses to pursue the bachelor’s degree through this CB program, he or she will need 120 hours. This question does not apply to those only pursuing the non-credit course certifications.
A benefit to completing courses through the Competency-Based Program at NSU is that students are not bound to the semester schedule. The length of time will vary for each student based upon the rate at which the student completes the courses.
Student support will be available for all CB students through the Office of Electronic and Continuing Education at Northwestern State University. Support services will include, but are not limited to:  academic advising, computer/technical support, and resource identification. Once a student begins pursuing the bachelor’s degree through Northwestern and is enrolled as a student through the university, all university student support services will be available.  These resources include but are not limited to: academic advising, computer/technical support, resource identification, library/research services, counseling services, financial aid guidance, and future employment guidance.
The courses in the CB program are designed by credentialed faculty that teach in Northwestern State’s traditional and online classroom settings. Northwestern State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the School of Business at Northwestern State University is accredited by AACSB International.
The diploma earned through the CB program is the same diploma earned through the traditional program offered by Northwestern State University.
The transferability of the credits depends on the university or degree to which the student is transferring. Students should contact the transfer university before taking courses through the
CB program.