Imagine earning college credit not for hard time spent in the classroom and graded essays and tests, but for what you learn and do. In other words, competency-based learning rather than credit-focused learning.

Southern New Hampshire University is one of the first colleges to take this kind of curriculum on. The idea is that the fast-changing, knowledge-based economy, institutes of higher learning need to adapt to the needs of the new work force. Here's SNHU president Paul LeBlanc:  

“For hundreds of years, higher education has been based on a bunch of inputs – how many PhDs on your faculty? How big is your library? How grand are your buildings? And with competency-based education, what we say is, ‘If you can demonstrate your results, if you can demonstrate the claims you make for learning, then we care a lot less about how you got people there. And that opens up a world of new delivery models,” LeBlanc said.

SNHU recently became the first college eligible to receive federal aid for a program not based on the credit hour, but on taking an online test to prove your mastery of 120 specific competencies, such as using logic, reasoning and analysis to address a business problem.

Read about the demand for new models in higher education, as demand for degrees grows on WGBH News' On Campus blog.