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Fulfilling the Promise of Education Technology: Veteran, Father of Four, Earns Degree While on the Road


WGU Leverages Technology to Offer Cost Effective, Competency Based Online Education That Enables People to Overcome Challenges and Change Their Lives

This year, WGU Washington will graduate a record number of students at its third commencement ceremony, May 17 at McCaw Hall in Seattle. One of these students, Greg Grady, has a particularly compelling story. Greg’s story is a testament to personal determination, and to the way in which WGU’s unique online educational model is making a difference in Washington state, and delivering on the promise of digital education.

Greg Grady is a Marines veteran and a father to four young children (ages 8, 6, 4 and 8 months). Despite living in Vancouver, Greg was previously employed on the naval base in Bremerton – he’d stay on the peninsula during the week and commute back to Vancouver to be with his family on the weekends. When he decided to get his Bachelor’s degree, Greg knew he needed to find a university that could accommodate his circumstance.


Next month, Greg will be graduating with the degree he earned taking online information technology courses while traveling back and forth between Bremerton and Vancouver. Greg credits WGU’s online, competency based model with affording him the flexibility he needed to get his degree. Unlike other programs Greg had researched, which required students to pay an additional fee to sit for certain certification exams, WGU Washington awarded Greg not only his diploma, but a series of certifications he feels will set him apart in the workforce.

Greg, along with his wife and four children attended WGU’s May 17 commencement ceremony, where Greg was awarded a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Technology with an emphasis in software development. At this same ceremony there were other moving stories, like a mother and daughter who graduated together, and another veteran who has survived being wounded and overcame cancer, and is now a college graduate!

Making Online Education Work for Everyone

I had the good fortune of speaking with WGU Washington Chancellor Jean Floten about Greg and other inspiring students success stories. We also talked about the services and methods that have helped Western Governors University change so many lives for the better.

WGU leverages many effective approaches to making online education affordable and effective for the students they serve. WGU was designed from day one as education for busy, working adults and others who are challenged to succeed in the traditional higher education model.

Here are some of the other techniques and constructs that WGU brings to bear in the delivery of their unique and highly effective approach to online education include:

  • Personal Mentors: Every WGU student is assigned a Personal Mentor. This mentor works as a coach through the student’s educational experience, talking at least once a week during the student’s initial term, and then moving to twice a week of over time if the student wishes to do so. Chancellor Floten explained that sometimes these mentors and students don’t actually meet face to face until graduation, and that it can be a very special and emotional moment.
  • Course Mentors: Prior graduates of WGU are also available on demand to assist students with specific courses.
  • Competency Based Education: WGU’s CBE model enables students to prove their learning competencies and move through courses in less time if they have learned the material or already know it. This in turn positions students to get the most out of their tuition dollars.
  • Learning Communities: Another support element provided by WGU are learning communities, facilitated through an online portal. There are two kinds of student learning communities: Program Communities, designed to build relationships between students and mentors and focused on expanding your knowledge in your overall field of study; and Learning Communities, which provide a virtual space where subject and assessment specific information can be obtained for use during competency development.
  • Online Library: WGU’s Library includes nearly 100,000 eText books and is available 24/7, again made possible by technology and the Internet.

Inspiring Stories

Getting back to the personal side of this story, examples like Greg Grady are an inspiration to so many – to students who face challenges, and to educators who dream of changing lives. There are many of these great stories out there. Education, and the attainment of credentials that can change lives, are now possible in ways they have never been before.

When inspired leaders and passionate educators turn today’s technologies to the task of delivering on the promise of education, they make the world a better place. Do you know a student who has a better life today because they were able to get an education and a certificate or degree from a school that has figured out how to leverage technology to help make their dreams a reality? Share that story with us, and help to inspire others.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Mark Milliron’s Sobering, Honest, and Inspiring Keynote Address at CT2012
Student Created Content is an Exciting and Inspiring Learning Tool that Teaches Many Skills
Western Governors University – Measurable Academic Innovation Success, Enabled by Technology



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