News Bureau banner3
Old Entrance to Normal Hill
NSU to begin competency-based program
By David West

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University is starting a competency-based program that will allow students seeking a computer information systems degree or certification to complete the program at a fraction of the time and cost.

The competency-based program is a flexible education model that allows students to learn and advance at their own pace. Students advance as they demonstrate mastery of specific skills or knowledge called competencies. The structure builds upon prior knowledge and experience. A student that may already know the material can pass a pre-assessment and move to the next unit. Should a student need more time to master an area, they can slow down and focus on what they need to learn.

“For Louisiana to move from the bottom ranks in educational attainment, our universities must create innovative pathways to marketable degrees, especially for adult students,” said Northwestern State President Dr. Jim Henderson. “Northwestern State’s groundbreaking approach to delivering a world class CIS degree will dramatically expand access, developing talent at a stunningly low cost. Employers win, taxpayers win, and most importantly, students win.  

Students can go through the program on a credit or non-credit basis. Those who may need to gain an industry certification or gain a specific skill can take classes on a non-credit basis. Courses start on most Mondays and can be completed in one day or in up to six months.

“The Computer Information Systems area already attracts a large number of students who are working in the information technology field. These students often already have pre-existing knowledge in an array of areas,” said Curtis Penrod, coordinator of the computer information systems program at Northwestern State. “This new mode of delivery will allow us to serve this population as well as serve a new population of students who cannot pursue the CIS degree through the traditional face-to-face or even the online environments for whatever reason.  For students who are truly competent and able to learn independently, they can enter this program and quickly earn credit for knowledge they already have.  This new mode of delivery will hopefully allow us to expand the number of students pursuing and obtaining the CIS degree which will allow us to better meet the tremendous demand for CIS graduates and their skills.”
To earn a bachelor’s in computer information systems through the competency-based program, prospective students must be admitted to NSU. Any prior college credits can be evaluated for transfer credit that can be applied to a degree.

“The competency-based degree program will provide flexibility in a whole new way by creating opportunities for students to demonstrate their prior knowledge and mastery of learning outcomes through a personalized learning experience,” said NSU Vice President for Technology, Innovation and Economic Development Darlene Williams. “Transitioning to an online model that allows students to progress at their pace while demonstrating competencies creates a unique opportunity for students that can potentially decrease the amount of time it takes to complete a degree.”

Tuition for each course is $250 in addition to required textbooks, which is about 40 percent less than a typical class.

The computer information systems (CIS) program at NSU is nationally recognized for its excellence in systems analysis and design, database design and development, Internet web design and development and object-oriented programming. The CIS program has been recognized as an Area of Excellence by the University of Louisiana System. Since 1999, students in the program have won 15 national titles against many of the nation’s leading universities. NSU offers four concentrations in computer information systems: application development, networking and systems management, web development and core programming.

Last fall, Northwestern State and the Louisiana Department of Economic Development signed a ten-year, $2.5 million dollar cooperative endeavor agreement to enhance the computer information systems program at NSU. The purpose of this agreement is to increase the number of CIS enrollments and graduates for the workforce, specifically CSRA which has a location in Bossier City. This grant allows for the partnering of the CIS program and CSRA to ensure a qualified workforce which meets their needs. The funding is expanding the number of faculty (thus expanding course offerings), improving the technology on campus, promoting faculty development, marketing the program, and providing scholarships to students.

For more information on the competency-based program, go to