Competency-Based Education, Put to the Test

Kassidy Fann clears off the table in the tidy kitchen of the wooden triple-decker north of Boston that she shares with her husband and a pair of inquisitive cats.

Fann takes a seat and opens her laptop. There’s no sound but the creaking of the pipes and the rain against the windows. Then a disembodied voice with a slight southern accent says hello.

“I will be your proctor today,” says the voice, which belongs to a woman named Leigh Ann Majerik, who’s in an office in Hoover, Alabama. Majerik will supervise as Fann takes a test—called, in this case, an assessment—to gauge her progress toward the master’s degree she’s pursuing in science education and physics from the online Western Governors University.

Fann holds up her driver’s license and looks into a fisheye webcam so the proctor can confirm her identity and see that there are no unauthorized parties in the room other than one of the cats. After a few more clicks, the test pops up on Fann’s laptop screen, along with a countdown clock in the upper-right-hand corner.

“Start when you’re ready,” says the proctor.

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