Adam Doe is busy. He’s a man of many passions, interests, and hobbies—more than enough to fill his schedule. And yet, he’s also a UW Flexible Option student earning an information technology degree. Four things you should know about Adam right away:
- He works as an IT specialist at a bank’s data center.
- He plays bass. He sings. He composes music. And on his eighteenth birthday, his band opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
- He travels a lot. In the past few years, he’s been to Arizona, South Dakota, the Florida Keys, and road tripped much of the Midwest.
- He’s less than six months away from earning a bachelor’s degree.
And he’s only 21-years-old. Normally Adam would have to choose between getting a degree and the things that are vitally important in his life—work, travel, and music.
The competency-based format of Flex offers a different option, one that allows him to complete a Bachelor of Science in Information Science and Technology at a place and time of his choosing.
But still, how does Adam do it all? What led him to Flex? To find out, we must first dip into his past.
Computers, a high-energy rock band, and the City of Festivals
“I’ve always been tech savvy,” Adam says, “but I never really knew what I wanted to do.”
Adam earned an Associate of Arts and Science at UW-Barron County, then went on to attend a software engineering program in Eau Claire. But neither of these programs had everything he wanted. “I have interests in so many things—environmental science, music, and other areas. I like that IT is broad enough to be applied to many different fields.”
“I like that IT is broad enough to be applied to many different fields.”
Adam grew up in Barron, a small city in northwestern Wisconsin. At 14-years-old, he was already playing bass and had formed a band with three friends. “We were all so young when we started,” he reminisces. On their website, they describe themselves as a high-energy variety band that was “born to rock.”
Adam and his bandmates opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd and played well-known festivals like Van’s Warped Tour and—here’s the most important part—Milwaukee’s Summerfest. It was Adam’s first visit to the City of Festivals. Years later, when he researched degree programs, he remembered how much he enjoyed the city and put UW-Milwaukee on his list.
His research led him to the UW Flexible Option BS in Information Science and Technology, a collaboration between UW-Milwaukee and UW-Extension. The program was a perfect fit.
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Download an introductory guide (PDF) to the self-paced, competency-based UW Flexible Option programs, including details about costs, admission requirements, and more.
The freedom of a flexible information technology degree
Adam wanted a program with some flexibility, one that would fit his needs of working, traveling, and living outside a university setting.
“I lived off campus while attending a university, and I hated having to get up every morning and walk to school in the cold Wisconsin weather. Now with Flex, I can wake up, work out, go to work, and do schoolwork when and where I want.”
To understand a day in the life of a Flex student, you need to know three things about the UW Flexible Option:
- A competency set is equivalent to a traditional college course
- Each competency set includes learning resources and multiple assessments
- Assessments can be a quiz, project, paper, presentation, or even lab experiment, and passing them allows you to progress through the competency set
“I hated having to get up every morning and walk to school in the cold Wisconsin weather. Now with Flex, I can wake up, work out, go to work, and do schoolwork when and where I want.”
On a typical day, Adam logs in to an online platform to access his learning materials—such as PDFs, lectures, and videos—and after studying for a while, he takes a practice assessment if it’s offered. If he does well, he moves on to the real assessment.
After passing, he is granted permission to start the next assessment, “and before you know it, you’re done with a competency set.”
In a traditional classroom, you learn at the same speed as everyone else, even if you are familiar with the material. The Flex model allows Adam to use what he already knows about IT to pass certain assessments faster.
For example: “I’ve had a lot of web design experience, and I completed a competency set easily because of that. If you know the content, you don’t need to sit around and wait months to finish the class.” Usually, Adam tries to finish one competency set in a month—so three per subscription period.
Adam learns at his own pace—studying anytime and anywhere he wants. That means he doesn’t have to choose between his love of traveling and road trips and getting his information technology degree. He’s been able to travel across country to see his grandparents and attend a cousin’s graduation. “So far, I’ve done my homework in five different states!”
Connecting with an Academic Success Coach
For Adam, the biggest perk of the Flex program is having his Academic Success Coach, Mike Exum. Mike helps him decide what courses to take and keeps him organized and on track so Adam can continue working, traveling, and playing in his current band, Sweet Action.
“If you know the content, you don’t need to sit around and wait months to finish the class.”
Mike loves working with students like Adam. He communicates over phone and email, and “even though I’ve never met them in person, I know all my students. I remember their stories.”
Mike does a lot that traditional college advisers wouldn’t, such as email student questions to instructors and make sure tuition is paid on time—even over holidays. He also offers moral support in every aspect of the student’s life, serving as a beacon of positivity for those who need encouragement.
“I consider myself first and foremost a student advocate,” he says. “My goal is to help them realize their human potential. I’ve helped students with everything from technical problems to tough issues such as death and lack of confidence in academics.”
Mike is there for students on an as-needed basis, though he typically checks in with a student every couple weeks to see how they are progressing.
“I really like Mike,” Adam says. “Over the phone, I can tell he’s a great guy. He puts a lot of time into helping me with school. When I graduate, I intend to meet him in person!”
A bright future in information technology
Adam enjoys his part-time job as an IT specialist at the data center. Early in the morning, he starts the bank to get it ready for the day. His job involves many different tasks, such as generating reports, storing customer information and other bank data, and talking to companies about processing payroll. Sometimes he travels to other branches in Wisconsin to set up computers.
Now in his fourth subscription period of Flex, Adam is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in June—a little over a year after he enrolled. The information technology degree will open a lot of doors in information science and technology, but his plan isn’t set yet.
After graduation, Adam might continue working at the bank or get a master’s degree in IT, or maybe he’ll pave the way for a field that combines all his passions—information science, art, and music. The sky’s the limit for a student like Adam. There’s no telling what the next 21 years will hold.
To find out more about the UW Flexible Option and whether this competency-based education option is a good fit for you, call a friendly enrollment adviser today at 1-877-895-3276.
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