With the launch of Personalized Learning, what students already know will count for something, and what they learn on the way to a college degree will come at a lower cost in time and money.

Northern Arizona University announced that its pioneering online program is now accepting students, after receiving approval from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The path opened to degrees in computer information technology, liberal arts and small business administration includes a flat fee of $2,500 for each six months of unlimited credits and self-paced learning. There are no semesters in the open-entry program.

Students can achieve their degree goals quicker by testing out of modules in a course, demonstrating knowledge they may have gained in previous college work or on the job. The approach puts NAU, as a major public university, at the forefront of the emerging competency-based movement.

“Personalized Learning marks a watershed moment in higher education,” said NAU President John Haeger. “We are opening an entirely new level of access to a respected university education.”

The program blends elements of quickly evolving higher education that have found early success—high-tech learning analytics, a focus on outcomes, advanced online interactions—while emphasizing critical thinking, providing the same foundation in quality that underlies all of NAU’s degrees.

“Personalized Learning takes the learning objectives of traditional college coursework and reorganizes them to be more engaging and applicable to today’s workplace,” said Fred Hurst, senior vice president of NAU Extended Campuses, which created and operates Personalized Learning. “This program is about creating a skilled and inspired adult workforce with the necessary critical thinking skills that meet the demands of employers.”

Students may sign up at any time after taking a self-assessment to determine if Personalized Learning is a good fit for them. They may take any number of courses, in any order, at their own pace. Along the way, faculty actively advise and mentor, using information gained from student tests and other inputs to offer customized strategies for success.

NAU created the program with funds from a $1 million grant received in 2012 from EDUCAUSE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.