a person takes a class to learn a certain set of tasks or pile of knowledge. they want this whether they find it to come easy or hard. It is the teachers charge to teach it to all of them. For this reason, a course should not have a defined length, but instead be the length for each student that it takes that student to learn the knowledge. People to whom it comes easily can finish the course quickly and move on to the next, while people to whom it comes hard might take quite some time completing it. No grades shall be given: the person takes the course until up to the proficiency standards the course requires, or fails and gives up. Completing a course should suggest the student has learned certain things, not pushed through it and been given a letter representing their success at learning those things.
Cost – as teacher time is a costly resource, and students in this system could make a lot of use of it, the payments for the course would have to be based on time taking it. Students already proficient in the course matter, thus those who don’t really need the course anyway, could breeze through and pay little. Students who need the most help would have to pay for it.
Handling Different Paces – obviously handling multiple students running at different paces as well as coming in and going from the classes at random times would cause a significant challenge to some teaching methods, while others, particularly the sorts that are currently more independent as is, would lend themselves well to this method.
– Lectures certainly wouldn’t work if every student was at a different point in learning the material. So, I think, lectures would probably be given as learning material for courses but would not be specifically part of them. Each lecture would be a single event given on a specific subject, and students would come to whichever lectures they desire based on the content and where they are in their learning. A course geared heavily toward lecture might require certain lectures to be attended at least once (more times for students who do not get what they need to out of it), while others (probably more than not) would only have lectures available to aid in, or perhaps further, or even differentiate, the learning in the courses, for those who desire those sort of things. These one-off lectures would have the very nice side benefit of allowing students not in these course but interested in the subject to take in the bits of it they are most interested in, and perhaps incite them to take the related course at a later time. It also would provide fine learning opportunities for folks who want to learn something but not become full-fledged students.
– Labs should work out well. Teachers would give each student, or group of students if necessary, their labwork assignments based on their current development in the class and what they think will most help the specific students learn the course material. Then they will watch the students and help whenever it is needed, or give helpful or insightful pointers when needed. This will give the teachers a lot of flexibility in tailoring their assignments to the students. It will likely require relatively small lab sizes, or/and probably more preferably, several teachers per class to be able to watch sufficiently the students activities. More teachers may work better than smaller individual class sizes, as the greater number of eyes simultaneously sweeping the room, as well as the differing perspectives, should see more even with a large class size.