Competency-based degree programs in higher education: Opportunities and challenges

Competency-based learning in higher education recently increased in popularity and support due to the need for more efficiency and transparency in the higher education sector. The third-party groups invested in competency-based learning include individual institutions, accreditation agencies, associations, and policy makers.

At the core of each competency-based degree program is a list of competencies (abilities, knowledge, and skills) that graduating students from a particular degree must be successfully able to demonstrate.

Competency-based education has been seen from time to time in various segments of education and training, as well as professional higher education (e.g., medical education).

This recent reemergence in undergraduate and graduate education as well as in online learning is due to its support and acceptance from various gatekeepers such as policy makers, legislators, accreditation bodies, and foundations.  Furthermore, with this support and acceptance, these gatekeepers are addressing the economic needs of American society.

In this uncertain economic environment, having a definitive and transparent set of outcomes in a degree allows students be more employable, thus making competency-based education a popular option.

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