Even though Ebersole sees CBE as a good fit for older, working students, he does not necessarily see it as beneficial for students right out of high school. In addition to the benefits of younger students going to college and learning how to live amongst new people while receiving a well-balanced education, Ebersole also stresses the important difference between conceptual mastery and applicable competence.

“If you can’t apply what you know, you aren’t competent,” stressed Dr. Ebersole. “Younger students might have mastery, but they haven’t had the opportunity to demonstrate they can apply it yet.”

Also, although competency-based education programs have numerous benefits, there is still room for improvement, mainly due to the need for greater standardization among programs. This issue could lead to a large gap in employability, as major companies may not know what to make of CBE degrees if a standardized system of competencies is not established.

“What’s being assessed needs to be specific to the discipline,” said Ebersole. “We desperately need a clearinghouse…like the University of Maryland did with Quality Matters for the online industry. And employers need to be involved to assist programs with employability.”

For example, if a set of competencies is established within a field and grades can be more uniformly converted from examinations, employers will be able to more easily compare the performance of potential employees coming from competency-based programs to students from traditional colleges, putting CBE students on a more equal playing field in the job hunt, he mused.


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