pathways non-traditional

4 critical steps when venturing on the competency-based path

Step 2: Build Your Assessment Framework

There is no national standard or model for CBE assessments, so institutions need to determine the right types of rubrics to demonstrate skill mastery for the CBE programs being considered. A look at current CBE programs reveals very different approaches to competency-based assessment, with options that include performance-based, portfolio-based, or project-based assessments as well as multiple-choice exams.

A competency-based framework offers an institution the opportunity to redesign not only its curriculum, but its traditional teaching roles as well. To accomplish this, though, faculty should be consulted early in the development of programs and assessment standards. To provide the greatest innovation in CBE programs, institutions should consider leveraging multiple types and modes of instruction, multimedia learning materials, and mentoring by subject-matter experts. Additionally, assessments may be conducted by expert evaluators whose sole focus is to grade assignments.

A successful CBE program will also develop assessment tools with the help of employers in the community. Rasmussen works with an advisory board of employers from the community who would potentially hire its graduates. The board helps design assessments and programs to make sure that curricula are aligned with employer needs. From there, the college works with an instructional designer to create scenarios and projects that enable students to demonstrate those skills and abilities.

Professional organizations and associations are also a valuable resource for input on designing courses and programs that meet industry and accrediting standards. One piece of advice institutions will often hear is to focus on a singular or small number of programs to launch within the CBE model, then evaluate what is working and what is not, reformulate as needed, and then continue to expand the curriculum to include more CBE offerings where appropriate.

Step 3: Determine the Right Pace and Price

The main objective of CBE is to allow students to move more quickly and cost-effectively through the courses and concepts they understand (demonstrating proficiency or testing out of the course), so they can spend more time on subjects and skills for which they require academic guidance.

Most current CBE programs enable students to pay either course-by-course or through a subscription model. However, some programs have found that the subscription model provides additional value by giving students a time-based goal to complete objectives. Typical subscription periods are often three to six months in length, allowing students to master one or many skills during that timeframe.

Rasmussen’s Flex Choice program is a hybrid model that incorporates self-paced competency-based courses and traditional faculty-led courses into a single program. In this model, students can complete some credits at no additional cost via self-paced courses that allow students to move quickly through concepts they understand or slow down and receive support to learn new material. Their remaining credits are completed in traditional faculty-led courses.

(Next page: Step 4 and moving forward)