pathways non-traditional

4 critical steps when venturing on the competency-based path

Step 4: Pick the Right Technology and Service Provider

While more institutions now embrace CBE as a viable complement to traditional learning in principle, the technology in place at most universities isn’t designed for it. A recent report by the Innosight Institute* observes that most student information systems are hardwired for traditional academic terms and have to be retrofitted for individualized learning models and borrower-based financial aid. Moreover, many CRM systems are focused on recruitment and admission versus student engagement and success.

For institutions to truly support CBE academic programs, they require a comprehensive student information, financial aid, and CRM solution designed for flexibility. The chosen technology platform should include, at a minimum, the ability to:

  • Offer academic programs in a variety of academic calendars
  • Package financial aid for individualized programs based on Title IV regulations
  • Track student progress, from skill assessments to unique risk factors
  • Provide an early-warning system that records student objectives and then flags an advisor automatically to check in with the student if he or she misses deadlines
  • Scale easily as new programs and campuses are added

How painless and cost effective it is to achieve this basic level of functionality for CBE will depend on the flexibility and extensibility of the technology in place.

Moving Forward

Competency-based education is rapidly evolving, with new ideas for the model emerging. Some institutions are understandably cautious about moving forward until there is clearer direction from the U.S. Department of Education and regional and programmatic accrediting bodies.

The good news is that support for the model is growing. Organizations and initiatives such as the Lumina Foundation and the Competency-Based Network are assessing the CBE landscape in higher education and creating an innovative network for institutions to develop CBE standards and best practices. Additionally, in early November, the Department of Education announced the expansion of the Experimental Sites Initiative and invited institutions to participate in CBE programs through a new set of waivers for Federal Title IV aid and Satisfactory Academic Progress.

By taking the four basic steps now, your institution can be that much more ahead of the game as the model and shape of CBE matures and begins to accelerate across higher education.

*Staker, Heather. Senior Fellow. Innosight Institute. The Engine Behind WGU: Configuration of a competency-based information system. U.S. Department of Education experimental sites information:

Karli Grant is the Product Marketing Manager at Campus Management. In this role, Ms. Grant leads the launching of new products to the market, conducts market analysis, plans strategies to inform the market and drive adoption of Campus Management’s products and services portfolio, and acts of the voice of the client to internal stakeholders.