Competency-based education shifts the focus away from traditional credit hours and instead measures student progress on demonstrated capabilities. The learning is organized around themes and driven by problems rather than seat time in a classroom.

In the Purdue program, faculty offer one-on-one mentorship to students during their skill development.
Purdue Polytechnic Institute Dean Gary Bertoline calls competency-based education the future, and credited faculty for leading the effort.

“This is a significant accomplishment and is a great example of Purdue and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute being a leader in higher education transformation,” he said.

A student must demonstrate expertise in eight broadly defined primary competencies in order to graduate. The primary competencies include design thinking, effective communication, social interaction on a team, ethical reasoning, and innovation and creativity. Each of the competencies is split into five sub-competencies.

However, the competency-based education angle works to incorporate a higher level of integration among technical, scientific and humanities disciplines.

Through the program, achieved competencies will be accounted for while an e-portfolio will showcase them and be added to the students’ academic records.

Bertoline said competency-based education answers the call from industry leaders looking for a different type of higher education graduate.

“They are looking for well-rounded graduates that not only have deep technical knowledge and skills but very broad capabilities for open-ended problem solving, greater creativity, ability to work in diverse teams and better communications skills,” he said.

“We believe the best way to prepare graduates that meet the needs of industry is through competency-based education programs.”

Purdue began work on the program in 2013. Purdue Polytechnic Institute faculty spent a year creating the proposed degree, examining all aspects of higher education and incorporating the latest research about human learning and motivation.

Purdue students from different majors, but primarily from the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, began participating in the pilot program a year later.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved the new program last year after the Purdue Board of Trustees voted in favor of it in April. The HLC vote provided final accreditation.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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