Competency-based education (CBE) offers tons of potential for both students and faculty–and while faculty are sometimes hesitant to redesign courses, the majority of students embrace the opportunity to accelerate learning and meet career goals.

CBE projects are on the rise at public, private, two-year and four-year institutions. CBE gives students the opportunity to use their life experiences and skills to further their education and advance their job potential.

Now, new research details how three different institutions have developed CBE programs by supporting both students and faculty.

During its work with various institutions, Western Governors University (WGU) has helped schools and faculty develop CBE programs.

Three schools–Sinclair Community College in Ohio, Broward College in Florida, and Austin Community College in Texas–have worked with WGU to develop their CBE programs since 2013 after received a U.S. Department of Education grant.

(Next page: How the 3 schools crafted CBE programs with faculty input)

Though each school’s CBE program is different, they all based their programs on five student-approved design principles:

1. Degree or certificate reflects robust and valid competencies.
2. Students are able to learn at a variable pace and are supported in their learning.
3. Effective learning resources are available anytime and are reusable.
4. The process for mapping competencies to courses, learning outcomes, and assessments is explicit.
5. Assessments are secure and reliable.

Sinclair Community College (SCC) had a strong distance learning program, but needed to adjust courses as it developed its CBE program. Faculty worked in teams with an instructional designer to go through development steps and reviews. Faculty used a set of statewide competencies to guide course development and learning outcomes, while also developing compehensive course outlines, necessary learning resources, and assessments.

SCC’s faculty dealt with teaching both face-to-face and CBE courses and juggled the time constraints of the CBE courses, which required facult to respond to CBE students in 24 hours and review course assessments within 48 hours.

Faculty at Austin Community College developed courses with help from a course development team. They defined high-level competencies and learning ourcomes. Faculty reported that CBE gave them new ways of teaching and helped them communicate course content more clearly. One faculty member adapted all of his face-to-face classes to the CBE format after he realied the format would benefit in-class students.

When Broward College implemented a CBE computer system specialist program, it had to create the distance education infrastructure to support the fully online program. BC’s five-step process for adapting existing courses to a CBE model included content and assessment creation by teams and reviews of course outlines and learning objectives. Faculty said the CBE program’s flexibility helped remote students continue their learning, such as students who were in the military and deployed during the semester.

Students at all three colleges seemed to agree on 5 benefits of CBE programs:

1. Learning at their own pace
2. Affordability
3. Flexible course start dates
4. Supports provided by programs
5. Direct connections between CBE programs and workforce opportunities

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. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura


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