Why scaling CBE at your institution is critical

How specific technology can enable a scalable, personalized Competency-Based Education (CBE); and why it’s must-have.

CBE-competency-technologyWe are entering new territory that is already transforming higher education in ways we have not seen since 1893 when the college credit hour was introduced.

That territory is being shaped by outcomes.

In our country today, there is a real imperative around the quality of teaching and learning and in producing outcomes that allow our nation’s students to compete in the global economy. This imperative is leading policymakers, educators and business leaders to support educational programs where institutions certify mastery and outcomes, as well as provide verification of what students have learned.

One of the most effective ways that institutions can scale efforts and demonstrate outcomes like never before is through the marriage of competency based education (CBE) and technology.

Scaling programs to large numbers of students, maintaining the integrity of the programs, and producing outcomes is now possible with learning management systems (LMS’) that are adaptable in design and built for just this purpose. With the right technology platform, the speed with which CBE programs can be developed and brought to the marketplace is astounding.

Take, for example, Algebra Nation, a personalized CBE program created by the University of Florida’s College of Education to help middle and high school students pass end-of-course algebra exams in the State of Florida that about 40 percent of students fail. By offering personalized, individualized learning through a competency-based system, students engaged in the program have consistently higher results than those who aren’t in the program.

There are 2,300 algebra teachers, representing every school district in Florida, who have embraced Algebra Nation. In addition, these teachers are engaging in their own online teaching community, sharing best practices and upping their teaching methods.

This is the future and the now of teaching and learning; and it applies to higher education, as well.

(Next page: The components of a great tech-enabled CBE program for scale)

Competency based education is a unique pedagogy that requires a unique platform for delivery.

While the power of technology enables personalized learning, where students work at their own pace until they demonstrate mastery, technology platforms that granularly drill down on competencies and explicitly define what is being taught and what each student will demonstrate upon course completion provide the greatest value.

Also, technology systems that give educators and administrators access to a variety of different analytics, not just data, are key to the competency movement.

For instance, employers have long asked educational institutions to equip students with the competencies specific to the position available. CBE provides a greater focus and framework to addressing these needs.

Most often, configurable systems that provide actionable analytics at the learning behavior level, the coaching level and the competency level are the ones being implemented by institutions around the country.

In fact, the top six characteristics to look for when choosing technology to support a CBE program are:

  1. Ability to build program and course level competencies and align assessments and instructional resources to competencies.
  2. Ability to allow students to create flexible learning plans, monitor and support plan progress.
  3. Inclusion of robust assessments to evaluate prior learning for credit and ongoing learning to deliver personalized instructional resources.
  4. Inclusion of collaboration tools that offer students quick assistance to peers, instructor and coaches.
  5. Ability to report mastery via grade points as well as competency achievement metrics.
  6. Ability to support direct assessment and credit equivalency models.

But before getting intimidated at the thought of component requirements, remember that teaching and learning in this new way is well worth the effort. By recognizing a student’s prior learning, tuition costs can be reduced.

Time-to-completion can also be reduced when students accelerate through a program. On average, students spend 5.2 years completing an undergraduate degree. With CBE, that timeframe can be shortened, since these programs can incentivize some students to complete programs more quickly.

Yet, the greatest value in delivering a CBE program may be the certification students’ have from their institution of learning validating that they have mastered the competencies that are essential to their field of study.

For example, using LoudCloud’s configurable FasTrak system, the University of Florida has developed a new CBE program for Florida’s 55,000 early childhood teachers. These teachers will acquire competencies specific to their job requirements, preparing them for challenges in the educational workplace.

Competency based education is not hype. And though it has been transformative for a long time now, the technological advances that have made, and will continue to make, it scalable and personalized will be the norm for teaching and learning everywhere.

Manoj Kutty is Founder and CEO of LoudCloud Systems, a software company that aims to redefine the teaching and learning experience based on a richer understanding of behaviors, processes and outcomes. They serve as an e-learning partner in higher education and K-12 sectors.

Dr. Donald Pemberton is Director of the Lastinger Center for Learning at the University of Florida, an education design-and-build shop that partners with school districts, philanthropies, governmental entities and private sector to create, field-test and disseminate innovations and models with the goal of transforming teaching, improving learning and promoting healthy child development.

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