As older, working students become the face of higher education, universities are venturing into the world of competency-based education—but the technical challenges are significant.

competency-based-CBEWith nontraditional students far outnumbering the ranks of callow youth entering college straight from high school, competency-based education (CBE) appears—at last—to have reached escape velocity.

A year ago, fewer than 50 institutions nationwide offered CBE programs. Now that number has exploded to more than 600, with additional initiatives coming online all the time. Most of these entrants are complete neophytes to the world of CBE, and they face significant...

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