competencyworks higher education blog

What’s Happening with Competency-Based Transcripts and Rethinking College Admissions in the United States

July 2, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on June 11, 2018.

What are competency-based transcripts, and why are they important?

The New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) explains the main issue: “For more than a century, American high school students have earned ‘credits’ for passing courses. When they accumulate enough credits, they receive a diploma. The problem with this approach is that credits do not always equal competency.”

Competency-based transcripts provide colleges and universities with comprehensive information on a high school student’s knowledge, skills and performance upon graduation. They communicate what a student knows and can do in the transition from secondary to postsecondary systems of education based on actual mastery and offer a comprehensive record of achievement in a competency-based learning model. (more…)

What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education?

June 25, 2018 by


New Resource

  • The Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown recently released Educational Adequacy in the Twenty-First Century “that seeks to define a new outcomes-based earnings standard for all postsecondary education programs. After closely examining the value and cost of college programs, we determined a standard that would allow graduates to attain middle class earnings and recoup their education costs. [The] proposal: within 10 years following graduation, students must attain earnings greater than $35,000 annually above their cost of education.”

Stealing a Page from Disruption to Transform Accreditation

June 21, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on June 15, 2018.

One of the only things Republicans and Democrats in Washington, DC can agree on is that they don’t like the accreditation system in higher education.

The “watchdogs that don’t bark,” as former Education Secretary Arne Duncan famously termed them, just don’t seem to be doing a great job holding institutions responsible for their student outcomes, as a Wall Street Journal investigation showed. (more…)

National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education

June 12, 2018 by

AIR and Eduventures® Research announced that the National Survey of Postsecondary CBE has launched. From their press release:
Many in the CBE community (and beyond!) have provided helpful input into this survey, which seeks to understand the scale and scope of postsecondary CBE at institutions like yours – and, for those institutions who completed Eduventures’ 2016 survey, how implementation has changed over time. We ask that your institutions take a few minutes to complete the survey, which will help answer questions for the field like:

  • How many programs exist, and in what disciplines/areas;
  • How institutions are implementing CBE;
  • How many students are enrolled or have completed; and
  • Perceptions about facilitators and barriers to adoption.

How you can contribute: Academic leaders at your institution will be receiving a personalized link to the survey early this afternoon. If you received it, please take the time to complete it (or forward on to the appropriate person). If you did not receive it and would like to know who received the invitation on behalf of your institution so that you can encourage them to complete it or forward it on, please let us know using let us know using this short web form.

Thank you to the many members of this list who provided ideas and guidance for this survey! We look forward to sharing results with you beginning at CBExchange in September. Future versions of this survey will be conducted annually through 2020 to track the evolution of the field.

If you have questions, please contact us. To learn more about AIR’s work in CBE, click here.

This study is funded by Lumina Foundation, supporting AIR’s work, and Ellucian, which supports Eduventures’ contributions.

Mastery Credits? Mastery Transcript?

May 7, 2018 by

Image from the MTC website.

I had the opportunity to participate in a fascinating conversation as a member of the advisory council to Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) a few weeks ago. Lots of people I’ve never met. Lots of ideas that got me thinking. Here’s a bit of background about MTC, as we should all follow and support what they are doing, followed by some of my take-aways.

Background on the Mastery Transcript Consortium (more…)

What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education?

May 2, 2018 by


  • This article explores how Southern Connecticut State University uses data to improve student outcomes.
  • This article explores integrating records of skills-based assessments into digital portfolios as a means to transforming the hiring process and ultimately replacing the resume.
  • Southern New Hampshire University has collaborated with The Shapiro Foundation and TheDream.US to offer 1,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students full scholarships to pursue their associate or bachelor’s degrees.
  • The Texas Public Policy Foundation, along with Goldman Insights, released a study, which explores ways competency-based higher education programs could be cheaper and just as effective as traditional higher education programs.


CBExchange 2018 Registration is OPEN!

April 2, 2018 by

Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Wikimedia Commons

This is from the Competency-Based Education Network announcing their next CBExchange for leaders in higher education interested in competency education:

Early Bird registration for this fall’s CBExchange convening is now open. This event will take place at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts in Orlando, Florida, beginning at 5:00 p.m. on September 25 through September 27, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind event, limited to individuals employed by U.S. or international higher education institutions, K-12 institutions, federal or state governments, associations, and nonprofits. Only representatives from corporations who are C-BEN members or sponsors/exhibitors for CBExchange may register to attend.

The early bird registration rate of $650 is available until June 30, 2018. After this time, the registration will be $850. Registration without late fee ends on August 24. C-BEN members receive a $200 discount off the existing registration rate. If you are not a C-BEN member and would be interested in learning more, please contact me. You can always join C-BEN or renew your membership at the same time you register for the conference, and this option will be offered during the checkout process.

CBExchange Call for Proposals Being Accepted Now

We invite you to consider submitting a presentation proposal! Proposals will be accepted through Friday, April 13. Presenters will be announced by Friday, May 4. Submit your proposal here. (more…)

Grades, College Admission, and Competency-Based Education

March 2, 2018 by

There’s a great quick read in the February AASA School Administrator on standards-based grading and the college admissions process. Four university college admissions staff were interviewed in Getting a Fair Shot about their thoughts about standards-based grading.

Here are some of my big (and small) takeaways: (more…)

Congress Should Prioritize Innovation in Higher Ed. Here are Three Ways it Can.

February 1, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on January 23, 2018.

Washington D.C. is slowly turning its attention to higher education. In December, on a party-line vote, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce released the PROSPER Act, a bill to update the Higher Education Act for the first time since 2008.

The Higher Education Act (HEA), first passed in 1965, outlines federal higher education policy, including federal financial aid eligibility, teacher preparation programs, and how the federal government holds colleges accountable. It has also historically been a barrier to innovation in higher education, something that the authors of the PROSPER Act are determined to remedy. (more…)

Competency-Based Education: Understanding the CBE Student’s Experience

January 29, 2018 by

Jill Loveless

When was the last time a student said this about the learning experience? “I do it all at once and immerse myself in the material. Having it available gives me the opportunity to do the immersion type learning. For competency classes, there is more exposure. Writing code on a board and writing notes is not the best way to learn writing code.” Or when was the last time students claimed that the learning experience gave “a greater sense of agency over my learning”? These are just a few of the ways students described the competency-based learning experience at two community colleges.

There are approximately 600 institutions of higher education either developing CBE programs or offering them. Ryan claims that “to create this student-centric environment CBE programs need to look at the student experience holistically.” However, many of these institutions need to reallocate limited funds to implement CBE programs that require a new set of design principles based upon theory more than actual outcomes. CBE course designers have recommended coaches, mentors, CBE advisors, as well as faculty, be included in the course delivery. In spite of the growth of CBE, very little research that focuses specifically on the students’ experiences in this nontraditional design from the students’ perspectives has been published.

Beginning in 2016, I began to explore the question, What is the community college student’s experience in competency-based education courses or programs? To answer this, sub-questions to understand the student experience included: (more…)

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