competencyworks higher education blog

What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education?

October 5, 2016 by

What's NewNews from the Field

Competency-Based Education Webinar Series

CBE Info announced the continuation of the CBE for Community Colleges webinar series this academic year. The webinars are free to attend.

There is a growing interest in competency-based education (CBE) for higher education as one of the approaches to accelerate students’ progress-to-degree while assuring the quality and validity. The webinars will help those that wish to understand how CBE can work and how they can get started on the development of CBE programs at their own institutions.

For more information including speakers, times, and registration, visit here.

Upcoming Webinars Include:

  • CBE Institutional Buy-In, 10/19/2016
  • CBE Financial Aid, 11/16/2016
  • CBE Course Demos, 11/30/2016
  • CBE Assessment Delivery and Proctoring, 1/18/2017
  • CBE Orientation Courses, 2/15/2017
  • CBE Completion Strategies, 3/1/2017
  • CBE Transcripting, 4/19/2017

For more news and updates in competency-based higher education, sign up for our monthly newsletter on our homepage and follow us on Twitter: @CompetencyWorks.

Making the Case for CBE Programs: Setting a Firm Foundation for Evaluation

September 27, 2016 by

computerThis four-part webinar series sponsored by American Institutes for Research and Public Agenda caught my attention. Those institutions of higher education creating competency-based programs need to be able to understand and communicate the value of the program as well as use the research to improve their models so that it can respond to the needs of more students. Below is the information from their email blast. 


Making the Case for CBE Programs: Setting a Firm Foundation for Evaluation

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

2 PM to 3 PM ET

Hosted by American Institutes for Research and Public Agenda


As competency-based education (CBE) grows in popularity on college and university campuses, more faculty, program leaders, and institutional leaders want to know what works. Knowing how to build credible evidence through rigorous evaluation is critical, whether your goal is program improvement or making more definitive statements about student outcomes. A new webinar series hosted by American Institutes for Research and Public Agenda helps you do just that!

Setting a Firm Foundation for Evaluation is the first in a four part series designed to demystify the evaluation process. In this hour-long webinar, you and your colleagues will learn how to build powerful and compelling research questions that can make a difference to your stakeholders, and who to engage in your campus evaluation team for the best possible results. (more…)

What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education?

September 9, 2016 by

What's NewMovements in CBE

  • Salt Lake Community College’s biotechnology program received an $819,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further efforts in the area of competency-based education. The biotechnology program has partnered with Nelson Laboratories, BioFire Diagnostics and ARUP Laboratories, three local biotechnology companies that anticipate creating hundreds of new jobs in the next five years, for development of new curriculum.
  • Brandman University’s contribution to innovative programs for higher education business and financial management recently earned it the Innovation Award from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).

Thought Leadership


Creating a Seamless P-20 System in Illinois

September 6, 2016 by

IllinoisWe do our best to stay on top of which districts are converting and what is going on in the states regarding competency education. But we were totally surprised when we heard about the Illinois legislature unanimously passing HB5729 Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, which includes a K12 pilot for competency-based education.

Luckily, I got to meet a few members of the incredible team in Illinois, all of whom worked closely together around HB5729, at an Achieve Competency-Based Pathways meeting. Thanks to Ben Boer from Advance Illinois for his presentation.

Here are some of the highlights of what I learned about Illinois’ effort. The emphasis on creating a calibrated, transparent and accountable transition in mathematics is opening a door to much needed conversations between higher education and K12.

Overarching Goal: HB 5729 was created to address the goal of the state’s P20 Council to have 60 percent of Illinoisans have a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. An earlier piece of legislation, HR477, established four advisory committees that built consensus around the ideas introduced in HB5729. Through this process, a framework for college and career readiness was developed that introduced ideas of personalization and alternative methods of credit acquisition (i.e., competency education). The framework explicitly identifies the concrete steps of career development, college awareness, and financial literacy. The goal is to create a more aligned system that includes K12, institutions of higher education (IHE), and employers. (more…)

Learning in a Competency-Based World: Mindsets, Models, & Methods

August 24, 2016 by

I just heard about a new opportunity to learn about competency-based education from an institution that has experience in it. On November 7-8, right before the CAEL conference DePaul University is hosting Learning in a Competency-Based World. The notice describes the institute:

If you are working in or planning a competency-based program, we invite you to join us for a two-day, interactive Institute to develop and refine practices that help learners actually develop the competencies they seek. This includes strategies and approaches that help learners learn from experience and apply that learning while enhancing their performance in specific contexts.

The facilitators are Catherine Marienau, Pamela Meyer, Russ Rogers (all from School for New Learning/DePaul University) and Kathryn Wozniak (from Concordia).

“Learning Engineering” Making its Way in the World

August 23, 2016 by

Deeper LearningThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on July 26, 2016 and Bror’s Blog on July 21, 2016.

I recently (re)stumbled across an interesting article in EdSurge about using educational impact to evaluate ed-tech companies and services. It seems an obvious thing, but as the article points out, it’s not so simple to do. It reminded me of a range of efforts that are now popping up to assist us all with “learning engineering” work – applying good learning science and evidence-gathering at scale.

In my previous blog, I mentioned a range of resources that attempt to synthesize evidence-based learning for use in the field, including resources like Clark and Mayer’s E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, which I have recommended for years to many people as a great initial synthesis. (OK, Dr. Hess would be grumpy if I did not mention our own efforts along those lines, Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling). There are now other efforts around to put such syntheses to work:

Operationalizing Paradigm Shifts in HigherEd

August 16, 2016 by

PShiftThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on August 11, 2016.

At the beginning of this series, Tom Vander Ark described his college experience to illustrate the profound impact relationships can have on students. He described the iterative process of discovering his Purpose, finding aPathway to that purpose, and then building a network of People to help him stay on track.

I’m sure most readers can connect personally with his story–in fact, you’ve probably heard some variant of it in every commencement you’ve attended. But despite the ubiquity of our sentiment as educators regarding the importance of these relationships to learning, few colleges attempt to systematically harness these powerful relationships to support student success.

Why is this the case?

Letting A Thousand Silos Bloom

To explore why colleges struggled to systematize learning relationships, we need to consider the environment of a typical college (complex at best) and a collection of warring fiefdoms (at worst). Colleges typically offer services in silos, focusing on specific aspects of a student’s path to success such as academic advising, career services, developmental education, etc.

Communication channels are also siloed, with student communication getting trapped in email accounts, text messages, face-to-face conversations and even social media accounts. The departmental structure and communication technology together prevents colleges from institutionalizing the kind of gestalt approach to student success that Tom Vander Ark needed and that all students can benefit from.

These silos are particularly troublesome when trying to serve the incredibly diverse students we see today. Fidelis argues that the best way to empathize with students is via thoughtful application of student personas. And the best way to measure our success with these students is not with the trailing indicators of value, like retention–after all, when they’ve dropped out it’s too late–but with a direct measure of value based on their willingness to repeat their decision via the Net Outcomes Score. (more…)

What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education?

August 10, 2016 by

What's NewNews and Thought Leadership

CBE Programs

  • The competency-based program at Texas A&M University—Commerce used predictive analytics to better understand transfer students and graduation rates, highlighting that CBE programs offer essential alternative pathways to support a wide range of student needs.
  • Rasmussen College received approval to offer competency-based degree programs in business management and accounting.

New Resources

CBE Book on Assessment
: A new book was published, titled Competency-based Education & Assessment: The Excelsior Experience, by Tina Goodyear, the Executive Director of the Center for the Assessment of Post-Traditional Learning at Excelsior College.

CBE Website Resource: Blackboard created a competency-based education research hub, which provides access to research and resources on competency education across different organizations.

CAEL Case Study: CAEL released a case study on Lord Fairfax Community College, focusing on its ‘Knowledge to Work’ initiative to establish new competency-based degree programs.

Publications (more…)

Organizing Around Competencies, Not Courses

July 20, 2016 by

LFCCLord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) a member of the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN), released this week. It’s a free resource to create personalized learning plans. According to LFCC’s press release, The portal lets learners document competencies they already have and monitor progress toward new ones. Once users set up their profile of preferences, a custom dashboard is provided called MyHigherEd where they can create a personalized learning plan. Learners can identify and track new educational activities to gain competencies and work towards a nationally-recognized occupational credential. Learner notes, saved searches, and preferred resources are stored and new materials of interest are highlighted.

Although I’m not familiar with all the tools being developed for personalized learning plans in higher education, I found this to be a great example of how the educational experience can be organized differently around a competency-based structure. The competencies for each certificate are pre-loaded (and others can be added), with options for different courses that will allow students to build those skills. This allows us to create exciting interdisciplinary courses and modules while still being very clear about which skills will be taught.

I also appreciate LFCC’s willingness to share the competencies that they consider as important to eight certificates, such as AAS in Health Information Management and Information Systems Technology with Cyber Security. It’s helpful for high schools to think about how the foundational skills in the academic disciplines can begin to align with specific career competencies.

Background From the Press Release


What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education?

July 12, 2016 by

What's NewNews from the Field

  • The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHMS) developed a cost tool related to developing competency-based education programs for institutions, with support from Lumina Foundation. This cost modelis designed to help institutional leaders unpack the activities, costs, and revenue related to starting and maintaining CBE programs. You can download the cost models in Microsoft Excel format as a blank worksheet  and a sample.
  • Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn could change the way employers choose future employees through online learning credentials. Higher education consultants say this pairing could change the competency game.
  • A recent EdSurge article featured an interview with Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc where he calls for higher education to back up its claims around purpose and learning.

New Reports


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