101: Competency-Based Education

101: Competency-Based Education

More and more of today’s students are adults, parents and older students who are learning outside the traditional academic calendar and often bring substantial work experience and existing college credit. Increasingly, some colleges and universities are measuring a student’s progress based on learning instead of time using competency-based education (CBE).

What is Competency-Based Education (CBE)?

Competency-based education (CBE) is a type of postsecondary education organized around learning outcomes rather than how much time a student spends in a classroom or in a course. Some colleges and universities have CBE curriculum and programs, while others organize the entire institution around this model.

How does CBE Work?

CBE is different from the traditional form of postsecondary education, which is largely built around how much time a student spends in a classroom or in a course. In the traditional instructional model, a student’s time is translated into a specific number of credit hours allocated toward their degree.

By contrast, students’ knowledge and skills in competency-based education are measured by demonstrating performance and understanding through a set of assignments and exercises, such as direct assessments, adaptive learning, and captured lectures. In a CBE model, students either demonstrate competency or they don’t. A student passes a competency once they have demonstrated—or mastered—a required skill.

Since some students may learn concepts more quickly than others, CBE allows students to learn at a personalized pace. Through a CBE model, students do not accumulate credit hours; they move toward their degree or credential by demonstrating the required competencies.

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