How Ready Are You for Competency-Based Education? Key Questions to Ask From Models and Academic Strategies to Policies and Regulations

Still in its infancy, yet rapidly gaining momentum, competency-based education (CBE) is creating opportunities that are transforming the educational experience for everyone involved, from students to instructors to administrators.

CBE is disruptive, but in a good way – catering to students’ learning styles, allowing them to leverage prior knowledge and skills, evolving the role of instructors to act more as mentors, changing the way outcomes are measured, and even speeding time to degree completion.

That said, careful consideration and planning must take place in order for each of these key stakeholders to reign in the full benefits of CBE. If you are thinking of making a move to CBE, we encourage you to ask your team and your partners these key questions before you get started.

Institutional Readiness: Is your institution prepared and willing to take on CBE?

Consider who should be involved in the planning from a leadership and academic perspective, participating on the steering committee, leading the change management, assessing risk, and managing the details and timing.

Model Definition and Selection: How will you define your approach to CBE?

Various CBE models exist, but it’s up to you to define policies pertaining to credit hours, transfers, provisions for prior learning assessments, course requirements, course loads, pricing, and more.

Programs and Curriculum: What is your academic strategy?

Based on student demand and your core competencies, you’ll want to assess whether or not to repurpose existing content and programs, or innovate from the ground up. You’ll also want to consider credit or non-credit qualifications, degree attainment levels, measurable competencies, and an overall assessment strategy.

Financial Aid: Will you offer Title IV funding?

With so many students today receiving financial aid, consider whether or not your team has the expertise, time and resources to support and process Title IV for both CBE and traditional programs.

Service Model: What role will your faculty and administration have in serving CBE students?

With the role of faculty evolving in a CBE model, explore opportunities for instructors to lead and/or support curriculum and assessment design, advising and retention strategies, and content mentoring. Additionally, consider where and how to divide the workload for your student services and financial aid teams when it comes to adequately preparing students from administrative, funding and academic perspectives.

Policy: How will your rules need to change to accommodate a CBE model?

Consider how your regulate admissions, academic requirements, student finance and student services, and assess whether or not the same policies can be applied to CBE and traditional programs.

Technology: How will your LMS integrate with your other platforms?

Enabling your systems (LMS, SIS, FAM and CRM) to talk to each other will help you seamlessly manage important student information, including data and analytics necessary for federal reporting requirements.

Accreditation: How will you approach accreditation and other necessary approvals?

Given this new approach to measuring a student’s success through demonstrated competencies, make sure you have thought through and sought expert counsel when it comes to accreditation policies, state and programmatic approvals, and other US Department of Education requirements.

As is the case with most innovations in education, planning and preparation are key. That said, implementing CBE is still a learning process for most institutions that often requires flexibility and continual change.

Don’t be afraid to look for insight and advice from those who have been there firsthand – the early pioneers of CBE who know what works and what doesn’t. After all, the more you plan, the more questions you ask, and the more open you are, the more seamless the transition to CBE will be.

Kara Snyder

As the Director of Corporate Marketing, Kara brings nearly a decade of education marketing insights and experience to Helix Education. Before joining Helix, she worked in enrollment and affiliate marketing, undergraduate and graduate admissions, and student affairs. Kara earned her bachelor’s degree from Temple University.