Eduventures Spells out Myths and Misconceptions about Competency-Based Education

Over the last year and a half, we’ve talked a lot about different learning models, and specifically ways that Competency-Based Education (CBE) is transforming the teaching and learning process. As with any new concept, there is a period of buy-in and adjustment before there is full acceptance. According to a new post by Eduventures, that level of acceptance is growing, yet CBE myths and misconceptions still surface.

According to the Eduventures piece and the company’s conversations with more than 300 higher education leaders, below are the most popular myths and misconceptions about CBE, all of which analyst Brian Fleming met with interesting insight. We’ve added our own insights too (in orange, of course) given our extensive CBE experience.

  1. CBE is just a fad: Not necessarily as Eduventures estimates the CBE market to consist of “150 institutions enrolling 200,000 students.”

    Not at all!  CBE has been a feature of the educational landscape for 40 years, but advances in educational technology in addition to emerging ideas about curriculum reform are opening up new opportunities.

  1. CBE is not for everyone: Eduventures points out that “any institution committed to student success should also be committed to CBE.”

    Regardless of how we measure our outcomes as educators, we should always be considering how each of our students demonstrates competence.

  1. CBE is about skills, not abstract knowledge: While it has been traditionally associated with skills-based, job related evidence and outcomes, “CBE can (and should) also focus on the exploration of ideas, theories, and concepts, provided that what students encounter is also applied in a professional, academic, or personal context.”

    This is even true in the Humanities, as Paul Le Blanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University recently stressed in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education (  Again, the principles of CBE always return to the ways in which we can get students to demonstrate the skills and concepts we are teaching and application is as relevant to ethics and philosophy as is to the principles of business.

  1. CBE is only for adult learners: As learner demands and backgrounds evolve, “many types of institutions today are experimenting with CBE for traditional-age learners.”

    In fact, K-12 institutions are experimenting with CBE as well.

  1. CBE means uncoupling from the credit hour: Helping schools avoid the regulatory and logistical pitfalls of revamping the college credit structure, “CBE institutions, for instance, may opt simply to map competencies to credit hours through a process called credit hour equivalency.”

    For many institutions this is a workable first step to instituting a CBE program.

It is important that institutions deliver programs that result in strong, tangible student outcomes and adequately prepare students for the next step, be it on-the-job training, a promotion, or even an advanced degree. CBE can be a mechanism that supports those programs and students.

At Helix Education, we are uniquely qualified to help get your CBE programs up and running, providing CBE expertise and guidance in best practices. We can help you navigate operational and academic considerations so you can put a CBE program in place that adds value to the learning experience and produces results.