Competency-based education, which focuses on the mastery of learning outcomes rather than on academic achievement through fixed time structures, is an approach that has the potential to offer learners an efficient, less costly path to a college degree, employability, and enhanced professional skills. This is particularly important to the 36 million Americans who have achieved significant prior learning and/or some college education, but have not completed a degree.
While competency-based education has been gaining attention, the question still remains: has this attention translated into productive action? Many institutional leaders are struggling to understand competency-based education, determine how it could fit into their larger teaching and learning strategies, and initiate meaningful discussions toward productive innovation.
Recognizing these challenges, we are collaborating with the American Council on Education (ACE) on research that advances a shared understanding of competency-based education and supports the national dialogue on its potential benefits. We’re gathering expertise from multiple areas to clarify the vocabulary around competency-based education, identify effective approaches, and address barriers to adoption.
Blackboard has recently conducted research on competency-based education program growth and models. ACE has long been a leader in evaluating alternative credentialing methodologies. This background serves as a basis for this new, joint research. We’re investigating how competency-based education can effectively include the assessment of prior learning and the use of digital badges to record, certify, and accumulate evidence of a learner’s competency achievements. And we’re tackling tough questions, such as how institutional and national education policies and practices need to evolve in the changing landscape of educational delivery and attainment.
Part of this work will be available later this month, with a series of inclusive discussions throughout the process and a public forum in early fall 2014. Check back here to learn more about why CBE and badges are important, definitions of key terms, approaches from diverse institutions already implementing competency-based education, and recommendations for addressing barriers to adoption. Enable your institution to take an informed approach to competency-based education and tailor your own innovations to address your institutional and program goals.