Competency-Based Education in Higher Education Webinar Follow-Up Questions

On October 9, the College and Career Readiness and Success Center hosted the Webinar, “Competency-Based Education in Higher Education”. This Webinar featured a panel who discussed implementation of competency-based education (CBE) in institutions of higher education, as well as important policy and practice considerations.  A brief summary of the Webinar is available here and the video archive is available on YouTube.

In this post, presenters Becky Klein-Collins, Director of Research for the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL); Dr. Sandy Cook, System Director of Learn on Demand through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS); and Dr. Sally Johnstone, Vice President for Academic Advancement at Western Governors University (WGU) respond to questions submitted by participants.

What are your favorite/recommended resources you would suggest to help introduce faculty to competency-based education?

Sandy Cook: My favorite resource to recommend which can help introduce faculty to CBE is through exposure to a variety of techniques for authentic assessments.  KCTCS has offered several day-long authentic assessment workshops where faculty actually engage in hands-on experiences with developing authentic assessments aligned with officially approved KCTCS course competencies.  The faculty learn that assessments are basic for a successful competency-based education program.

Sally Johnstone: Internal leadership seems to be the best starting point.  The literature on CBE is weak, but a 2010 monograph is accessible for faculty – Student Learning as Academic Currency published by the American Council for Education (ACE).

Becky Klein-Collins: For further reading, I would recommend CAEL’s 2012 monograph – Competency-Based Degree Programs in the U.S.. In addition, CAEL just produced a publication which is a collection of articles on CBE.

What ideas or recommendations can you share so competency-based programs can be scaled up in higher education institutions across the country?

Sandy Cook: To scale up in higher education institutions, faculty need to be strongly involved in developing measureable course competencies in programs and designing authentic assessment techniques to accurately measure students’ mastery of content.

Sally Johnstone: Several foundations are examining policies and practices at the state and national levels that should help in the next few years.  Congressional action on higher education may also have some impact on CBE scaling.

Becky Klein-Collins: On scaling issues, I suggest reading Amy Laitinen’s Cracking the Credit Hour.

What experience or recommendations can you share about using competency-based education with students and adults with disabilities?

Sandy Cook: The benefit of CBE for individuals with disabilities is no different from the benefit for others, as long as the content and assessments are accessible and meet ADA compliance standards.

Sally Johnstone: At WGU we use adaptive technologies when needed by students with disabilities.  We seek to develop all of our systems to be accessible.  CBE can offer all people greater flexibility than is the case for traditional on-line programs.  In that sense it is highly attractive to people with disabilities.

During the webinar, data was shared that showed students who had workplace experience transcripted for college credit were more likely to finish a degree. What are the opportunities and implications for veterans? Are there similar data available that looks specifically at how veterans are able to receive credit for their past experience?

Becky Klein-Collins: There is a lot of information on veterans and prior learning assessments. There is a 2010 CAEL publication that looks at this – Duty, Honor, Country… & Credit. Many veterans can get college credit most easily by having their military transcripts reviewed; ACE provides credit recommendations for most military training and occupations. In addition, there are many states that have established policies directing state institutions to accept ACE credit recommendations for their military training and experience. Some of these are profiled in this document.

Kiana Abram is a research assistant with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center.

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