Competency-based education offers an interesting alternative to the more traditional credit-hour-based system of learning in higher education. In this system, college students progress when they prove that they’ve mastered the subject matter, whether that may be faster or slower than their classmates.

Competency-based education has received a great deal of attention as a disruptive innovation which promises to raise course quality and student completion.

Why competency-based education?

Today, not enough students who begin their college journey end up graduating, which can set them back even further than when they began. The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that the college graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students seeking a bachelor’s degree is approximately 60 percent.

Aside from the tremendous cost-saving advantage, competency-based education  makes students curators of their own education and allows them to study and progress at their own pace. It also gives them the freedom to only take courses that are relevant to them and the jobs they’re seeking.

Preparing our students

In his recent Washington Post article, “Why businesses need to look beyond the four-year degree,” Cengage’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Hansen explores the benefits of competency-based education and urges business and higher education leaders to work together to identify requirements to help students get good jobs.

One of our goals as educators should be to help students get good jobs. While competency-based education will never replace traditional education, Hansen says, educators need to advance the competency-based model for those students who don’t fit the standard model–and who might need a more flexible college experience.

Striving to offer non-academic credentials, such as professional licensing and on-the-job training, can also help to provide well-rounded complements to traditional academic offerings.

Is competency-based education a needed innovation? Does it have a place alongside traditional education? Share your ideas with us below.