Every day, Higher Education leaders and reformers read or hear about “Competency-Based Education” or CBE, but precise definitions of CBE and clear guidance for implementing it are elusive.

Competency-Based Education

Until the past few years, only a handful of innovative institutions were defining and implementing CBE models. Today, there are over 600 institutions actively implementing or designing CBE programs. And there is energy and motivation to move fast. However, notwithstanding the numerous articles, blogs, and “playbooks” that have been written, questions and concerns about what exactly CBE is and how to implement it abound. Exactly how does Competency-Based Education differ from traditional models? Is there a “one-size-fits-all” CBE approach, or are there multiple viable approaches? What are the benefits of Competency-Based Education? What technology and curriculum resources are available to institutions as they implement Competency-Based Education? What software and infrastructure capabilities and partners exist to support Competency-Based Education? Perhaps the most vexing is how institutional learning infrastructures need to change to support CBE.

LearnLaunch 2016

LearnLaunch is an annual convening of thought leaders and forward thinkers in educational technology. The 2016 edition included provocative, insightful discussions of learning technology funding, the global education market, K-12 innovation, and—of course—Competency-Based Education. The CBE panel focused on the software and infrastructure needs of institutions implementing Competency-Based Learning. The panel included Tom Caswell (Learning Objects), Conall Ryan (Muzzy Lane), and Mark Miller (LearnLaunch). They provided important insights that clear the muddy CBE water and provide a framework for implementing CBE models at institutions of all types and sizes

CBE Infrastructure

When building a CBE program from scratch, the software infrastructure must be top of mind. Without starting with a clear technology game plan, institutions, faculty, and designers are bound to end up implementing their CBE programs on software that has to be glued and taped together to deliver an effective program. The key capabilities institutions need to consider when designing their CBE infrastructures software include:

  • The ability to design, map, and deliver tightly aligned competencies (capabilities), learning assessments, and learning activities (and related content)
  • The ability to either deeply integrate with or replace the LMS
  • Decision-enabled data gathering and analytics
  • Interoperability between the SIS, the LMS, courseware, deeply integrated with a Program System of Record
  • The ability to manage and populate a capability transcript or ePortfolio
  • The ability to curate and leverage Open Education Resources
  • Support accessible, mobile, anywhere, anytime learning

While there are certainly other infrastructure considerations for institutions implementing CBE, the panel’s guidance provides a great foundation for institutions trying to replace the CBE confusion with clarity.

Special thanks to Jon Mott for his contributions to this article.


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