What Is Competency-Based Education?

In a traditional higher ed environment, progress is measured in credit hours. If a student passes his or her classes, they get credit for the amount of “hours” taken. So in a typical semester a full-time student might get 15 credit hours if they pass all of their classes.

But competency-based education is different. Instead of measuring student progress by how many credit hours they complete, competency-based education measures progress by whether or not students have mastered “competencies”—the skills or knowledge required for a given area of study.

If you can remember sitting through a class in college that you felt was too easy, or simply a review for you, then you may already understand some of the benefits that competency-based education offers. If a student can show that they’ve mastered the competencies for a given course, then they are given credit for it. They don’t have to sit through 15 weeks of classes if they can prove their competence in the subject matter.

This is a big deal for a few reasons. For one, it’s a time and money saver for many students. This is especially true for adults who have been in the workforce and are coming back to school to obtain a degree. Many times, they require a degree for advancement at work, and although they may have experience and knowledge in the subject matter, they still have to sit through all the classes in the curriculum. With competency-based education, they have the ability to prove their competency in different areas, saving them time and helping them get their degree faster.

And competency based learning can even be helpful for those taking the traditional higher ed route. In many cases, lecture courses in the first year or so of college may be too easy for some students, or a review of material. For other students, they may be quite challenging. Rather than sit through a schedule of lectures that may not be moving at the pace required by individual students, competency-based learning allows students to learn at their own pace, while professors guide learning and lead discussions.

As you might imagine, one of the most important aspects of competency based education is the development of clear, relevant competencies. Even when these competencies have been established, there has to be assessment to ensure that those are the right measurements of student learning.

Still, these challenges may be worth it if competency-based education can provide students with a more flexible learning pace that accommodates different levels of knowledge and skill.

The world of higher education is changing rapidly thanks to new educational innovations, as well as developments in the technology used on campus. At N2N, our goal is to make sure that all of the tech on campus works in concert, providing students with the best learning environment possible. Give us a call today if you’d like to learn more about how we can help your higher ed institution.