Competency-based education (CBE) is a new and growing field that creates new challenges, such as lack of technical solutions and third-party vendor relationships.
A report from nonprofit Public Agenda explores these challenges through a survey of educators, policy makers, and students across approximately 170 institutions. According to Public Agenda, the survey is the largest of its kind ever distributed in the U.S.
The survey asks respondents about their opinions and adoption policies related to each of 10 elements that the Competency-Based Education Network has identified as best practices for successful CBE programs.
Consensus on need for feedback, accessibility
CBE focuses on how well a student understands the subject and commands the skills required in the course. Students don't pass the course by sitting for hours in a lecture hall, but by proving that they have mastered the content.
More than 90% of respondents agree that best practices for CBE programs include providing meaningful feedback to students and ensuring programs are equally accessible across all student demographics. But despite the popularity of these elements, many institutions have not yet adopted them. For example, only 69% of respondents indicate that they provide meaningful feedback to students.
The element with least consensus is flexible staff roles and structures; only 67% of respondents say this is a critical element of CBE programs.
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Crucial vendor challenges
Third-party vendor relationships pose significant challenges for many of the respondents. CBE programs have become so popular so quickly that vendor services and technology simply haven't had time to catch up, Tara García Mathewson writes for Education Dive. A lack of automated data systems that are compatible with others also frustrated respondents.
Almost all of the challenges respondents face, such as confidence in credentials or pricing models, "are rooted in lack of technical solutions," says Laurie Dodge, vice provost at Brandman University (García Mathewson, Education Dive, 1/14; Hart, Campus Technology, 1/13; Public Agenda report, December 2015; Stansbury, eCampus News, 1/13).
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