5 Points on How Higher-Ed Leaders Can Develop Competency-Based Education

competency-based education student studies

Colleges and university leaders face challenges as college enrollment numbers have dwindled. Many potential learners need to upskill quickly and do not desire to attend a traditional college program. Other students want a degree but lack the time and support to attend college. Other potential students confront barriers like previous college failure or fear they are not college material. Thus, leaders strategize. They develop different modes of instruction like competency-based education. These five points aid higher-ed leaders in developing a competency-based education (CBE) for their colleges.


1.) Higher-Ed Leaders Present Clear Messaging and Define Competency-Based Education

When developing a program, as students hear competency-based education, it may confuse them. They might not understand how it works. Therefore, college leaders must develop clear messaging when making a competency-based education program. Explain how the program works. Deans, curriculum specialists, and instructional designers collaborate when developing messaging for prospective and current students. All internal stakeholders should understand the messaging. A college’s materials clearly define “their” CBE program, such as the quality, the assessments, the structure, and the instruction. Without clear messaging, students could be deterred from enrolling in a program.


2.) College Leaders Create Measurable Competencies for CBE

Students achieve mastery when completing CBE courses. Thus, leaders create quantifiable competencies supporting learning outcomes. It shows the college’s excellence in academic standards. The C-Ben’s Quality Framework recommends institutions collaborate with communities, businesses, subject matter experts, and learners to define the competencies. Therefore, leaders should understand the learner experience for their target students and how to tailor the curriculum to their needs. Moreover, leaders produce evaluations to review the effectiveness of their competencies. Along with assessments and student supports like remediation, these central attributes aid leaders when developing specific, measurable competencies for their colleges.


3.) Provide Flexibility for Competency-Based Education

Therefore, higher-ed leaders design courses for flexibility. For instance, South Texas College offers a 7-week term rather than a traditional term of 16 weeks. After students complete a competency or achieve mastery of a skill, they may advance to a new class or subject. The accelerated program provides short segments to complete work quickly. Additionally, Purdue Global University’s ExcelTrack™ utilizes single-credit courses, which students complete at their own pace. Thus, students can take as many one-credit courses during a 10-week term for a flat fee. Students manage their classes using personalized learning to complete their studies. Thus, college leaders integrate flexibility when designing courses for their CBE programs.


4.) Build and Use Existing Business Partnerships

The employers and workers endure a continuous challenge—skills. With technologies advancing, with challenges like business disruption, businesses need employees with multiple skills and skill levels. Thus, employees who want to upskill or reskill desire to remain relevant in their positions. They desire better jobs with better pay. Companies worry about their bottom line and need skilled employees to pivot, expand, or survive. Thus, higher ed leaders review their existing relationships with businesses. By collaborating, both parties determine the credentials needed for an employer to hire a graduate. Besides that, this collaboration shapes how the employer can help students on their learner journey with internships or other real-world experiences for a CBE program.


5.) Higher-Ed Leaders Determine the Vision of Their Competency-Based Education Program

Not all competency-based education will be the same. Thus, college leaders seek out the best practices for their colleges to develop a competency-based program. Leaders determine flexibility and cost. They think about which current programs match a competency-based education framework. Therefore, they strategize how to distinguish their programs from other institutions. Along with community members, staff, and other internal stakeholders, leaders develop the vision for their CBE program and plan how it will work.


To conclude, higher-ed leaders consider different characteristics when developing a CBE program for their colleges. Employers seek better-skilled workers, and workers desire better jobs or pay. Colleges leaders direct their teams to create programs that are flexible with measurable competencies. Working with business partners, they produce a program ensuring graduates will be hired. Yet, the messaging must be clear when college leaders create their competency-based educational program.


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