Competency-based education has many plusses. Still, it is worth taking a moment to get to know what to expect from this plan. Yes, let’s talk about what competency-based education (CBE) is. Then, let’s dig into a few quick pros and cons.
What is Competency-Based Education?
CBE focuses on the mastery of the subject and not how long it takes a learner to finish it. Competency-based education is popular in traditional hard skill careers, such as nursing and technical jobs.
Advantages of CBE
Students move at their own pace
CBE lets learners move at their own pace. As students show mastery in the skill, they move to the next set of skills. Students are freed from having to sit through content they already know. CBE lets students dig into the content they have a difficult time learning. Students can practice until the skill is achieved. Students can unlock the content they need when they are ready for the next level. They spend the time mastering the skills they need. Most CBE does not let the students advance until they get the score needed to unlock the next series of content.
Ensures students learn all that they are meant to learn
Therefore, it’s a personalized learning experience that ensures all content is included. CBE ensures that all the content that needs to be covered is covered. More importantly, competency-based education ensures students can use the content. Students need to learn essential and basic knowledge and skills in a field.
Skills are demonstrated
Most importantly, the draw of CBE is the “real-world” experience it provides students. Unlike traditional courses, CBE students spend time in the field. Learners must show how they will apply what they learn in the field. Students take hands-on courses and labs. Skill mastery is gained by applying classroom topics as they advance in the field. Instructors and mentors intervene and correct students when they make mistakes.
Schools can track student progress
Besides that, CBE lets schools track how well the students are learning. Admins can run reports that show learning has happened. Faculty can see what competencies have been met. Instructors can see what competencies are open. Teachers can push individual students to practice exercises in the skills each one needs. Instructors can form cohort groups based on the competency level of the students. Teachers can group high-achieving students. They can also partner a high-achieving student with one who needs a boost. CBE lets schools pre-test and post-test students to show growth.
Likewise, competency-based education lets administrators analyze program gaps. CBE lets schools and companies talk to each other in a common language. Schools are able to align their competencies to corporate competencies to show that the students are ready to meet job requirements. For example, a nursing school program would identify the competency nursing students must achieve before they are qualified to perform as a nurse in the field. Still, there are disadvantages to CBE.
Disadvantages of CBE
Students might procrastinate
Students may be more prone to put off learning until the last minute in CBE programs. Competency programs that rely on vast eLearning components may see students rush to finish near the end of the term. This issue creates additional stress on staff and faculty who support students. Students who have the entire curriculum laid out before them may not be motivated to work and complete the content.
That last 10% can demotivate students
Yet, students who have gained 90% mastery in a topic may find themselves spending a disproportionate amount of time on the last skill. This relationship with the computer algorithm may be frustrating to students who wrestle with the fine-tuning of a skill. They may have mastered the skill enough for their application but not met the strict standard put in by the instructor.
Tricky to implement
Competency-based education is complex and difficult to implement. Administrators need to train their staff on how to create competency-aligned curriculum. Institutions need to ensure their competency aligns with corporate and industry competency models. CBE asks colleges to prepare a precise plan before implementation. Institutions must take the time to identify competencies at a granular level. Not only that, these courses and curriculum need to meet other standards and regulations. That’s a lot to ask.
It’s not for everyone
Likewise, CBE does not fit the preferred learning style of many students. Some students do not learn best in a competency-based program. Still, there is an opportunity for schools to create competency-based programs using a variety of instructional styles. CBE lets institutions partner within their communities to build programs that serve a variety of needs. The students learn. The company gets help. The college gets access to the latest field developments. One of the downsides of CBE is that it tends to focus on immediate learners’ needs. By building partnerships, CBE lets institutions expand into making courses that prepare learners for a variety of yet-to-be jobs.
Can get pricey to make
Schools may need to hire help in creating the programs. The development costs are worth it. In the end, a high-quality program that meets the needs of the student, school, and community is worth it. Still, if institutions do not take the time to plan, upfront problems can arise. Students may find that course credits may not transfer to other institutions.
In sum, the time needed to create a quality competency-based education program is worth it. Disadvantages exist for each institution when creating CBE. Yet, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. However, those involved in the creation of the programs need to know what they are doing.