Reflections of 2021 CBExchange by Pauline Valvo

Paula on trail near CBExchange


…the conference was a great experience and is highly recommended for any institutions looking to learn more about CB…

~Pauline Valvo, Vice President of Business Development

CBExchange 2021, hosted by C-BEN, in Austin, TX was a meaningful gathering of passionate, and engaged individuals, from a variety of institutions, united around C-BEN’s goals to grow demand for CBE, build capacity, and remove BEARiers (barriers), to make the design and delivery of CBE programs easier. With the range of presentations and activities, complete with a fun camp theme and explorer’s guide to collect badges, the conference definitely delivered on its promises.


Highlights and Key Themes

Lisa M. McIntyre-Hite, Vice President of Learning Innovation at Guild Education,  interviewed Paul LeBlanc, President & CEO of Southern New Hampshire University, who discussed his book, Students First: Equity, Access, and Opportunity in Higher Education, and reminded us that students don’t just want to belong, they want to matter.

  • To do CBE well is demanding and requires time and patience and it’s important to have the support of the administration and to be given time and space to execute the program.


Students don’t just want to belong, they want to matter.

~  Paul LeBlanc, SNHU

  • DEI came up often and we were reminded that while CBE is a pathway to increased equity, it’s crucial to keep equity in mind when designing programs and to include minority voices in the planning.
  • CBE is increasingly aligned to the job market. Many resources were shared for market research and program planning, such as IPEDS Data and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics .


Three Types of CBE Program and Courses

There are pros and cons to each, so plan wisely:

  • Credit based courses
  • Direct assessment (only 10-11 institutions approved for this)
  • Hybrid (New as of July 2021, for institutions already approved for direct assessment)


The Three Frameworks

Three frameworks were shared and discussed:


Other Themes Discussed

Soft skills, or power skills, or 21st century skills in programs

Authentic assessment came up repeatedly and was acknowledged as a challenging aspect of building CBE programs, along with the challenge of creating scalable prior learning assessments.

Many institutions shared their lessons learned and best practices from developing CBE programs. This is a great network of folks dedicated to sharing knowledge and advancing the field.

Several C-BEN collaboratives reported on the work they completed over the past 1-2 years:

  • The Equity Collaboratory shared their new model, the CBE Action Plan, designed to lead to greater equity in higher education — and ultimately in labor market outcomes.
  • Another collaborative, tasked with developing best practices for competency-based assessment, shared the new resource they developed that expands upon C-BEN’S Quality Framework for CBE Programs. They identified twelve hallmark assessment practices.


Final Thoughts

Overall, the conference was a great experience and is highly recommended for any institutions looking to learn more about CBE, who are already offering programs and wanting to gain deeper insight into best practices, and for those already well established and willing to share their lessons learned to help newly emerging programs succeed. The C-BEN community is welcoming and eager to help.




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