What Is CBE (Competency-Based Education) And Is It Right For You?

By Monica Wells of http://www.bizdb.co.uk/

Competency-based Education (CBE) is the talk of the town in the American education sector – CBE programs are increasingly popular and academic institutions respond to this growing need for affordable and skill-oriented education by creating online programs and courses that follow the pragmatic approach to learning fostered by CBE.

Before deciding whether you’d like to try this relatively novel learning methodology, you should know what CBE actually is, how it differs from traditional high school or college learning programs, and what are its main advantages in the learning process. Here are some essential things everyone interested in their education should know about CBE.

Is CBE right for you?

Is CBE right for you?

What is CBE?

Competency-based education is a system of teaching, grading and assessment, in which academic credit is awarded on the basis of mastering some specific and clearly defined competencies. CBE is nothing new – in fact, this learning methodology is common in the areas of skill-based or kinetic learning, where students work on one small competency at a time, the sum of which makes up for one big goal. Once this specific competency is mastered, students move on to another one – and each of them does it at his or her own pace.

This kind of learning is radically different from the traditional seat time and credit hour system. It’s worth noting that CBE programs usually recognize prior skills and learning, even if the learning didn’t take place during the course. CBE is focused on the learning itself, not the grades, and fosters student engagement through empowerment, since it’s they who control the learning process and establish their learning time frame.

How Does CBE Work?

CBE programs are built upon specific competencies and other well-defined learning objectives. The buildings blocks of a learning goal tend to be small, but thanks to this the feedback is quick and regular – it becomes a part of the learning experience itself, rather than just an assessment at the end of the course. Students can proceed only if they show adequate mastery of that small objective – if they fail to present satisfactory results, they receive additional instruction, academic support and wider time frames to help them achieve the standards required to proceed.

Why Is CBE Important Right Now?

As mentioned before, CBE is nothing new – it’s been a part of nontraditional universities and targeted programs for a long time. In the late 1990s, Western Governors University was launched to follow exclusively the CBE style. Recent years saw the development of CBE programs at all levels of instruction, including high school and college, with CBE being recognized by the US Department of Education and other bodies as a valid form of instruction.

The current concerns about the rising cost of education and doubts whether graduates are really prepared to face the hard reality of today’s overcrowded job market have all led CBE back to focus. CBE programs make the most from online learning environment, reducing the time and cost of achieving credentials required for professional success. CBE focuses on concrete skills rather than abstract knowledge, and creates an environment in which time is variable and the learning objectives are clear and fixed.

Who Can Benefit From CBE?

Research has shown that students facing challenges that are demanding, but still within their reach, feel more engaged and motivated. CBE works for all learning styles and paces – students who learn quickly are able to move fast through the learning objective and avoid being bored, and those who need more time to properly master the competencies won’t feel frustrated.

In the CBE environment, learning takes place not only in the classroom – the programs tend to be less linear than traditional ones, allowing for an amount of flexibility for the students. Once the students complete a program, they can be sure to have met all the required standards for obtaining a title or diploma – in CBE, learning gaps are successfully avoided.

Those who can benefit most from CBE are adults who had some college experience, but don’t hold a degree – a striking figure of an estimated 37 million Americans. Thanks to the practical modalities of CBE learning, they can easily come back to school and earn their degree, improving their chances at a better job.

What Are the Disadvantages of CBE?

CBE promotes individual learning pace, rendering the whole learning experience less social than the one promoted by the traditional education. Moreover, institutions that would like to introduce CBE programs will need to completely redesign their curriculums, dividing them into small measurable learning objectives.

This new model of learning will also require substantial changes in learning management systems and student support. Nowadays, the competencies achieved within CBE programs are still limited and until institutions agree on some standard levels of competency, students will find it hard to transfer their credits from one school or college to another.

The comeback of Competency-based Education was powered by several factors – the various challenges experienced by the sector of higher education, as well as the emergence of new teaching models and technologies. Thanks to CBE, higher education gained a chance to reinvent itself and serve very specific, professionally-oriented purposes. By providing accessible education, CBE has the potential to improve the lives of many Americans today.


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