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The competency-based education approach allows students to advance based on their ability to master a skill or competency at their own pace regardless of environment. This method is tailored to meet different learning abilities and can lead to more efficient student outcomes.

Articles, Papers, Portals and Reports

7 Things You Should Know About Competency-Based Education, ELI 7 Things You Should Know. February 2014. Competency-based education (CBE) awards academic credit based on mastery of clearly defined competencies. CBE replaces the conventional model in which time is fixed and learning is variable with a model in which the time is variable and the learning is fixed.

Meeting Students Where They Are: Profiles of Students in Competency-Based Degree Programs, Center for American Progress, November 2013. This reports discusses students participating in a competency-based education program that tracks their progress by measuring the knowledge and skills they have acquired. This report outlines the positive qualities of competency-based learning and identifies commonalities among student experiences that can inform the policy priorities for those looking to expand and reform postsecondary educational offerings.

When Success Is the Only Option: Designing Competency-Based Pathways for Next Generation Learning, iNACOL, November 2010. This paper is an introduction to competency-based pathways, a necessary condition to realizing the potential of next generation learning. The most important finding from this investigation is that competency-based pathways are a reengineering of our education system around learning—a reengineering designed for success, in which failure is no longer an option.

Clearing the Path: Creating Innovation Space for Serving Over-Age, Under-Credited Students in Competency-Based Pathways, iNACOL, December 2010. This paper provides guidance on creating competency-based approaches for over-age, under-credited students who have fallen off the track toward graduation. Drawing on a wide range of expertise, this paper explores how states can create space for innovation, including design principles, minimum policy conditions, and options for moving forward.

Competency-Based Learning or Personalized Learning. This U.S. Department of Education topic page includes links to various states and districts putting CBL programs into action.

Schools and Programs

College for America, NGLC Grantee. Focused on “unconfident learners”—those who are familiar with educational failures, unsure of their abilities, or balancing the demands of work and family—the College for America program of Southern New Hampshire University is a self-paced online associate’s degree program with no courses, no credit hours, no traditional faculty, and no grades, offered at a low student cost. The program encourages mentors in the workplace or the local community; uses a set of key competencies defined, in part, by employers; and connects each student to a coach who helps chart their path through the competencies.

Kentucky Community and Technical College System, NGLC Grantee. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is transforming an existing online program by using linear, competency-based course modules to increase student success, degree completion, and affordability. Students move swiftly and sequentially from one course module to the next without breaks between semesters in the Direct2Degree program.

The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program, NGLC Grantee. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), South Texas College, Texas A&M University–Commerce, and the College for All Texans Foundation are launching this new bachelor of applied science (BAS) degree program in fall 2013. The program uses a competency-based, year-round model with flat-rate tuition such that students can work through as many courses within a seven-week period as their schedules allow. Students advance based on showing competency in the subject area rather than hours in class.

NAU Personalized Learning. Northern Arizona University received accreditation approval to enroll students for degrees in computer information technology, liberal arts, and small business administration that will include a flat fee of $2,500 for each six months of unlimited credits and self-paced learning. There are no semesters in the open-entry, competency-based learning program.

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