Inspiration for the Incubator: NGLC's Breakthrough Grants

In the summer of 2013, a select group of institutions that share a commitment to making significant transformations of this kind joined together to form the inaugural cohort of NGLC’s Breakthrough Models Incubator (BMI). The Incubator is designed to build on the Breakthrough Models concept, with the goal of accelerating the development and implementation of breakthrough models. Participating institutions share the goal of radically improving both operational productivity and student outcomes.

Cohort 2 of the Incubator is making exciting progress toward nine new CBE-focused programs.

“Our team is stronger, and more capable of, performing the BMI process elements. The experience expanded team member thinking. We were able to see broader possibilities and it built our innovation, creativity and design capabilities. We've used these process elements in other college initiatives and built a common vocabulary and experience set for team." –Phillip Needles, Dean of Business and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Montgomery County Community College

CBE Focus for the 2015 Cohort

A second cohort will focus on competency-based education (CBE) models, which reward students for the skills they acquire rather than the time they spend in class.

Now is an opportune time to develop competency-based education programs. Institutions like the University of Wisconsin and Northern Arizona University are stepping into the arena offering to offer degrees that are based on directly assessing what students know and can do, rather than awarding degrees based on seat time. Further, the Department of Education is preparing to use legislative authority to approve experimental sites which include competency-based models through the First-n the World program.

The Vision for Success

Outcomes that define success for the Incubator include:

  • an expanded field of institutions launching technology-enabled, CBE models collaborating with each other to advance their common needs
  • creative, performance-focused business models that are institutionally sustainable and that enable, rather than obstruct, the redesigned learning models’ prospects of succeeding and expanding
  • strategic use of information technology, including analytics and performance management systems, to provide continuous quality improvement and customized supports and to optimize retention and completion efforts
  • development and dissemination of documentation on best practices supporting the transition to CBE
  • a constructive, informed dialogue with accreditors and other agencies resulting in clarity for regulators and flexibility for innovators
  • degree programs signaling an institution-wide commitment to CBE progression rather than a seat-time/credit hours progression through the program of study
  • embedded assessment within the curriculum and summative assessments that demonstrate both depth and breadth of learning
  • learning science research to develop effective, targeted, and personalized learning environments
  • blended learning and/or supported online learning environments to increase effectiveness while improving affordability, particularly for underserved learners who benefit from combinations that provide interpersonal interaction with flexibility
  • strategies to bridge the gaps between high school and college and accelerate high school students’ progression toward high-quality postsecondary degrees.