Rather than a single, dominant version of CBE, new 2016 survey data reveals a diversity of practice across a spectrum of schools, each formulating a version of CBE to meet their own unique challenges. A portrait of CBE has emerged as a menu of tools and practices, vs. a monolithic approach or linear path.
While CBE continues to capture the attention of many higher education institutions, the path toward broader scale and impact remains unclear. To better understand the state of CBE implementation and the prospects for mainstream growth, Eduventures and Ellucian have initiated a three-year longitudinal study of CBE in U.S. higher education.
This partnership has been designed to help higher education leaders interpret and better understand institutional experiences with CBE, as well as the varying degrees of CBE operational maturity. In April 2016, the American Council on Education (ACE) joined this effort as a strategic partner.
The 2016 survey was fielded between March and early June, 2016, and resulted in responses from more than 251 institutions. The survey reveals a diversity of practice across a spectrum of schools. In this context, a broad portrait of CBE emerges as a complex, and necessarily nuanced response to deepening enrollment and retention pressures, as well as meeting the needs of non-traditional learners.
The results underscore the need for institutions to carefully weigh the pros and cons of implementing CBE, and to proactively select which components make the most sense for their students and institute mission.
A primary goal of this project is to illuminate the range and diversity of how CBE is implemented across a spectrum of higher education institutions. Rather than suggest there is a single path forward for CBE aspirants, the 2016 data suggests that there are multiple ways in which institutions can leverage CBE in order to enhance learning and career opportunities for their students.
These institutions can serve as exemplars for other institutions, and point towards patterns of innovative design and practice. Each portrait represents a unique, yet tangible expression of how CBE can be operationalized in higher education.
University of Maine, Presque Isle (UMPI): Cohort-driven, Online and Blended Learning for Full-time, First-time Students The University of Maine, Presque Isle (UMPI) is organizing its educational approach around course-level learning outcomes, mapped to existing general education requirements, as well as workforce-focused degree and certificate requirements. UMPI has been exceedingly careful in making sure the design and operation of its program is transparent to its traditional student population. Unlike CBE programs at institutions focused on supporting non-traditional, adult learners, UMPI’s formula prioritizes clear and attainable outcomes for its students transitioning from high school to college. This approach is being developed in UMPI’s required general education courses, and also in workforce focused programs such as education, medical lab technology, athletic training, criminal justice, and social work.
Salt Lake Community College (SLCC): Self-Paced, Blended, Workforce-Readiness for Underserved Students Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) is an urban community college, serving over 60,000 diverse students across multiple locations in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. Following a two-year strategic planning process and the awarding of a Department of Labor, Round IV TAACCCT Grant, SLCC began implementing CBE as part of 20 certificate programs within its School of Applied Technology (SAT), to broaden access and strengthen support systems for underserved populations seeking entry into technical fields. So far ten of the programs have been successfully transitioned to CBE. SLCC’s experience with CBE illustrates how a large, public institution has adopted a “greenhouse” approach to experimenting with CBE in selected programs and courses. As part of a broader strategic plan, SLCC hopes to use these initial CBE projects as a springboard for implementing CBE in other SLCC schools and departments.
Valdosta State University (VSU): Self-Paced and Blended Learning for STEM Teacher Professional Development VSU is a mid-sized, regional, public university serving southwest Georgia. VSU’s CBE programs emphasize employer-driven outcomes and self-paced learning to improve employability for students within a small number of courses at its School of Education. This effort is part of a broader initiative to strengthen STEM teaching statewide, and is part of an effort throughout the University System of Georgia. In VSU’s case, the initial target population for CBE programming are teachers seeking licensure endorsements in STEM required by new Georgia Department of Education requirements.
Institutions are encouraged to carefully review this report and continue to track the work of
CAEL, and others focused on further analyses of how CBE can grow in scale and impact. Additionally, it will be important to monitor any new regulations from the U.S. Department of Education regarding financial aid regulations or additional experimental site development.
Institutions that participated in the survey receive a customized report benchmarking their results against stated goals and peer groups, providing an actionable blueprint for CBE development.
Over the next two years, Eduventures, Ellucian and ACE will continue examine the prospects for broader implementation and growth of CBE. While external factors, such as accreditation and financial aid, will affect the pace at which CBE expands, it is anticipated that CBE will be most shaped by institutional cultures. A sharper understanding of the accelerators and inhibitors of CBE implementation at institutional and sub-institutional level will be the focus of Year 2 of this study.
In addition to providing higher education leaders with data to improve decision making around CBE, Ellucian, Eduventures, and the American Council on Education are conducting this research as a way to contribute new insights to the CBE conversation taking place in the media—an exciting dialogue among educators, policymakers, and other industry leaders.
Two Reports Show Untapped Potential of Competency-Based Education - (EdSurge, 7/29/16)
New reports suggest promising role for competency-based education to help adult learners close knowledge gaps before beginning college-level work.
Could CBE change the face of continuing ed? – (Education Dive, Jarrett Carter, 7/27/16)
Adaptive learning and skill mastery could replace remedial coursework for adult and nontraditional learners.
CBE Interest High in Higher Ed; Complexity Holds Back Activation – (Campus Technology, Dian Schaffhauser, 7/27/16)
Schaffhauser explores the complexities of competency-based education, as reported in a recent study by Ellucian, Eduventures, and the American Council on Education.
Survey on Spread of Competency-Based Education – (Inside Higher Ed, 7/27/16)
A quick take on CBE research published by Ellucian, Eduventures, and the American Council on Education.