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ERIC Number: ED566654
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Jun
Pages: 22
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
The Student Experience: How Competency-Based Education Providers Serve Students. AEI Series on Competency-Based Higher Education
Baker, Rachel B.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
The rise of competency-based education (CBE) has redefined what college looks like for a growing number of students. The basic idea underlying CBE is simple: programs award credit based on demonstrated student competencies rather than on the amount of time a student has spent in a given course. Recent advances in technology, including online courses, computer adaptive education, interactive tutoring and mentoring, and the analysis of big data, have only added to CBE's potential. But CBE models have dramatic implications for how schools serve students, and those changes can affect student success and scalability. Unfortunately, it is still not clearly understood how students actually experience education in a CBE model--that is, the day-to-day process of learning, assessment, and progression. In this paper, Baker describes how some of the most prominent CBE providers have designed their programs to meet students' needs. Baker examines CBE models in comparison to the familiar phases of the traditional college experience at four-year institutions: recruiting students, starting a program, earning credits, and interacting with others. This paper highlights how CBE programs invert the structure and choice of traditional higher education. The most clearly defined components of traditional higher education programs (like schedule and timing of classes, time to degree, course materials, course requirements, and the number of credits that must be earned at the institution) are much less structured in CBE programs. In contrast, the components of traditional higher education programs that are typically the most flexible and able to be personalized (like choice of major, choice of classes within majors, and learning objectives within individual courses) are often fixed in CBE programs. These differences are important for a few reasons. First, recent research has convincingly shown that the structure of academic programs can have large effects on students' performance and success. More intensive examination of how these factors affect student success is necessary as CBE programs expand. Second, the unique structures of these programs mean that they can reach traditionally disenfranchised groups of students. Still needing examination are how successful these programs are at reaching new markets. Finally, these programs can increase efficiency in the sector by providing credit for prior learning. This paper provides an in-depth look at the promising features of these programs and the potential shortcomings of this new form of higher education.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1150 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-862-5800; Fax: 202-862-7177; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), Center on Higher Education Reform (CHER)
Identifiers - Location: Colorado; New York (Albany)