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2014: The Year of Competency-Based Education

As the dust settles from the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) hype, higher education is ramping up to embrace a significantly different learning method.

Competency-based learning is not new in the world of higher education, but many institutions have yet to begin focusing more on students’ skill mastery than traditional seat-time.

According to Inside Higher Ed’s Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers, 38 percent of provosts at private non-profit institutions, 55 percent at public institutions and 64 percent at for-profit institutions agree that competency-based education has the potential to increase the number of degree holders in the U.S.

The survey showed that the rise of competency-based learning is coinciding with the fall of MOOCs. Only 18 percent of provosts across all sectors said they are considering offering credit for MOOCS, while 63 percent of provosts said they do not support this idea.

“Last year was the year of the MOOC,” Amy McQuigge, coordinator of Open Education at Empire State College, told The EvoLLLution in a recent interview. “This is the year of the competency-based education [model].”

In response to the U.S. Department of Education’s call for ideas to cut down on the high costs of attending postsecondary institutions, a group of 16 postsecondary institutions and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning banded together and issued a paper, “Experimental Sites Concept Paper: Competency-Based Education,” detailing their proposed experiments using a competency-based learning model.

The experiments proposed in the paper include determining federal definitions of attendance and satisfactory academic progress and changing how federal financial aid is awarded through time-based measures such as the credit hour. They also suggested making federal aid available to programs that incorporate both competency-based and time-based models, rather than one or the other.

“We believe competency-based education represents a tremendous opportunity to better serve many students who are not well-served by traditional higher education, particularly working adults,” the paper states.