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Research Report

Three Myths About Competency-Based Education

August 7, 2015, By Megan Adams, Managing Director, Research

Based on lessons learned from early movers in CBE, this publication helps members separate the hype about CBE from the costs and the risks of launching a new program.

To help members make informed decisions about CBE launch—as well as educate campus stakeholders on the challenges inherent to the CBE business model—we provide an in-depth analysis of the three predominant myths about CBE.

Download the complete report or explore the highlights below to break down popular perceptions about competency-based education.

Defining competency-based education

While there are many definitions and models of CBE across the higher education landscape, the predominant definition in the field for full-fledged CBE programs is that they are characterized by two elements:

1. Credit for competencies, not seat time

CBE programs award academic credit based on mastery of clearly defined competencies, rather than on “seat time.” In traditional education, time is fixed and mastery is variable. In CBE, mastery is fixed and time is variable.

2. Technology-enabled personalization

In CBE programs, technology affords each student a distinct pathway through content based on what they know/don’t know and where they need most support—“personalization at scale.” There are two main types of personalization in CBE programs: personalized pacing and personalized content.

Learn More About the Definition of Competency-Based Education

Myth 1: Students and employers are demanding CBE

In reality, students are not searching for CBE and few know what it means. Employers’ interest in CBE is no different than their engagement with traditional programs.

More About Student and Employer Demand for CBE Programs

Myth 2: CBE is faster and lower-cost for students

Most students progress at an average pace in CBE and end up paying tuition similar to traditional programs.

See More About CBE’s Cost to Students

Myth 3: CBE is lower-cost for instutitons

An immature vendor market and the cost of supporting self-paced learning make CBE programs more expensive to launch and to run than traditional programs.

How Much Will a CBE Program Cost Your Institution?

The CBE and PLA Playbook provides step-by-step guidance to determine whether launching a CBE program is the right fit for their institutions, tools to mitigate the costs and risks of launch, and resources to support continuous improvement in student screening and support.

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