What is Competency Based Education?

If you learn best by experiential methods or like to learn at your own pace, you may be a great candidate for Competency Based Education. The idea is not new; Montessori schools have long taught by allowing students to explore learning in their own time table. Online degree programs offer students the opportunity to earn degrees in a flexible format.

What is different about this type of education, also called “personalized learning?”

Types of Training Involved

Traditional degree programs utilize semester or quarter systems to schedule classes and offer courses in a certain order. That time constraint is missing from personalized learning. This type of education takes advantage of experiential, hands-on opportunities.

Classroom learning may be project-based or there may be a community-based program. Project-based learning involves a student, or group of students, working on a real-world problem in the classroom, organizing their own work and setting their own schedules for completing the project. The focus on this type of training is that students learn collaboration skills and retain actual experience learning longer. Community-based learning occurs when students participate in projects outside the classroom to solve problems in the community.

Who benefits Best from Competency Based Education?

This education model is best for students in their twenties to late middle age. The average age of a personalized education student is 37, according to NPR.org. These are students who have work experience and also have current careers. They may need to finish a degree or begin a degree program for their employment. Students who did not complete credits successfully in a traditional degree program can also recover the credits through these programs. The advantage is that they can get college credits for learning gained through job training and performance.

Are the Programs Widely Accepted?

In 2003 the federal government instituted a study of personalized learning that involved 350 institutions of higher education. The schools could offer these experimental programs without losing their eligibility for financial aid. The concept of “how much you learn, not how long it takes you to learn it” was popular with both students and educators.

The first university to offer the programs as a viable option was the University of Wisconsin, which had five degree programs available as personalized learning. The programs save time and money and allow technology to be utilized more efficiently. Teaching staff schedules become more flexible as a result as well.

Still, personalized learning has some “bugs” that must be eliminated. The biggest complaint among nay-sayers and proponents alike is the lack of a standardized assessment tool to make sure the degrees are not worthless, as were many of the online degrees earned in the dawn of distance education. To this end, the Lumina Foundation, which offers “brain games” to keep adults mentally agile, is developing a standardized assessment tool. The measurement would be in competencies, or skills, instead of grades earned obtaining credit-hours.

You may have to search to find a personalized degree program in your field. They are not offered by every university or college. You can find schools that have the programs through an Internet search, but remember that online education and personalized education are not synonymous. Online degrees still are based on semesters and quarters and may require a degree to be completed within a time framework. Still, if you are the type of person who learns best experientially, Competency Based Education might be a good degree path choice.

Related Resource: Ways That Veterans Can Get College Credit for Military Experience