Competency-Based Education in College Settings

Competency-Based Education in College Settings

Published: Oct 31, 2016
Publisher: Mathematica Policy Research
Associated Project

Hand in Hand: Community Colleges Help Build Career Pathways for Dislocated and Low-Skilled Workers

Time frame: 2012-2017

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

Key Findings

Key Findings: 

  • Consortium-wide, 35% of participants completed their program; their employment rates started and remained high, and wages for employed participants increased after program enrollment at a higher rate than the national average.
  • Participants completed programs quickly, taking, on average, less than two terms to complete their first industry certification preparatory course and approximately four terms to complete certificates and degrees.
  • Differences in participants’ and nonparticipants’ credential completion rates varied by college and may reflect unobservable differences between the groups.
  • Curriculum development was more collaborative and consistent than in traditional programs and relied on instructional designers and tools to support standardization.
  • Industry partners informed curriculum development, including the competencies needed, and new programs were developed in response to employer input.
Competency-based education (CBE) has ignited a great deal of public interest in recent years because it allows students to learn and progress at a flexible pace and holds promise for filling workforce skills gaps. What makes it different? First and foremost, it measures learning rather than class time. Students move through material independently, usually in preparation for specific jobs, progressing when they demonstrate mastery of required knowledge and skills (called competencies). Students set their own schedule rather than being tied to defined semester or term start dates, or class meeting times, and can move quickly through material they already know, potentially accelerating completion.

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