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The task of creating a competency map has some complex requirements.

  • Definitions: No standard definition of competency exists; neither does a commonly accepted process for defining competencies (and competency maps) exist.
  • Group process: Further, a competency map, in most of its common uses, requires that many different stakeholders contribute to its creation. Given that, TALC should operate off of a central, shared, continuously-updated repository.
  • Sharing information: Finally, many organizations and professionals want to be able to easily share, publish, and compare their competency maps with others. This means that TALC should also use standard representation formats (e.g., some defined XML schema) for representing the nodes and connections within the map while also using a standard vocabulary for representing specific competencies in a specific field (e.g., commonly accepted accounting or nursing competencies).

Despite the g​rowing number​ of institutions experimenting with CBE programs, the EE Labs team at ExtensionEngine has found no simple tools available to assist with these tasks. Based on interviews with CBE program designers and administrators, Excel and Google Docs are the most common tools used. A few of the most advanced CBE LMS platforms have competency authoring tools, but often programs begin authoring competencies prior to selecting a LMS.

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This project is our attempt to address the above problem. The goal is to develop open source software in collaboration with other groups interested in CBE. Toward that end, we are actively seeking partners:

  • CBE practitioners
  • CBE researchers
  • CBE platform and tools vendors
  • Accreditors
  • Education policy makers

We would like to extend a special invitation to all C​­-BEN members.​

We have been exploring this issue for several months and have made some progress.

  • As you can see from the screenshots above, we have begun the software creation process. We have already defined many more pages and processes.
  • If you want to see the code and more, go to the project’s GitHub page.

We believe that this project will move the CBE field forward. We intend to publish research on our experiences, especially lessons learned as partners use this software to create their own competency maps. Further, it seems likely that additional goals will surface as the project progresses. We will be receptive to such changes, responding as necessary to market demands.

What is Competency Based Education?

While not a new idea, competency-based education (“CBE”) has gained traction in higher education over the last few years. The cost of higher education has steadily increased and the chorus of questions around the ROI of these tuition dollars has encouraged exploration of alternative degree structures, of which CBE is one.

Unlike the traditional model of higher education, CBE does not use the credit-hour as its primary measure of degree completion. Instead, a degree is defined by a set of competencies which describe the things a learner is able to do upon completion of the degree. Learners progress through the academic content at their own pace and they are periodically assessed against each competency. If they are unable to sufficiently demonstrate a competency, they must continue to work through the related academic content until achieving the competency. Learners may also demonstrate prior learning related to each assessment and then pass out of certain competencies using life experience or learning completed at other institutions.

In effect, the CBE model flips the traditional credit-hour model by making time the variable instead of academic achievement. CBE models are also typically focused on skills rather than academic knowledge as the primary drivers of learning. These two factors, combined with the ability to demonstrate prior learning, make CBE especially attractive to non-traditional students and those focused on career preparation.

For more information on CBE, check out this s​et of resources from CompetencyWorks.​

How are competencies defined?

One of the first challenges an institution faces upon deciding to implement a CBE program is defining and mapping the competencies that make up a certificate or degree. Typically, competencies describe sets of skills and knowledge that certification holders are able to apply in complex situations. These are then broken down into learning objectives which define assessable components of the competency. Learning objectives are in turn broken down into skills, which are the smallest granularity of learning. This picture is complicated by the fact that many skills and learning objectives can apply to more than one competency.

However, due to the relative newness of the CBE model, there is no standard competency taxonomy. Terminology may differ between institutions, and the number of “layers” can vary with some schools adding learning goals between the competency and learning objectives layers, or eliminating the skills layer.

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