Dr Brenden
Competency-Based Degrees
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Announcements & Education Updates.

Competency-Based Education (CBE) - Ideal for Successful Individuals


You might have heard of Competency-Based Education (CBE)¹, or Competency-Based Learning (CBL), a method of learning which is steadily growing in popularity. As more adult learners are looking to earn a degree, CBE links study with the workplace. Some people believe that this is the direction that higher education in general is likely to go in. Here, we look at what Competency-based education is and who can benefit.

What is Competency-based education (CBE)?

CBE is a system that puts emphasis on learning, in contrast to tradition that measured learning through time spent studying at a particular place. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching introduced the credit hour in 1906. While this system may be efficient, developments in technology have recently made it possible for people to study when it is convenient for them. CBE is one example of how education is responding to the needs of students and employers. Some other features of CBE are:

  • You can complete in your ‘own time’ rather than in a ‘designated time’. It can be fast-track.
  • Students master their skills, with support from tutors, onsite and/or online.
  • Places the student at the center and the teacher on the side.
  • CBE emphasises that different people have different strengths – 'success' is redefined.
  • It enhances the student voice (the ability of the student to influence their own learning).
  • CBE makes use of technology.

Who can benefit from it?

As the the above shows, CBE can help adult learners whose lives don’t suit the conventional model. In the past, if a person had been working for several years, it might have been very difficult to put a career on hold in order to go back to study. People often sideline their academic plans when they start to raise a family – yet, they often intend to continue their studies. Through CBE, a person can restart when time allows, as well as gain formal certification in something useful to employers.

How can Competency-Based Education save time and money?

CBE therefore, is flexible. You can learn at your own pace and you can fast-track your learning. Another attractive aspect is that this can be an affordable way of studying. A report by the rpk Group from October last year pointed to significant savings opportunities for both students and educational organisations. Colleges and universities are currently under pressure to increase affordability and ensure their programs are customer centered. Advocates of CBE believe that by using new technology and putting emphasis on what people learn, as opposed to how they learn it, they can reduce time and cost.

Can it enhance my career?

One key benefit of CBE is that it assesses mastery of skills learnt in the workplace. While emphasising real world learning, it can help expand your career knowledge. This could be the case, whether you have a number of years’ work experience or if you have recently graduated.

Is there a difference between Competency-Based Education and Prior Learning Assessment?

In general Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) refers to credit that someone has already received within education. For example, where a person started a degree but didn’t finish, he/she could restart with module credits with prior learning credits awarded ('Top-Up'). Competency-based learning involves a student displaying that he/she has mastered course content. This is sometimes called Credit for Prior Learning (US), Recognition of Prior Learning / Accreditation of Prior Learning (UK).

Is Competency-Based Education for everyone?

It probably won’t suit every one. You need to be self-motivated and self-disciplined if you are not a mature adult with years of achievements because you will be working at your own pace. Like all onsite and online learning, there are challenges and motivation is essential.

How can I get advice if I am a mature adult?

Dr Brenden D Tempest-Mogg writes regularly about Competency-based degrees for mature adults, and offers Competency-Based opportunities and a recognized pathway for adult learners to obtain a graduate degree. Assessment of individual 'competencies' is based on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). Knowledge of English is not a requirement. A candidate does not have to know English to have competencies or be assessed. To learn more: Dr Brenden Education Solutionswebsite and blog.

How can I get advice about 'TOP-UP' to complete a degree?

This is option enables a student to complete a qualification onsite or online by compeleting a course of study for credits. This maybe an extra courses or more, or set projects. Every case and need is different. Many students may have had to give up their studies due to personal circumstances, and they no longer have the time or possibility to 'go back to school'. One of the best 'Top-Up' pathways is through www.warnborough.ie (Andrew James)