Image of a person working on a laptop

By Angela Dunn

July 22, 2020

You may have heard buzz terms around campus such as, CBE, new learning modality, or flexible offerings. There is a great reason for that! Lourdes University has decided to include a Competency-Based Education model to our forms of instruction and I am very excited about it for several reasons! Before I dive into the reasons, I will backtrack and start from the beginning.

So, why CBE and why now?
This is the most important question to address. As with any new initiative, there has to be strategic reasoning behind it. Prior to onboarding at Lourdes University, Dr. Keller and Dr. Gawelek worked with a team to conduct a needs assessment, gather market research data, and review the gaps within the university. The results of this research concluded that Lourdes University had a drastic decline with the adult learner, or non-traditional student, enrollment. As most people who reside in the Sylvania community are aware, Lourdes University was once home to the adult learner population. Over time, that demographic has slowly faded away from our halls.

You can see the difference in the chart below.

Chart exhibiting loss of adult learner at Lourdes University from 2012 to 2018

This led to the following questions: 

What do adult learners want and need?

  • Flexible – Fit family & career life.
  • Personal – High level interaction with faculty.
  • Affordable – Cost effective.
  • Quick & Quality – opportunity for fast career advancement.

What does Lourdes University currently offer? 

  • Traditional face to face programs
  • Traditional online programs
  • Some online general education courses
  • Evening courses

How does Lourdes University close the gap?

After many discussions among administrators, experts in this field, and consultants, it was decided that competency-based education for nursing programs was the most strategic and sound decision for our campus. By offering CBE programs within The College of Nursing, we can help support the university’s overall mission, vision, and enrollment goals. While CBE is not a tell-all solution, it is a great way to support a population that we value greatly and miss having as part of the Lourdes University community!

How did we approach this and what is the vision for CBE?

Step One: Create Focus Groups to

  • Establish universal terminology
  • Discuss challenges and solutions
  • Discuss Policy updates and plan of action
  • Receive input about the development process
  • Identify what will work with Lourdes University’s mission and vision

Step Two: Select the CBE model that fits Lourdes University’s overall goals.
Course-Based/Credit Equivalency Model

  • Use our current resources with few additions
  • Low impact on federal aid policies
  • Students can receive financial aid
  • Aligns with current semester based regulations
  • Allows for multiple start dates
  • Easy translation of competencies to credit hours

Step Three: Leverage Technology

While Canvas is the campus platform that best serves Lourdes University’s traditional programs, the platform could not support a CBE model. Therefore, we had to look into other platforms that would help students, faculty, and staff be successful. Several faculty and staff members invested a great deal of time meeting with vendors, other universities across the country who offer online CBE programs, and reviewing case studies to identify the perfect system for our campus! It was decided that we would invest in D2L’s Brightspace learning adaptive platform.  Find out more about the Brightspace Platform by visiting

Step Four: This occurred simultaneously with step 2
Create a plan for development

  • Identify a CBE framework
  • Build a development timeline
  • Build a cost model and faculty model
  • Build faculty training
  • Create CBE curriculum maps
  • Develop an assessment plan

Why am I excited about the possibilities for CBE?

  • This will provide students with another way to achieve their educational goals.
  • There are so many partnership possibilities with CBE programs.
  • Faculty and staff have an opportunity to create quality and engaging online programs.
  • This will be another way to separate out campus from others in the surrounding area.
  • We can attract students across the globe.
  • We have an opportunity to create a unique CBE experience by embedding our Franciscan values to each CBE program!