Photo looking at the exterior of Russell Ebeid Hall with blue glass tower

by Angela Dunn

July 15, 2020

An image that identifies the components of Competency Based Education

Competency-Based Education is a fairly new concept in higher education and one that is gaining traction due to the benefits it can offer students.  Depending on how an institution decides to develop a CBE program, students can reap the benefits of course flexibility, decrease program completion time, eliminating physical “seat time”, and an overall affordable tuition.

To begin, let’s start with the general concept of CBE.


Competency-Based Education is an instructional model that measures learners’ abilities, skills, and competencies rather than seat time in the classroom.

Common Characteristics of CBE programs.

  • Flexible – Students can choose when to complete their courses, how they use their resources, and can accelerate their studies to fit their learning pace.
  • Affordable – Students pay a flat rate per CBE term. If students can complete their courses at an accelerated pace, it decreases the overall cost of tuition.
  • Accessible – Courses are designed by an Instructional Designer who assist faculty with developing accessible learning activities for all types of learners.
  • Communication – Communication is personalized to a student’s learning experience.
  • Student Accountability – Students take charge of their schedule and learning assignments.  Faculty facilitate the learning process.
  • Alignment – It is critical that program outcomes, course outcomes, learning activity, and assessments are aligned within each course.
  • Support – Students have access to a variety of support services. A unique support service within in a CBE model is a Success Coach.  A Success Coach serves as a student’s personal mentor throughout the program and aids with retention, completion, and personalized support for students.


Introduction Video – What is Competency-Based Education?

Still image from Vimeo that explains Competency Based Education


Types of CBE Models.

There  are several ways to approach this learning modality and new concepts are constantly being introduced to academia.  Educators can offer students a CBE course that is fully online, in person, or offer a mix of both in person and face-to-face.  Some of the common models that you will find when searching CBE programs include direct assessment, credit based or course-equivalency model, and a hybrid approach.

Additional Resources for Competency-Based Education