Studies: A New Learning Design Success or Disaster?
Just over half of the approximately 3,600 postsecondary institutions in the United States offer competency-based degree programs, as compared to one-third of all four-year colleges offering such programs, according to a new report. The report also shows that the use of competency-based degrees is on the rise. This graph shows the increase over time in the percentage of four-year colleges offering competency-based degrees.
Competency-based degrees allow students to complete courses online and at the discretion of the instructor. The instructor may require the student to demonstrate mastery of a course material by taking tests, through specific actions or through other means, like e-mail and interview questions. If the student demonstrates mastery of a course material or can provide evidence that they can successfully complete a course in a specified time frame, the instructor may not need to ensure the student completes the course.
“A massive transformation is underway in higher education,” stated MindShift Education Network Manager Jamie Bartholomew. “Students and parents are asking for academic credentials that have fewer formal requirements and greater flexibility. Schools are evolving to meet these demands by integrating competency-based learning.”
The report shows that, though competency-based degrees are in some ways different than traditional degree programs, many institutions that offer competency-based degrees still follow standards that are already in place for four-year programs. For example, the ability to demonstrate knowledge may be measured based on such factors as project and exam scores, attestation to a topic’s complexity, or written examinations. And most of the institutions included in the survey cited the resources they had already invested to meet such standards as a consideration for whether or not to adopt competency-based programs.
Additionally, although the number of colleges offering competency-based degrees is climbing, the report indicates that colleges are still slowly working toward creating these programs. Only 51.8 percent of institutions surveyed said that they are currently offering competency-based degrees and just 16.7 percent said that they were “fully engaged” in the process of implementation. Only 23.3 percent said that they felt confident that they were moving in the right direction in terms of creating competency-based degrees.
The report also found that the use of competency-based degrees varies by campus and program type. For example, 30.7 percent of the schools participating in the study reported that competency-based degrees are offered in the online education program, while 38.7 percent said that such degrees are available in on-campus face-to-face programs.