Competency-Based Education

Pearson Playbook Lays out CBE Workstreams

A 2015 Eduventures projection anticipated that by 2020 as many as 750 colleges and universities would offer competency-based education (CBE) programs and that overall enrollment would "exceed 500,000 students." Last year the higher education advisory firm counted only 150 CBE initiatives with another 400 in development. At the time of that forecast, Eduventures laid out a CBE education landscape to help its institutional leaders understand the "players, partners and perspectives" needed to get started with CBE or improve existing models.

Now Pearson Education has published a freely available online "playbook" that provides an overview of the "many moving parts and dependencies" that make up CBE program development. The 14-page report offers a plan of action for doing CBE-related strategic planning and execution and offers best practices.

"A growing model in the higher education space, CBE is enabling students to acquire the skills today's employers value and earn credit while working at their own pace," said Annabel Cellini, a Pearson senior vice president, in a blog post. "With all of its advantages, CBE is still a relatively new approach to learning, requiring a well-constructed strategy that addresses many complexities associated with launching a successful program."

To explain the complexities, the education company identified seven broad workstreams required for functional decision-making and program launch, each with its own set of decisions:

  • Strategy and integration, to determine how the goals for CBE fit into the institution's mission and define project management as well as metrics and accountability;
  • Organization, to lay out such aspects as the financial model, accreditation and change management;
  • Program development, to figure out how CBE differs from and connects to the traditional models of instruction;
  • Student success, including considering the retention strategy and degree pathways;
  • Technology, encompassing the learning infrastructure as well as data analytics to support the program;
  • Program management, which covers such aspects as staffing and vendor relations; and
  • Enrollment and marketing, focused on messaging, lead generation, funnel management and registration and advising.

"Creating an effective CBE program can entail re-engineering of traditional processes, procedures and practices that are highly interdependent across functional areas," the report explained. "Not only is the timing of key decisions and activities important, but interaction across workstreams is essential."

In February Pearson is hosting a three-hour workshop during an annual customer conference where participants will use the playbook to "plan and launch" a new CBE program.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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