Strategies to design engaging, motivating, and meaningful competency-based education

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The session will begin with a brief description of CBE in higher education and its specific characteristics, specifically that it is:


Self-driven and flexible: gives learners control over their learning experience, allowing students to progress through a course or program based on their demonstrated mastery of required competencies, usually through tests of declarative knowledge and various forms of authentic assessment such as projects or portfolios. In a true competency-based environment, students may progress through a course at their chosen pace (either more slowly or quickly than the average paee); may take brief periods (days or weeks) off; and may repeat assignments in an effort to improve grades. Within a credit hour environment, students still have this type of flexibility in managing their coursework, but must complete each course within the specified timeframe (i.e., semester or term).


Totally online: in order to provide the flexibility and self-management that are hallmarks of CBE, as much of the coursework as possible should be online. In reality, many CBE courses are likely still hybrid courses, but if CBE is to scale on the scale needed, courses will have to be delivered totally online. There are currently 30+ million adults in the United States with some college credits but no degree and a projected shortfall of graduates to fill critical jobs in healthcare, information technology, business, and education in the next 30 years. CBE can help to fill that gap if faculty will learn to use emerging technologies to fully automate the design and delivery of many courses that are currently delivered in a classroom or hybrid setting.


Rigorous in assessment: CBE requires that students demonstrate their mastery of new competencies by performing real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills (Mueller, 2014). This requirement for authentic assessment usually implies experiential types of assessments through inquiry-based or problem-based projects, the production of artifacts, or the conduct of real-world experiences such as internships or work co-ops.


After this description, we will engage participants in a discussion about the implications these attributes have for course design, namely that the more control and autonomy learners have and the more rigor that is required, the more engaged and motivated students must be to persist and the deeper and more meaningful the learning experience must be. This conversation will segue us to the framework which comprises seven (7) classes of elearning interactions and to a conversation about how faculty & designers may use these interactions to promote engagement, motivation, and deep meaning within their CBE courses.  We will conclude this presentation with the activity described in the next section.



     Robin Colson, Director, Design & Training, Innovation Institute