Competency-based learning is a new form of education that has been gaining wider attention this past year. It is often done online, enabling students to receive individualized tutoring and offering them an opportunity to learn at their convenience.
What is a Competency-Based Learning Course Like?
Instead of progressing through a traditional course, competency-based learning is about becoming proficient in a large set of skills. The material is designed to suit the student’s needs and interests, making it easier and more enjoyable. Skills, or competencies, are presented one at a time, beginning with the simplest and becoming more challenging.
Assignments are turned in to a professional online tutor or coach for review. Usually, no grades are given. The reviewer will check for competency in the student’s work, and, if they find it, the student progresses to the next task. If the assignment doesn’t demonstrate competency, it’s sent back to be revised until it does.
In general, competency-based learning can be seen as a kind of very rigorous online tutoring.
Competency-Based Learning is Catching On
Many colleges and independent institutions are now providing competency-based learning programs. The Capella Online University now offers it, as well as the University of Wisconsin at Plattville, Southern New Hampshire University, and Western Governors University.
Southern New Hampshire University’s project, College for America, has recently graduated its first class of students. Graduate Zach Sherman, 21, was the first, earning an associate’s degree last June in just under 100 days. He proved his competency in 120 skills. This was the equivalent of 60 credits at a traditional college.
College of America wants to make it clear that most people won’t graduate nearly as fast as Sherman did – the average time is expected to be about two years. He was in slightly unusual circumstances and managed to set a grueling pace for himself, dedicating as much time as possible to his studies.
Sherman’s online tutor, Andrea, was a big help when the work was difficult. When his work slowed down or he needed special attention on a particular competency, Andrea would work with him on the phone until he succeeded. He said that the tutoring was most needed at the beginning of the course and at the end of the course.
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