Competency-based programs in information technology are in the works at 11 community colleges. Western Governors University, a pioneer in online competency-based education (CBE), is helping with the pilots with financial support from the U.S. Labor Department and the Gates Foundation, write Sally Johnstone, WGU’s vice president for academic advancement, and writer Thad Nodine on Inside Higher Ed.
Most of the pilots are starting with certificates in fields such as computer system specialist, business software specialist, networking and programming. Students will be able to build on their certificates to earn degrees.
In competency programs, students progress at their own pace as they demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills. Learning– not time — is they key variable. At all 11 colleges, faculty members developed the new CBE courses, sometimes working with industry representatives.
For example, faculty at Sinclair Community College revised the curriculum to align with new Ohio standards in information technology and with industry certifications. Working with instructional designers, faculty members “mapped competencies to content and assessment items.”
In comparison, faculty at Washington’s Columbia Basin College are using existing student objectives and textbooks, write Johnstone and Nodine.
“Mapping course objectives to student learning outcomes to achieve student success; that is not new,” said Gina Sprowl, workforce education chair and professor of accounting (at Lone Star College in Texas). “But taking the course and building it to achieve specific outcomes from the outset, that was new.”
Alan Gandy, assistant professor at Lone Star, said . . . faculty are “breaking down the competencies, matching them to the assessments, so the student will see what piece they are working on in the puzzle. They’ll see the big picture, why they’re studying this and how it matches to the overall competency.”
While instructors are “content experts and mentors,”their roles have shifted “from delivering lectures to providing timely academic tutoring and engagement,” write Johnstone and Nodine.
Some colleges are adding support services. At Edmonds Community College in Washington, a “mentor” will check in with each student weekly and serve as a “coach, troubleshooter, strategist and enthusiast.”