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Aurora Institute

Opportunities to Grow Your CBE Program

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Dorothy Wax

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Modernize HEA

Dorothy Wax
Dorothy Wax

While no one knows for sure just how many institutions of higher education are implementing or considering competency-based education (CBE) programs, we do know that there are at least three major efforts underway that are engaging schools at different points in the process, and all will be expanding in the next few months.

Funded by the Lumina Foundation and coordinated through Public Agenda, the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) is a group of eighteen institutions and two public systems that are sharing information about the design, development, and scaling of CBE programs. The participants all either have CBE programs in place, or are well on their way to implementation. The goal of C-BEN is to help prove that competency-based education can provide a high-quality educational experience capable of serving students from all backgrounds. Participating institutions commit to collaborating on activities throughout the year, and membership is renewable annually. Applications are due January 15, 2015.

C-BEN is looking for up to twelve institutions to join the network. The successful candidates will have robust CBE programs and an interest in addressing the challenges they may be facing in ways that will benefit the individual institutions and the field in general. The application is available on the C-BEN website.

The second initiative aimed at exploring the potential of CBE is the Breakthrough Models Incubator (BMI), funded by the Gates Foundation and managed through EDUCAUSE. This effort consists of institutions that do not yet have a CBE program in place, but are committed to doing so during the course of their BMI membership. There were nine participants in the first round, and BMI is now looking to grow.

The selected institutions will commit to design and implement a CBE model, and also have a sustainable business model for that program. Participants will engage in a leadership circle with the goal of creating resources that can be helpful to others looking to develop a CBE program. They will also receive coaching to help each institution identify and address the challenges they may be facing. Follow-up reports, articles, and blog posts will contribute to the resources available to the entire higher education community. The deadline for applying for BMI’s next round is February 4, 2015, and the application can be found on the EDUCAUSE website.

The final initiative that is looking for new members is CBE Jumpstart, also funded by Lumina and managed by CAEL. Jumpstart is working with institutions that are earlier in the process than either C-BEN or BMI. The sweet spot for Jumpstart is colleges and universities considering a CBE program, but not necessarily sure it is right for them. Through Jumpstart, the institutions receive a full-day on-site workshop to help them decide whether CBE is an appropriate option for them, along with the opportunity for technical assistance in areas of need identified by each school or system of higher education.

There are currently twelve institutions and two systems in the Jumpstart program, and this winter, another six participants will be invited to join the program. The applications for the next round of Jumpstart will be available on the CAEL website in February 2015.

Since they are grant-funded, all three programs require little or no financial commitment from the participating schools. They all, however, require that participating institutions or systems have a commitment from the top administration to make CBE successful. There is recognition that an initiative like CBE that will require a major commitment of time and other resources will not succeed without buy-in at this level.

Dorothy Wax is the Associate Vice President for Operations for CAEL. She manages CAEL’s CBE Jumpstart program, which is funded by the Lumina Foundation and is providing training to 21 institutions and systems of higher education on CBE.