Competency-based education – meaning and benefits

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Competency-based education has been front and centre in higher education for quite some time. 

If you’re curious about this learning process, you’re in the right place! Keep reading to get the hang of CBE and discover its characteristics.

What is Competency-based education?

Competency-based education is a continuously-evolving framework for teaching and learning that began to take form decades ago. This efficient approach assesses what students have actually learned and to what extent they are able to put it into practice

What’s best is that students can advance at their own pace, regardless of the educational environment or pre-determined timeframes.

History of competency-based education

The Journal of Competency-Based Education traces CBE’s roots back to the USA in the 1970s, where it was first implemented in vocational education programs. 

Ever since, it has steadily increased in popularity among US universities first and then worldwide.

The benefits of competency-based education

According to the traditional education framework, institutions require students to demonstrate mastery of a subject to earn a grade within a time frame, such as a semester. Contrarily, the architecture of CBE differs because learners complete courses as soon as they’ve proven mastery of the material.

The benefit to students is clear: time saved by completing courses early can be parlayed into pursuing other educational or personal experiences. And because most CBE takes place online, the opportunities are widely within reach.

There is great potential in Competency-based learning. A self-paced approach tailored to diverse learning abilities can lead to more efficient outcomes and enriching educational experiences.

Differences between Competency-based education and Outcome-based education

Although both rely on outcomes, CBE and Outcome-based education differ in many ways.

Outcome-based education focuses predominantly on learning outcomes or goals. In this approach, the curricula are geared towards vocational, professional, personal and interpersonal skills and rely on a specified time frame.

On the other hand, CBE is a framework that favours the mastery of concrete skills or competencies over higher-order learning. CBE breaks down larger skill sets into several competencies, thereby providing sequential levels of mastery.

Essentially, the competency-based approach is more flexible, while the Outcome-based method relies heavily on the accumulation of course credits and completion.

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