Why Invest in Competency-Based Education? By Adela Belin

161128_book-exposition-composition-poland-51369Imagine your first heart surgery being done by a doctor who has learned surgery through textbooks; or a pilot who has learned the concepts of flying a plane in classroom and college labs.  What about a soldier who has learned the art and science of fighting war through PowerPoint presentations and simulation-based games? The scary outcomes that are expected in all three cases explain the necessity of Competency-Based Education (CBE) in select professions. Perhaps, the time has come to implement CBE for all subjects, classes and age groups. Here are four reasons why you should invest in Competency-Based Education system in your institution:

Focus on Learning Outcomes

The current education system places a higher emphasis on the course structure, the methods of lecture delivery, the number of hours of classroom program and everything else that doesn’t reflect the preparedness of students to tackle real challenges at the workplace. The widening gap between the supply and demand for the competent workforce is posing a major challenge to the current pedagogy of universities.

In the CBE scheme of things, students move to the next level based on “demonstrations of what they can do and what they know” and not on the number of months they spend in school. The time, place, and space become the resources to support and accommodate the learning. The students take center stage and their readiness becomes the ultimate goal of the education system.

Thrive in the Age of Automation at the Workplace

Workplace automation is a significant development in the corporate world. However, it is perceived to be a burden by the majority of the workforce. Reports suggest that technology has the capability to automate a significant portion of activities performed by highly skilled white-collar and blue-collar workers. It means the competencies and skill sets that will be required to succeed in the workplace in next few years will be significantly different from what they are today.

Soft skills such as critical thinking, negotiation skills, problem-solving approach, time management, leadership capabilities, etc. are going to be major differentiating factors. To make students ready for the future, the institutions have to come up with a competency-based education model that focuses on the specific competencies, regardless of the time taken by students to demonstrate them.

The CBE can help students survive and thrive in the age of workplace automation in following ways:

  • The students can learn competencies faster and move on to learn something new and relevant that is in demand.
  • The CBE inculcates the habit of learning new things. Therefore, after joining the workforce, the students can easily learn new technologies and skill sets that are required to excel in their career
  • In the era of artificial intelligence, the relevance of soft skills is greater than ever. CBE curriculum and assessments require students to learn and demonstrate the soft skills and related competencies. Thus, they become major enablers for students to thrive in a digital workplace environment.

Reduced Cost of Education Delivery

According to a recent report, the institutions need an initial investment of almost $382,000 to develop a two-year degree program. To create multiple programs over several years, they need to spend between $4.2 and $11 million dollars. The institutions would take around five years to reach break even point. According to the estimates, from the sixth year onwards, the cost of operations will be half of the traditional academic programs. That means in the long run, the institutions can reduce their cost of operations significantly. The students will also save in tuition fee and have the flexibility to complete the course from anywhere. That creates a win-win situation for everyone in the entire value chain.

A Futuristic Business Model

The Competency-Based Education system offers a sustainable business model in two promising ways:

  • By significantly improving the efficiency of education delivery, the CBE enhances the effectiveness of training delivery by offering flexibility to students in terms of place, time and space. Students can learn the courses at any time, at their own pace and from a place of their choosing. This reduces the cost of instructional delivery significantly.

The faculty model also changes in a typical CBE system. The institutions will have separate teachers to design and implement the curriculum. Thus, there will be one set of subject matter experts who will develop the curriculum and assessments. There will be another set of faculty members who will interact and support students for achieving their goals. A clearly defined job role will dramatically improve the efficiency of teaching staff who are currently burdened with a lot of tasks and responsibilities.

  • Achieving the economy of scale – As a result of new roles assumed by faculty members in a CBE system, the student-to-staff ratio will increase tremendously. Therefore, once an institution upgrades its infrastructure to accommodate Competency-Based Education curriculums, it will be easier for it to increase the student intake. They can also expand their base in several geographic locations, attracting students from the diverse background with a little investment. It helps institutions achieve economy of scale while at the same time makes study affordable for students and their families.

It is the business model that will succeed in the future owing to limited tuition fee and stiff competition from players from across the world.

The CBE system will prove to be an operating system of the higher education. Once the institutions adopt the CBE on a large scale, there will be several startups that will create useful apps based on CBE that will prove to be a game-changer for the entire job and education ecosystems. For example, a matchmaking app for employers and job seekers based on the job role and competency will be an exciting development in recruitment space. This is the right time to invest in the next big thing in education industry that will redefine the meaning of education. The first movers will always reap the benefits of higher risk appetites.

Adela Belin is a private educator and online tutor. She shares her teaching experience with colleagues, students, and writers. Feel free to contact her on G+.