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Newsletter Article February 11, 2022

Competency-Based Education Field Guide Launches

A field guide nearly two years in the making is now available to postsecondary education systems and institutions interested in implementing competency-based education (CBE) at scale.

The Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) recently launched Planning for Postsecondary Competency-Based Learning: A Field Guide to Reimagine a System-Wide Approach to CBE. The new resource is a comprehensive guide for state postsecondary education systems that includes key lessons and guidance from an 18-month process developed by C-BEN, implemented by KCTCS and documented by Barbara Endel Consulting. Additionally, an Executive Summary was produced from the field guide and is a good resource for institutions and state agencies interested in the extensive planning process for CBE.

CBE measures a learner’s knowledge and skills rather than measuring physical time in a classroom. Through an assessment, learners demonstrate they have mastered material without a tie to credit hours, the achievement of minimum grade-point averages and the passage of time. This framework allows learners to utilize their past knowledge and experiences in the pursuit of a degree or credential. It can often be a more flexible, affordable option for learners, especially learners from low-income backgrounds. These learners may not be best served by existing postsecondary education programs due to challenges like full- or part-time work or childcare responsibilities.

Ascendium applauds the collaborative efforts of our partners through this project and appreciates their willingness to share the lessons they learned. Our philanthropy supports Streamlining Key Learner Transitions, which includes exploring diverse pathways to and through postsecondary education and workforce training. We make investments that identify, validate and scale high-quality, nontraditional training models, such as CBE, so more learners from low-income backgrounds benefit from sustainable career pathways.

Labor markets often demand workers with specific knowledge, skills and abilities. Ascendium continues to support projects that explore CBE as a workforce-aligned strategy, helping learners to acquire these competencies and institutions to develop approaches to support them. In the case of KCTCS, their approach included workforce development, academic programs, general education and finding ways to integrate siloed departments into cross-functional CBE programs.

A recent grant from Ascendium to the Urban Institute will also explore CBE as a workforce-aligned strategy, among other approaches. Urban will be assessing workforce-aligned approaches of postsecondary education institutions, including a return-on-investment analysis that will provide information on promising and effective programs, policies, resources and strategies that support success for learners.

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