The Challenge of CBE Programs: Administrative and Technological Considerations of Non-Semester-Based Programs

The Challenge of CBE Programs: Administrative and Technological Considerations of Non-Semester-Based Programs

Julie Uranis, Tanja Bibbs
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0932-5.ch005
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Using the student lifecycle as a framework, the authors explore the administrative and technological considerations pertaining to competency-based education (CBE). The goal of this chapter is to familiarize readers with the administrative issues surrounding the development of CBE programs. While the chapter is not all-inclusive, it should serve as a starting point for higher education leaders interested in CBE, especially those lacking the resources to develop a program outside existing governance, policies, and systems. This chapter may serve as a guide for institutional leaders working through the administrative challenges related to CBE programs. The authors address aspects of recruitment, marketing, pre-admission support, admissions, advising, orientation, registration, billing, programs of study, access to institutional resources, transcripts, and key performance indicators. The chapter concludes with future research directions as well as solutions and recommendations.
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Implications For Institutions Of Higher Education

Only in recent years have postsecondary institutions considered offering CBE degree programs. Northern Arizona University, Southern New Hampshire University, Western Governor’s University, and the University of Wisconsin are but a few notable institutions that have launched CBE degree programs. Many of these early-adopting postsecondary institutions have done so by developing administrative, curricular, and technical processes outside their institutions’ traditional processes to accommodate courses and programs delivered outside of standard semester timelines. Such non-semester based programs can have functionality that is necessary for CBE programs, including: multiple start and end dates; a self-paced learning format to allow for accelerated or extended completion times; and courses that overlap traditional terms. Developing CBE programs within ‘traditional’ confines is possible only if institutional leaders are prepared to examine and revise the policies and procedures that can act as barriers for CBE program development and student enrollment. The complexities of implementing CBE programs, administrative systems, technology, and policies will continue to challenge those institutional leaders who do not have the ability to develop academic programs outside of existing institutional structures, policies, and governance.

Because most post-secondary CBE programs are online (Kelchen, 2105), CBE programs face many of the same issues as traditional online learning programs but with additional requirements or considerations for the non-traditional adult learner population, in particular. For example, the question of whether an online CBE student should pay a student fee to support physical resources on campus such as a student union or recreation center is the same issue face by institutions when implementing traditional online learning programs. CBE programs, however, must also grapple with the additional challenge of how an online learning fee would be assessed for non-term based instruction. Institutions who decide to develop CBE programs should conduct a formal review of existing online learning policies and practices to identify additional functionality required for effective CBE program delivery and to create a user experience that is attractive to adult and contemporary online students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Management System (LMS): Web-based technology used for online teaching and learning.

Student Lifecycle: The process in which students matriculate at an institution of higher education. The phases could differ, but usually include prospect, application, admission, registration, enrollment, progression, and graduation.

Non-Semester Based Programs: Academic programs offered and operating outside of traditional terms or semesters.

Disaggregated Roles: The separation of key roles and responsibilities onto various other positions. This typically happens with the faculty position in CBE programs and can be disaggregated into various roles such as subject matter expert, instructor, grader, and coach/mentor.

Student Information System (SIS): Software that is used in managing student data. The SIS may facilitate many administrative processes related to admission, registration, completion, and graduation.

Competency-Based Education: A personalized approach to student learning that focuses on measuring student’s knowledge, skills, and attitudes rather than classroom time allowing students to advance based on the mastery of competencies.

Coach/Mentor: An individual that provides an extra level of learner support for students. A coach or mentor maintains rapport, monitors student progress, and extends support as needed.

Return on Investment (ROI): The profitability of an investment after considering the funding expended in the venture.

Competencies: Knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are assessed based on student demonstration of learning.

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