Going Back to College and the Competency-Based Model Part 2

8 - When the semester begins, you start taking prerequisite college courses.

Prerequisite college courses include subjects like College Algebra or English Composition or Calculus or Introductory Biology , with all students being held to the same semester completion requirements no matter what previous knowledge you might possess.

9 - You take exams according to an instructor-lead schedule.

Even if you are well-prepared to take an exam, you must wait to take tests according to a semester- or quarter-based academic calendar. In other words, once you enroll in a traditional, on-campus based program, your schedule is no longer your own.

10 - Classes end when the semester ends.

Have a pressing need for schedule flexibility? You’re out of luck.

11 - Repeat processes (3-10) again the next semester and the next and the next.

You repeat this process until you have accumulated enough credit hours earned through enough hours in a classroom, taking enough college courses to meet graduation guidelines per your college’s degree requirements.

12 - You earn your right to graduate with your college degree through the accumulation of a specified number of credit hours.

13 - You look for a job.

You use your newly minted college degree as starting point to educate a potential employer about how your degree might possibly translate into skills required for an open position, often focusing on the brand name and reputation of a college rather than actual skills conferred by that degree.

14 - After a few months, you begin paying back student loans whether or not you have a job.

Remember, the average college graduate has an average of $25,250 in student loan debt upon graduation. Assuming you are like the average student, you will have 10 years to pay back your federal student loan at the current Federal Stafford Fixed Loan rate of 6.8%. This means you’ll be withdrawing $290.58 from your bank account every month for 10 years. Your cumulative payment will actually be $34,869.23 over the course of those 10 years, with $9,619.23 paid in interest over the life of the loan.

15 - You think to yourself, as you pay your bills, that there must be a different path through the educational system, one that could be better for colleges, for students, and for employers.

If you’re lucky, you’ll spend a little time doing research online before you go back to college. If you do, you’ll find that there is something special going on in college education in America. There is a different way of thinking, a different approach to the college system and it’s called a “competency-based” model of education.

What is a Competency-Based College Education?

A competency-based college education is pretty much what it sounds like – a system that uses skills and competency attainment as the measure through which academic progress occurs rather than credit hours, classroom time, or course completion rates.

According to a recent article by The Center for American Progress, “With a competency-based approach, you do not begin preparing a course syllabus by identifying content and readings. Instead, you begin by identifying competencies and then select the content, readings, and assignments to support student attainment of those competencies. 

With a competency-based approach, students advance when they have demonstrated mastery of a competency, which is defined as “a combination of skills, abilities and knowledge needed to perform a task in a specific context.”3

3 Soares, Louis, Center for American Progress, A ‘Disruptive’ Look at Competency-Based Education, 6/7/2012, p.1