Competency-Based Education (CBE) Program Model Mapping Project

College students in classroom

As colleges and universities seek to serve the millions of prospective adult learners who might need a degree to reach their goals, some are turning to Competency-Based Education (CBE) models as options that offer flexibility and support to the learner. Although many colleges are adopting CBE, they are making different design choices for their learners and contexts. This variation represents important innovation and experimentation but can cause challenges for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers trying to understand the most common program design features and the way in which they affect learner outcomes.

The Framework

Model Map Framework cover

AIR developed the CBE Program Model Map Framework in partnership with the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) and key advisors from leading CBE programs. AIR conducted a literature and document review, gathered input from an advisory group, and tested the options via a survey to institutions offering CBE programs.

This framework represents refined versions of each design feature and design options we see evident in the field. This resource is intended to be used by practitioners building CBE programs interested in understanding the design options. This piece can be used in concert with the C-BEN Quality Framework for CBE Programs.

The Results

Model Map Brief cover

AIR also used the survey of the longest-standing and largest CBE institutions and programs to refine the framework. The survey resulted in valuable information about how common certain design choices were and whether the field has “settled” on certain choices or types of CBE. We present these data as a snapshot of the field, organized by the learners’ “value propositions”, in the CBE Program Model Map Research Brief.

Practitioners designing or re-designing CBE programs can use this resource to further inform their design choices and priorities. Researchers also can use this resource to consider options for mapping the unique designs of the CBE programs they might evaluate or study, as the field moves toward a better understanding of the mechanisms by which CBE programs affect learner outcomes.