Last Friday, I and three faculty members from our campus attended a one-day conference at Columbus State Community College on the topic of Competency-based Education for Ohio.

Dr. Sally Johnstone, V.P. of Academic Advancement described the CBE model used at Western Governors University. WGU is an online non-profit university where students can enroll at any time of the year progress at their own pace. The role of the faculty at WGU are somewhat different than for traditional instructional models. Student Mentors are faculty who work closely with students individually to engage them in their program of study. Student mentors must have a minimum of a Masters degree in the content area. Course Mentors have a minimum of a PhD or terminal degree in the subject area and are responsible for the curriculum and course design. In addition to student and course mentors, Graders or Evaluators oversee student assessment. Students are assessed both using objective proctored exams and performance assessment.

Dr. Johnstone emphasized the importance of secure and reliable assessment – “The integrity of the institution rests on the credibility of the assessments.”

Although students move at their own pace through the course, they still have the opportunity to interact with their peers through the campus portal social media technology.

Course content is provided through KSVs (Kahn Style Videos) much of which is sourced through Carnegie Mellon’s Acrobatiq – Open Learning Initiative.

Dr. Nancy Thibeault, Dean of eLearning at Sinclair Community College, shared about Sinclair’s CBE model and some of the challenges of rolling out CBE at a public two-year institution.

Community colleges in Ohio operate on a semester schedule. Although the semesters are typically sixteen weeks in length, Sinclair permits students to enroll in their CBE courses at any time up until the last four weeks of the semester. Before students are accepted into the CBE program they must meet certain guidelines including a minimum GPA of 3.0 and demonstrated computer literacy skills.

Students may work at their own pace but are expected to keep up with course milestones. An academic coach may work with as many as eighty students individually. Each course unit includes a pre-assessment to determine whether students possess the competencies in a given unit of study – if so, they may skip to the next unit and thereby accelerate their course of study. Coaches assume the role of case-manager, guiding students from point of registration through graduation.

As with WGU, Sinclair awards course credit on a pass / fail basis. Students must successfully pass with an eighty percent or higher in order to continue in the CBE program. Each course includes a comprehensive final exam covering all course competencies.