D2L: 2016 Competency-based Education Summit

D2L: 2016 Competency-based Education Summit

This time of year in Chicago, the weather is what I consider to be the best. Warm but not too warm, cool but not too cool. Perfect when you fly in from Phoenix, Arizona where the temperature is about 107 by noon. This trip was not about escaping the final days of Arizona heat, but an adventure at D2L: 2016 Competency-Based Education Summit with my peers. The summit took place at the Skydeck, located in Willis Towers (formerly known as the Sears Towers for the die hard Chicago fans). What a beautiful venue to start with, but even more exciting was the people who spoke at the event. We had one of my favorite speakers on CBE Charla Long. For those who don't know Charla, she is the Executive Director at CBEN and is helping us all pave the way for competency-based education. She is one of the many people who have campaigned for CBE, she organized lasted years CBExchange and continues to help any and schools with CBE questions.

Charla did a great job starting this event out with 'What' is CBE and describing CBE based on the definitions from CBEN. It was enlightening to  see the CBE group came up with a definition and provided some common characteristics from the groups point of view. Now for those who are new to CBE you can see all this information on the CBEN website. It's nice to have some common characters and definitions written down. Most of all its nice to get a view of where technology is going in CBE. We really haven't heard a lot from vendors and that is mainly because vendors are acting as cautiously as the Universities are (read more about that in Howard Luries search article Deconstructing CBE: Assessment of Institutional Activity Goals, and Challenges in Higher Education). Charla was insightful and as always delightful to listen too. I can't wait to listen to her again in October at CBExchange2016.

Another interesting speaker was Anthony Scheffler, from Valdosta State University (VSU). VSU piloted an interested CBE program because there was a local need for K-5 teacher certification, the CBE program includes 51 competencies and provides badging opportunities. I think the only thing I love more than CBE is badging, so this speaker had my complete attention for his entire presentation. What I found most interesting is the candidate questions that the institution faced while developing their CBE program. For instance, "Do the students really want this?", "Is the administration committed?" " How much is this going to cost?". When setting up a pilot, these are all questions that often remain unanswered we have to face, or the answer is "We don't know" which is why we have a pilot. The hope is, we will find out some of the answers during the pilot. This usually leads to the next question which is, "Can we scale this program?".  The biggest question I hear all the time after scaling is, "Can you work within the traditional system?". Anthony did a fantastic job discussing how VSU has tackled many of these questions and also provided some advice for those of us who are just starting pilots or thinking about starting a CBE program. His advised anyone thinking about having a CBE program, separate it from the traditional school. Do not try to combine the CBE program with the traditional offering.

Ryan Anderson, an Instructional Designer, from University of Wisconsin-Extension Flex Option spoke about the design process of CBE from his perspective.  We don't hear enough from instructional designers in CBE, which made his presentation so refreshing. Ryan spoke about starting with the backwards design, which is where all CBE courses should start. I can't emphasis enough, start with the desired result, not the resources which is where most faculty members want to start the design process (aka let's select a book first). Ryan did a great job reviewing the design process of program level competencies, assessment level competencies, and the expected outcomes of the course. Overall, I would love to see more conferences take Ryan's presentation and turn it into a workshop for other instructional designers learning how to design competency-based courses. We have many colleges just entering this space that have no idea how to begin and Ryan presented an excellent 'how to get started guide'. Ryan's advice to the group was that you can't take your learning outcomes and turn them into competencies, then build your course. CBE courses do not work that way, you have to start with the end in mind. You have to know what that desired result is before you can build backward.

Thomas Ayers from Broward College Online presented the findings of their pilot and desire to scale their CBE program. I've had the opportunity to see a few webinars from Thomas over the last year, so I'm familiar with the program and also programs progression. I'm also interested in following the life cycle of these CBE programs, because as they continue to grow, I learn more and more about their decisions and what transpires based on those decisions over time. There were a couple of things that Thomas spoke about in his presentation that I really believe all CBE programs should pay attention too. It was all really great first hand information from their pilot. For instance, for me the biggest take away dealt with calling the program self-paced. He mentioned when they called it self-paced, the student took their time taking the assessment. They didn't seem to be in any hurry, they didn't manage their time well. It just seemed to be at their leisure. At their next pilot, they called it 'accelerated' and helped the students with coaching and time management the students were speeding through their CBE programs. So for me the main take away from this particular program is that psychology we can impact our students going into this program just by calling it 'self-paced' or 'accelerated', those words alone could dictate the speed at which the student accomplishes the assessment for their CBE program and should be something taken into consideration when marketing CBE programs. After all, we do want a student to graduate.  The next phase for Broward is what it will take to scale their CBE program in the future and how to expand their offerings.

In July 2016, Eduventures published Deconstructing CBE An Assessment of Instructional Activity, Goals, and Challenges in High Education. One of the authors of this research, Howard Lurie, attended the CBE Summit and spoke to us about his research and findings during the conference. It was so amazing to hear him talk about some of the interesting findings from the study. First, let's start with the 251 schools replied to the survey. 97% of those schools were interested or have CBE activity happening at this moment. What I found most interesting is most are still in the very early stages that include planning or launching in 2-5 years from now. Howard provided a lot of 'ahhh' moments for me, but to sum it up I found out a few really key points from his presentation. The CBE movement overall is very slow in the United States. Schools are not sure about CBE as a model, they are not sure how fast they want to move into the spectrum of CBE, so they are very cautiously moving and planning. Even when planning, most colleges are unsure how CBE will play into the big picture 5 years from now, so that makes their long range plans even more cautious. It seems at this time, the largest barriers in the mind of these universities is Financial Aid, Resources, Faculty, and Lack of Experience developing this type of programs. I might add that Financial aid is number 1.

Overall, the summit was a great opportunity for me to listen to some incredible speakers in the CBE field. They provided some great updates, new perspectives, great feedback during discussions, networking opportunities and overall it was a great event. D2L did a great job putting together this opportunity for everyone looking at starting a  CBE, managing a CBE program or developing a CBE program. It was a good way to listen and learn, converse and network in a short amount of time we learned a lot. I hope they provide this opportunity again in the future for the next generation of CBE college, designers and faculty members. To all of D2L who put this together, thank you for your CBE support and effort to keep the conversation going.

Dr. Jennifer Cunningham