How Competency Based Education Suitable for eLearning Marketplace?

Competency Based eLearning

Competency based learning, or competency-based training, or simply CBT has become prevalent over the past few years. Where it’s yet to be practiced traditionally in the global scenario, most of the parts of the USA are already reforming their education system with CBT.

The Western Governors University in the USA, which has over 40,000 students, is one of the early adopters of CBT in their formal curriculum. Not just that, the Federal Department of Education has recognized competency based education system, and it is expanding rapidly in the whole USA. Other institutions who have joined the league are Southern New Hampshire University, Northern Arizona University, and Capella University.

Those are traditional institutions and how they are reforming with CBT. However, what about the modern eLearning methodologies? Do eLearning platforms practice CBT in their courses?

Without any doubt! In fact, CBT has a more dominant application in eLearning than the traditional classroom model. It is because most of the learners looking for competency based education are already working and seeking education at their own pace.

In this article, we shall learn how competency-based learning is a revolution in the education system and how it can combine with eLearning marketplaces to make education accessible, efficient, affordable, and useful to everyone.

What is Competency Based Education?

As the name suggests, it’s based on the pre-possessed competencies of the learners. In CBT, we consider the already possessed competencies of the learners as the base and design a personalized self-paced instructional design for individual learners. Here learners need not waste time, money and efforts absorbing what they already know. I can explain it best with an example.

Let’s say, a call center wants to train its new employees for the voice process through their General Training Program. Say, the program includes modules like the English language, French language, Pronunciation, Accent development, Customer Greeting, Call Management Software, Data entry, and Report Management, etc.

If the company follows the CBT approach, it would first create a survey for the trainees and ask them of the competencies they already possess from the list of specified modules. It would then conduct personalized tests in various formats based on their mentioned competencies.

Trainees who succeed in the test may skip the respective modules and proceed to the module which they are not competent at already. Those who fail would require to complete the compulsory modules first before they can proceed to the next module.

In this way, the company would have a highly categorized instructional design for individual trainees based on their required possessed skills and the skills they have to learn to clear the training program as a whole.

Be advised that, every trainee would have the same level of competencies after completing the entire program. It is just that the starting point was different for each. Ultimately, it will save everyone’s time and trainees will invest time and efforts acquiring only what is required for the job.

For example, trainees already knowing French need not complete the French module and can proceed to other modules accordingly.

How CBT is The Best for eLearning Marketplace Platforms?

Some of the major reasons for the massive popularity of eLearning courses are accessibility, self-paced learning, and the affordability for all. Today, a student in Asia might not afford to go to the US to complete a course at MIT. However, he/she can indeed access MIT’s massive OpenCourseWare.

CBT in online learning and eLearning marketplaces can make these online courses more accessible and affordable to the learners. Just imagine, if eLearning marketplaces provide courses not as a whole but in independent modules, and students can pick the modules. Rather than paying fortunes to purchase an entire course, where most of the modules could be redundant, they can purchase only those segments they seek to learn.  

As per the process of assigning badges, certificates, diplomas, and degrees are concerned, the platform can follow a common assessment design for everyone. They can take assessments tests for the entire course, irrespective of the modules taken or skipped by the individual learners.

For example, if a course asks for 40 competencies, every student must clear the assessments for all 40s to get certified. While those who do not want the entire course certificate can be assigned badges as per the individual assessments of the competencies. In this way, eLearning platforms can operate both in the traditional and competency-based learning models. Here are a few benefits one can expect from the CBT model when we compare competency based education vs traditional education.

  • Saves everyone’s time: We saw how it saves the time after skipping outmoded modules. It enables students to work and study at their own pace. For some, it saves a lot of time, which they can utilize to complete a number of courses in a specified time.
  • Boosts Engagement: Learners will feel more interested in learning new skills rather than completing redundant modules to get certified.
  • More ease of learning: CBT ensures that only those learners are presented with a course who already possess the pre-requisite skills required to complete it efficiently. The learning outcomes on the CBT-based eLearning platforms are far better than the traditional ones. Let’s not forget that even learning becomes less cumbersome in such courses.
  • Faster corporate training: It works like a charm in corporate training programs. The trainees can complete the courses in lesser time and start working on the projects. It saves a lot of time, money, and efforts for the corporations.

Challenges for Competency Based Education in eLearning

Consequently, there is no doubt that self-paced competency-based eLearning is beneficial for everyone. However, it works only when applied proficiently. The riskiest part of CBT is the assessment process to assess the possessed competencies. One must design the assessments cautiously ensuring that it analyzes the students-

  • Only for the specific competencies and nothing else and,
  • It must scrutinize the competencies to the fullest without overlooking any crucial aspect.

Next challenge is the modular course design which requires adding many extra features to the platform. Besides the platform, you would also require to program you LMS to conduct the competency assessments. It requires a lot of effort where you must program your LMS solution to dynamically design the instructional set based on the learning preferences and competencies of the learners.  

You may find it problematic to create Competency-based programs, especially where it’s difficult to identify the required competencies. Also, you cannot just fit a new competency randomly in the program. It requires a lot of brainstorming to decide the sequence and then pre-requisites to accommodate a new competency in an existing program. CBT might not be a preferred style for many learners.

How to Deliver Competency Based eLearning Courses?

There is no fixed way to deliver CBT programs. Everything works fine if you can implement the following five phases confidently:

  • Survey: Create a survey and let students identify the competencies they have already. By doing so, they will automatically craft their personalized training program.
  • Competency Assessment: Assess the learners for the specified competencies. You must deploy multiple formats of assessment to examine the learners’ competence. Besides online quizzes, you can utilize case studies and role-plays to assess their theoretical knowledge into real-life scenarios.
  • Segmentation: Segment the learners based on the competencies examined through assessment tests.
  • Instructional design: Prepare the personalized course design based on the segments. In fact, you don’t need to complete this step manually. You just have to prepare the entire program using multiple independent modules. Rest will be taken care of by CBT-enabled LMS solution. It will automatically prepare customized instructional designs for individual learners based on their proven competencies.
  • Overall Assessment: An overall assessment is required after the completion of each module post training. This is not a pre-training assessment like in the first step. This is a post-training assessment to examine if the learner has acquired the competency to move to the next module in the customized instructional design. The overall assessment is required to certify the learner for the successful completion of the course.

Over to You

Competency-based training is undoubtedly a great way to teach. With a more focused approach, CBT has the scope in almost every field of training. There could be a difference in the modus operand of the course design, but the essence always remains intact- focus only on what needs to be taught.

CBT is relatively an infant approach in the eLearning industry but has a lot of scopes. From vocational training, corporate eLearning, academic, to skill training, it’s definitely a high-level problem-solving model. The time is near when CBT will be recognized as a mainstream model in every part of the world; not just in a few universities in the USA.

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