National Research Collaborative on Postsecondary Competency-Based Education

The National Research Collaborative on Postsecondary Competency-Based Education and Learning is a community of researchers dedicated to building evidence in support of postsecondary competency-based education and learning (CBE/L), through three key strategies:

  • Collaboratively developing a research agenda for CBE/L, focusing on core questions about enrollment, efficacy, efficiency, and implementation.
  • Engaging researchers and practitioners in building evidence related to CBE/L, seeding the field with a broader range of experts on the topic, and building capacity for ongoing research.
  • Translating findings and data for critical audiences whose actions may affect the field of CBE/L.

The National Research Collaborative’s research agenda, which was developed with input from a range of stakeholders across the CBE landscape, focuses on answering key questions that advance the field and build evidence for CBE. The research agenda is continually updated and is based on lessons learned from completed projects and developments in the field.

Our priority areas of inquiry are centered on building foundational knowledge for the field, supporting a better understanding of the CBE and CBL program design, and developing knowledge about public perceptions.

National Research Collaborative Research Partners

Research partners collaborate to support rigorous, multi-institution research through a communal space where researchers to engage with each other and share ideas around topics of interest. The National Research Collaborative also supports publication and amplification of research findings or products by its collaborators and partners.

Through this collaborative, seven research partners conducted projects between 2018-2021 that are aligned with the research agenda, to support the development of the evidence base for competency-based education and learning.

Equity, Efficacy, and Quality: Complete Florida’s Prior Learning Access Network (PLAN)

Giang-Nguyen T. Nguyen, Michelle Horton, Carla Thompson, Monica Vandenberg, and Rashmi Sharma, University of West Florida
This research project examined the prior learning assessment (PLA) measures used in the Florida State College System to respond to the overarching research question: How can the Florida College System strengthen the PLA programs and services at each partner institution?

Validating the Decolonizing Approach to Competency-based Curriculum Design Model

Laura Parson, North Dakota State University
This project validated the Decolonizing Approach to Competency-based Curriculum Design Model (DA-CBE), a method designed by the author, Laura Parson, that sought to rebuild the competency-based curriculum design process on a foundation of inclusion with the goal of working to recreate the higher education curriculum design process in a way that promotes equity and diversity. Through a decolonizing approach to competency-based curriculum design, I argue that curriculum (re)design can (re)create the academy by recreating teaching and learning systems and processes, rooted in the outcomes and objectives identified by key stakeholders.

The Faculty Experience in Direct Assessment Offerings

Kimberly Pearce, Northwestern Health Sciences University
Higher education leaders and researchers have become interested in offering CBE, many through direct assessment, to address access and affordability constraints as well as create better prepared, career-ready graduates. CBE-DA is a departure from traditional higher education’s reliance on credit hours and drastically changes traditional faculty roles. Without traditional teaching roles, faculty working in direct assessment offerings have had to adapt to new expectations, change the scope of their work and the practices and tools they use to do their work, and have likely experienced different reward systems. Given that faculty provide critical direct services to students, have the potential to add significant value to direct assessment and their students, and are the primary labor cost in higher education, it is important for higher education leaders who design CBE-DA to understand how faculty experience and make sense of their roles in direct assessment offerings.

Military Transcript and Experience Review: A 13-state Scan of Policies

Gina Johnson, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems
Sara Appel, Midwestern Higher Education

Compact States vary in their development and passage of policies related to higher education, including policies related to the review of military transcripts and experience for military-connected students entering or reentering postsecondary education. This state policy scan, conducted by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and the Midwestern Higher Education Compact’s (MHEC) Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit (MCMC), will provide a review of the current landscape of military transcripts and experience in 13 states, also studying policy implications at the state level.

The Spread of CBE Models and Practices across the Competency-Based Education Network: A Social Network Analysis

Bruce Haupt, University of Kentucky
A study of the influence of inter-organizational social capital on the implementation, spread and scale-up of new and innovative CBE practices via the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN). Social network analysis and qualitative case methods are employed, with data drawn from AIR’s NSPCBE, the CBE Social Network Survey, and from 36 semi-structured interviews.

Selection & Success: A Study of Student Enrollment and Academic Performance in Competency-based Higher Education Courses

Willis Jones, University of Miami
CBE has increased in popularity among higher education institutions, particularly at community colleges. Research on accessibility and student success in CBE courses, however, has lagged. This project is a multi-institutional quantitative study exploring which students choose to enroll in CBE courses at community colleges and which characteristics correlate with student success in CBE courses. The author also compared the academic success of students in CBE courses with students in traditional face-to-face courses.

A Longitudinal Study of Graduates from a Competency-Based Education (CBE) Program from First Enrollment in College through Post-Baccalaureate Outcomes

Michelle Navarre Cleary, College Unbound
This project analyzed the learner characteristics, learning journeys, motivations, goals, and outcomes of 17 adult students who completed their bachelor’s degrees in a competency-based education (CBE) program.

Kelle Parsons
Senior Researcher