Postsecondary Competency-Based Education

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Many postsecondary institutions are developing competency-based education (CBE) programs, in part due to the growing desire to better serve adult learners—particularly those who might have some previous college credits, but no degree. CBE is an approach that can offer flexibility, support, and a focus on learning and competencies in ways that lead to expanded access and success, potentially lower cost to learners, and improved learning outcomes that prepare learners for their subsequent careers and life. In short, CBE aims to “hold learning constant" and allow the time to vary for individual learners.

AIR has served as a research partner to organizations and institutions in the CBE field for nearly a decade. We focus primarily, but not exclusively, on programs that result in recognized educational credentials (such as degrees) and hosted at colleges and universities. Our work includes understanding the scale and scope of adoption, understanding the design features of CBE programs, and supporting other research—including student enrollment and early outcomes.

In partnership with key organizations and institutions in the field, we remain committed to addressing important questions from policymakers, practitioners, and others interested in growing CBE. Together, we aim to ensure that CBE advances learning and success in ways that advance equitable opportunity for all learners, particularly those not well-served by traditional models.

What We Do

Our work includes the following:

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CBE Program Model Mapping Project

AIR, in partnership with the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) and key advisors from leading CBE programs, developed the CBE Program Model Map and accompanying research brief to help practitioners and researchers gain a better understanding of the most common CBE program design choices.

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National Research Collaborative

The National Research Collaborative on Postsecondary Competency-Based Education is a community of researchers dedicated to building evidence about postsecondary competency-based education and learning.

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National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education

The National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education surveys postsecondary institutions in the United States to better understand both adoption of CBE and perceptions of CBE.

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CBE Student Outcomes Research and Capacity Building

AIR’s postsecondary CBE research is aimed at studying CBE’s efficacy and providing tools to program leaders and researchers to support research, evaluation, and continuous improvement efforts.

Related Work