What Is Competency-Based Education?


Competency-based learning or personalized learning combines the assessment of existing skills, perhaps gained in the workplace, with mastery-based academic progression. Rather than completing a course’s worth of work over several months, a typical college semester, students progress at their own pace, moving more quickly or slowly as needed. Innovative technological solutions are required to support competency-based learning.

In competency-based learning, students can receive credit for work and life experience. Courses are self-paced, allowing students to complete a class or even a degree in more or less time than is typical. For a student with significant relevant experience, course progression may occur quite rapidly. Non-traditional students may find personalized education more manageable and affordable.

Improved Access to Education and Learning

Personalized learning solutions offer improved access to education, particularly for non-traditional learners. Non-traditional learners include adult students, people returning to school after years away, and students with families. For many non-traditional students, competency-based learning increases their success, allows them to earn credits for skills already mastered, and can be a more flexible and affordable choice.

Increasing Access to Competency-Based Learning

Universities and colleges offering competency-based learning do so in an online environment or a very personalized one, supported by mentors and other one-on-one relationships. Competency-based learning is even moving into some high school districts. Credits are earned by proving knowledge and skill, rather than putting in classroom time.

Currently 52 colleges or universities are offering some form of competency-based education or plan to in the near future. A few colleges, like the non-profit Western Governor’s University, have moved to competency-based degree programs, eliminating the traditional credit hour structure altogether.

YuJa and Competency-Based Education

Traditional classroom structures work very poorly for competency-based learning—they require students to move through material at approximately the same pace, regardless of personal understanding.  Fortunately, YuJa offers tools that can easily be customized to meet the needs of personalized or competency-based learning.

“Competency-Based Degree Programs on the Rise.” NPR. Web. Accessed on 29 July 2015.