Could Competency Based Learning give MOOCs longevity?

Just came across an interesting post on Edudemic explaining how competency based learning (CBL) works. Essentially, a CBL-based curriculum requires students to demonstrate competency in the required areas of learning regardless of the amount of time spent on a given task. This means that students can determine their own rate of progress, moving rapidly through certain areas of the curriculum if they can demonstrate their mastery of the required content.

This seems to me to be an ideal academic framework for MOOCs to thrive. A curriculum designer would create the learning tasks that students have to master, and then it would be up to the student to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to demonstrate their competence in the specified areas. As the Edudemic posts suggests, the role of the tutor then becomes that of a facilitator, providing ‘office hours’ for students in which they can discuss their progress.

The spiralling cost of Higher Ed in the West is causing many students to question the value of a university education unless they leave with the 21st century skills necessary to make them employable. MOOCs have already demonstrated the potential to offer a low-cost alternative to the spiralling cost of Higher Ed, and even if MOOC providers were to introduce a nominal fee it would be much less than the cost that students currently face. A CBL curriculum would enable students to use MOOCs to gain the knowledge they require to learn the competencies they need, and provide a reason for Higher Ed institutions to keep providing them. A university would then split its core function of teaching and assessment: it might not accredit the students who participate in its MOOCs, but could provide accreditation to students who have participated in the MOOCs of another university.

I’m thinking off the top of my head here, so feel free to add your thoughts and comments…

Competency-based Education

2 thoughts on “Could Competency Based Learning give MOOCs longevity?

  1. Yep. This was the original idea I had when developing the competency framework at the University of Wisconsin. It is now called the Flexible Option and it has moved out of my hands. Some of the disruptive potential has been limited in the short run to get it through the system but once in place, doors will open for uses of many different content types.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Rovy, I'm excited to see what happens with the Wisconsin project. If MOOCs can be linked to a sustainable framework then there really is a chance that they will disrupt Higher Ed for good. It's only a matter of time before an alternative model emerged, and CBL certainly looks suitable. I haven't come across it much in the UK, so thank you for your excellent summary!

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