Competency-based degrees continue to gain in popularity

February 19, 2014

Joel Shapiro, Associate Dean of Academics at Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies, suggests that the biggest disrupter of traditional PSE is not distance education, as many predict, but competency-based education. Shapiro argues that the model, which is already being adopted by many PSE institutions and endorsed by the US government, allows institutions to provide students with the same credential as those who “sit in the traditional classrooms with the traditional faculty members” by recognizing the value of real-world, experiential learning. He also points out that this type of experiential learning, “so often cast aside by traditional institutions, already exists within their walls” through internships and co-ops. Shapiro does say that competency models “can be only as good as the assessment mechanisms they employ, and, unfortunately, no assessment can be a perfect proxy for deep and meaningful learning.” He admits that great education is not just about content, but also about “challenging students to consider others’ viewpoints, providing conflicting information, and forcing students to reconcile, set priorities, and choose.” Chronicle of Higher Education