Time in the classroom vs. learning on your own time

Tyler Stike
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Comparing traditional education to competency-based education (CBE)

In the past, credit hours and education have been largely determined by how much time is spent in the classroom1. Traditional education ties learners to a strict schedule in the classroom. However, learners and education are evolving and a main focus today is providing a flexible schedule to accommodate learners’ busy lives. Competency-based education (CBE) focuses on providing flexible schedules that allows students to progress at their own pace with tailored learning plans to demonstrate mastery of competencies. Below is a side-by-side comparison of traditional education and competency-based education:

Traditional education

Competency-based education

A more subjective and abstract teaching and learning method.2 An objective method of teaching and learning that is used to learn specific skills, known as competencies.2
Learning is generic with a “one size fits all” approach. Learning plans are tailored to students’ needs.
Focuses on what students should learn. Focuses on what the learners must learn to do.1
Students are expected to sit in a classroom for a determined number of hours.1 Students are expected to take the time they need in order to fully understand and master the subject matter.
The course starts and progresses at the same pace for all students, regardless if the information is something the student already knows. Every student is different and brings different backgrounds they can use to move faster through the course.
The teacher is considered as the person with the most knowledge in the classroom, and their main job is imparting that job onto the students. Both students and teachers are competent, and the learning process is in both hands. 1
Virtually the same model of learning and facilitating for many years. Adapts itself to the evolving needs of students, teachers, industries, and environment. 1
The objectives and pace of learning in the class are set and measured by the teacher. The objectives of the class are aimed at the student’s self-motivation to learn each competency.3
There is a fixed price for the amount of obligatory hours the student must attend class, which can make it more expensive.2 Self-paced which allows the student to move at their own pace, being able to skips certain classes if they have already mastered that skill, or move quicker through it if they have an ease for the material at hand.2

Competency-based education provides a clear alternative to traditional education but challenges still exist to implement a CBE program such as training instructors to create effective learning plans for students and other internal challenges such as rolling admissions, enrollment, and support.2 – it is an investment in time in an industry that can be resistant to change.3 However, many institutions are looking past the initial investment and realizing the long-term payoff of student retention and engagement along with significant financial benefits.2

Ilustration: TRiiBU Studio.


1Butova, Y. (2015, June). The History of Development of Comepetency-Based Education. European Scientific Journal. Retrieved February 21 2017 http://eujournal.org/index.php/esj/article/viewFile/5728/5535

2Blackboard Inc. (2015). Competency-Based Education (CBE): Higher Education’s answer to the call for change [eBook Version]. Retrieved March 1 2017 http://bbbb.blackboard.com/cbe-callforchange/

3Voorhees, R. A. (2001). Competency-Based Learning Models: A Necessary Future. New Directions for Istitutional Reaserch. Retrieved February 21 2017 http://www.medbev.umontreal.ca/GTEA/Competency-Based%20Learning%20Models.pdf

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