Competency-based, Performancebased, Direct-assessment: What’s in
a Name?
Beth Castiglia, Ph. D.
Dean, Larry L. Luing School of Business, Berkeley College
Conceptual Framework
Innovation Drivers
◦ Disruptive innovation
◦ Mass customization
◦ Consumer mentality
Implications of “breaking the credit
◦ Workload
◦ Units of learning
◦ Resource
◦ Salary structures
◦ Financial aid
◦ Transfer policies
◦ Degree
How we got here
 Cost
of higher education
Increase of 429% over past two decades
Cost disease
Competitive arms race
Inability to leverage technology
Changing student population
Nontraditional is the new traditional
1 in 5 people in the US have some college
credit but no degree
80% of US institutions are nonselective
Slow pace of change
How much difference is a classroom
today from one 70 years ago?
◦ Single faculty member dispensing “knowledge”
◦ Learning measured by completing a course
◦ Students expect to spend approximately 4
years earning degrees
Higher Education in the Press
Government regulators demand
2013 Obama’s domestic policy plan:
“…Consider value, affordability, and student outcomes in
making determinations about which colleges and universities
receive access to federal student aid…”
Change is coming.
But how will we get there?
Unbundling of Instruction
What do colleges do?
◦ Provide content knowledge
◦ Help students develop skills
◦ Provide socialization
◦ Provide degrees from accredited institutions
Content knowledge
Reformation similarities
Colleges and Universities do not have
a monopoly on dispensing knowledge
Skills development
 Technological
Adaptive learning
Self-paced learning
Determines value of degree
Determines Title IV eligibility
Competency-based education became
popularized when the Department of
Education first allowed such programs to
be accredited in Spring 2013.
Some distinctions
 Competency-based
 Performance-based
 Direct
Still “map” assessments to course
Instead of measuring progress based on
time, award credit based on
demonstration of skills learned.
Western Governor’s University
University of Wisconsin Flexible Option
Northern Arizona University’s
Personalized Learning
K-12 model initiated in the 1980s
Developed in response to early calls for
Direct assessment
Federal definition: … “an instructional
program that, in lieu of credit hours or clock
hours as a measure of student learning,
utilizes direct assessment of student learning,
or recognizes the direct assessment of
student learning by others.”
Southern New Hampshire University’s
College for America
Capella University’s FlexPath program
Direct assessment programs
 No
traditional courses
 No teaching professors
 No grades
 No deadlines
 No credit hour requirements
Landmarks in Direct Assessment
2005: Higher Education Reconciliation Act
(HERA) opened the door for college’s to
participate in federal financial aid
programs by directly assessing student
outcomes without consideration of time
spent in a classroom
Landmarks in Direct Assessment
2006: Regulations published defining
direct assessment and outlining the
procedures and requirements for an
institution that offers such programs to
use Title IV funds
Landmarks in Direct Assessment
July 31, 2014: DOE publishes Federal
Register notice inviting institutions to
apply to participate in one or more of
four experiments under the Department’s
“Experimental Sites Initiative”
Landmarks in Direct Assessment
December 19, 2014: DOE publishes a
follow up letter:
◦ Subject: Competency Based Education
Programs – Questions and Answers
◦ “We have received numerous questions regarding the
requirements of providing Title IV, HEA student assistance
to students enrolled in competency based educational
Questions addressed
What makes a CBE program different
from traditional academic programs?
Are there differences between credit
hour CBE and direct assessment
An example: College for America
(Southern New Hampshire University)
No courses
 120 competencies defined by rubrics
 Mastery demonstrated by completion of
tasks that are assessed by faculty
 Students begin a competency at any level
 $2,500/year
 Accredited by NEASC
What all CBE programs have in
They provide the student with the
opportunity to demonstrate knowledge.
Where we are
Lumina Foundation- Competency-Based
Education Network (C-BEN)
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Accreditation Issues
Accreditors faced with assessing learning
in increasingly disaggregated and highly
complex educational institutions.
Accreditors need to think about their
relationship with innovation.
Further questions
Should there be multiple levels of
accreditation for institutions, programs,
courses, competencies…?
Might there ultimately be two paths to
accreditation: the traditional institutional
one and the CBE one?
Competency-based education tied to
credit hours is (relatively) easy to
understand by both insiders and the
Direct assessment is much more difficult
(albeit “purer”) to sell on campus – and
to the DOE and accreditors.