BU News

Laurie Dodge co-authors book on competency-based education and what leaders need to know

September 24, 2018
Laurie Dodge
Laurie Dodge is Brandman University's vice chancellor for Institutional Assessment and Planning and vice provost.

Laurie Dodge, Ph.D., Brandman University’s vice chancellor for Institutional Assessment and Planning and vice provost, has been living and breathing competency-based education (CBE) for more than five years.

This month marks the publication of the book she’s co-authored about CBE based her experience as one of the key leaders in building Brandman MyPath, the university’s direct assessment, competency-based program, and her reputation as the inaugural president of the board of directors for the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN).

“A Leader’s Guide to Competency-Based Education: From Inception to Implementation” by Deborah J. Bushway, Dodge and Charla S. Long looks at more than Brandman’s experience. It builds a definition of CBE and considers institutional culture, program design, the student journey, faculty considerations, business models and the need for assessments and approvals.

“We wrote about what we wish we had known in the beginning,” said Dodge, who was giving a presentation with Bushway and Long at a conference when a publisher approached them about the idea of writing a book. A series of conversations led to the focus on what other institutions need to consider.

“I think you could write a book on each of the chapters. This is a broad brushstroke,” said Dodge, who said the book is useful for those who know bits and pieces of the Brandman MyPath or other CBE programs but may not have the complete picture.

Competency-Based EducationThe number of CBE-labeled programs is growing, although only a few are direct-assessment degree programs like Brandman MyPath. CBE programs have the potential to manage the “iron triangle” of costs, access and quality while preparing graduates for the workforce, meeting the demands of adult learners for programs with flexible and personalized learning, write the authors.

In laying out the various challenges and successes of creating CBE programs, the authors include case studies, including Brandman’s framework approach to program design. Rather than trying to deconstruct and then reconstruct from a traditional program, Dodge and others at Brandman approached program development by considering what employers need in terms of skills, knowledge and abilities from employees and designing programs that teach and test those competencies.

The authors wanted to be “program agnostic,” said Dodge, by drawing on best practices and lessons learned while acknowledging the many models being used to create competency-based programs.

One of the biggest challenges, write the authors, is making the switch from the traditional “time is fixed, and learning is flexible” system of credit hours to the “time is flexible, and learning is fixed” system of competencies.  

That gets even more complicated, said Dodge, when business models need to be adjusted. “That’s a true disruptor.” Brandman’s solution has been to partner with Sagence to design systems that can meet that need.

Dodge and others from Brandman, including Chancellor Gary Brahm, Associate Vice Chancellor Hadassah Yang, CBE project manager Ed Callahan and researcher Julie Telkamp, and Sagence CEO Lee Johnston will be among those addressing and leading discussions at the CBExchange in Orlando, Florida, this week.Like the book, they’ll be sharing information about the development of CBE programs and the role played by institutional culture and much more.

Dodge’s co-authors – Bushway is a CBE consultant, and Long is the executive director of C-BEN –  will also be presenting information about the possibilities that can be imagined and created by competency-based education.

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