Competency-Based Education from a Subject Matter Expert

Competency-Based Education from a Subject Matter Expert

competency-based-education-from-a-subject-matter-expert With the emergence of Competency-Based Education (CBE) in the higher education cosmos, the journey seeking continues. The career professional, retired service member, 'career changer,' overachiever and the like, are looking for ways to expand their knowledge bases and ultimately, earn degrees that acknowledge their skill sets. Discover how they are finding new ways of thinking through and realizing their education.

Navigating Uncharted Territory

The standard pathway for obtaining a degree is now an emerging area of assessment and re-discovery. Douglas Adams, humorist and author of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (1978) and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984) offered his thoughts on some of technology's turning points. 

"First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII - and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we’ve realized it’s a brochure."

21st century Computer Scientist, Alan Curtis Kay believes that “technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.” As a parent, it is not lost on me that today's youth have admission to an array of emerging technological advancements, many of which they may consider standard issue. If there is something they need access to and a smart phone is handy, chances are, there's "an app for that!"

A newer occurrence in elementary school classrooms is to offer tablets of all sizes as supplements to textbooks. The online learning component (expanding the classroom environment), offered through Pearson Realize, Study Island, Education City, Star Fall, Scholastic, K12 and others, is only the tail end of the comet. Several of these programs have been offered through district pairings in the k12 setting for decades. 

Educators are also reading the star charts, showing that this evolution has begun to transform the learning environment in higher education. The technology used to bring Brandman University's MyPath program to students was an ever-evolving and dynamic process. As a member of the academic side of this development (dubbed a Subject Matter Expert, or SME, labeling those who built competencies that are offered in the program), I was fortunate to be part of this emerging venture as it set sail.

Building a New World

Through the use of the very tablets of all sizes that our k-12 students are mastering during the day, our CBE students navigate through readings, video and other types of compatible learning tools while they earn their Bachelor of Business Administration degrees. The reliance on competent technology in the execution of the program was approached with much deliberation and discussion from both the technological and academic ends of the spectrum. It was consideration on this part of the process that motivated me to seek insight from my peers (fellow SME's), who have also developed competencies for the CBE program with the technology platform in mind. One of Adams' (1984 characters, a scientist, shares a reminder that he gives himself often:

“See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting.”

Brandman University SME’s saw the opportunity to explore and begin something new, approaching the emerging genre with open-minds. They thought through content selection with much research and curriculum driven reflection, relying on collaboration with colleagues. They tested the learning through trials with quality control; all the while, gaining a better understanding about the nuances of launching a CBE program.

Expert Insights

I asked several of these trailblazers how they perceived the influence of Competency-Based Education’s (virtual) degree program delivery on current technology methods used within Higher Education. As is often celebrated, the diversity in feedback speaks to the array of thought and inventiveness that poured into the exploration of this initiative.

The Constraints of Technology

Dr. Kat Ringenbach, Associate Professor of Psychology, spoke to the "constraints of technology," offering that she does "not think that CBE influences technology, but rather the other way around." She believes that:

“CBE has the potential of pushing the technology envelope if time and money are used to develop technology, and the right technology personnel are used. What CBE does offer is an innovative way to present material outside of the normal academic boxes. The General Education approach has been multidisciplinary, with competencies building on each other. The multidisciplinary approach creates a place where students see the world as a whole, rather than in little tiny bubbles, allowing them to better find their place in the world, and determine where they can make a difference in the lives of others. I believe technology is just a tool, not an outcome.”

Education is Evolutionary

Dr. Tim Becker, Assistant Professor of Marketing shared his thoughts, offering that “Education is evolutionary!” He notes that:

“With the availability and use of tech and that being meshed with what employers, accreditors, and universities want, CBE can be created credibly and be valuable to the student. CBE is opening up opportunities for universities and students to grow in size and knowledge/performance. We need this in the USA; we need to get more to the 'doing' part of "learning, knowing, doing" in courses/competencies…One beauty of CBE is that when done right, it brings "doing" or higher level learning to the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, or it could and should.”

A Scientific Method

Dr. Sheila L. Steinberg Professor, Social Sciences added:

“I sincerely enjoyed the process of working on these competencies in part because it allowed me to think both holistically and creatively about approaching different topics. One theme that I tried to incorporate throughout both competencies related to the natural sciences was the role and application of the scientific method. The Social systems perspectives also included scientific rigor and application of systematic investigation to assess society and the various systems that operate there….I believe it (CBE) is the new wave of the future, thinking in an interdisciplinary framework about various issues and topics.”

As Brandman University and other institutions in the higher education cosmos begin the journey of exploration, determining how Competency-Based Education and emerging technologies will break new ground in tandem, one certainty is that it is an emerging 21st century discovery worth making way for!

Much like any hitchhiker in need of a guide through the galaxy, it is always recommended to seek out the experts for such a task. Below are but a few of the venues where our Faculty and CBE Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) have been and will be offering their insight and discussion on Competency Based Education. Look for more to come as we continue to collaborate, innovate and explore:

  • Association of American Colleges & Universities (Portland, 2013) – (Associate Dean Melanie Borrego, Ph.D., Associate Dean Ellen Derwin, Ph.D. and Dr. Kat Ringenbach)
  • American Accounting Association Conference (2013) - Associate Dean Cathy Margolin • 20th Annual Online Learning Consortium International Conference (2014) (Associate Dean Cathy Margolin & Dr. Tim Perez)
  • 2015 Annual Meeting: Liberal Education, Global Flourishing, and the Equity Imperative (Dr. Sheila Steinberg)
  • Association of American Colleges & Universities General Education Conference (2015)– (Associate Dean Ellen Derwin, Ph.D., Dean Jeremy Korr)
  • Council of College and Military Educators Symposium (2015) (Dean Worthington, Dr. Jalin Johnson, Rebecca Falkner, JD, Dr. Sarah Zaker)

*Brandman University Senior Leadership and Administration also continue to explore CBE’s place in higher education through legislative and media based platforms.

Dr. Jalin Johnson

Assistant Professor of Business & Organizational Leadership, Dr. Jalin B. Johnson serves as a member of the Institutional Review Board (IRB), CBE Curriculum team for SBPS (where she has also developed BBA competencies within the Marketing emphasis) and serves as a member of the Organizational Leadership & Human Resources Curriculum team for SBPS. She serves as both a volunteer and career mentor to adults and youth through her academic and community based work.

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