There are still challenges ahead for competency-based education (CBE), but none may be bigger than the one from the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General. Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, said he believes the critical audit from the Office is preventing more CBE programs from being developed in higher education.
The audit criticized the way the Higher Learning Commission considered proposals for new CBE credentials. The inspector general panned the way the commission approved programs based on “regular and substantive” interaction between faculty and students.
“I, along with many others, have pointed out numerous times that this particular regulation makes little sense in today’s world of emerging online, competency-based programs—and we should instead be moving toward outcomes-based judgments around institutions,” Horn wrote in a column for CompetencyWorks. “But the friction is also entirely predictable as competency-based education simply does not fit into the traditional value network and associated regulatory structures of higher education.”
Evaluating CBE programs using the same metrics employed to assess on-campus programs just doesn’t work, according to Horn, particularly when it comes to online interaction between students and faculty. The issues will eventually be worked out, but students who could benefit from CBE now will have moved on.
“At a high level, the solutions to these problems both have challenges today,” Horn wrote. “One is to stay out of the government funding streams, as some online, competency-based programs have tried but struggled to do, or to try to launch a more systematic effort at reform through a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act—an effort that will not be an easy climb with the various lobbying factions that will support the existing orders and thus would likely try to stifle innovation.”