A successful competency based education has several key elements.

Serious young man studying on the computer.Competency based degree programs are opening new opportunities for students who might otherwise lack the time or resources to earn a degree. Instead of requiring a certain amount of time sitting in classes, competency based learning focuses exclusively on the learning, requiring only that you master the competencies (i.e., subject areas) of your degree. Since you can master these competencies at whatever pace works best for you, competency based degree programs offer much needed flexibility. But just because competency based education is flexible, doesn’t mean it lacks core principles.

For competency based degree programs to be effective, they should include the following elements:

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Varied Content

No matter what competency you’re learning, your program should direct you toward or provide you with the education content you need to master it. Everyone learns a bit differently, so a good competency based degree program should ensure there is a wide variety of content available.

Strong Support

While the autonomy of competency based degree programs is part of their appeal, no program should leave you on your own. Instead, you should have access to academic coaches who can provide general guidance and faculty who can provide targeted instruction as needed.

Clear Assessment Standards

What does it mean to “master a competency”? In a good competency based degree program, that’s not a question you should have to ask. Instead, there should be rubrics that clearly lay out the expectations and define what is considered passing and what isn’t.

Student Ownership

Competency based education comes from the recognition that personal learning can be the most powerful kind of learning. But for personal learning to work, your competency based degree program needs to give you the power to set your own goals and control how much and how fast you learn.

When all the right elements are in place, competency based learning can help you gain the skills you need, whether you’re looking to advance your career or simply master a new subject area. It’s a great degree path for anyone who works full time—and is particularly achievable when combined with online learning. In an online education setting, you can complete your competencies from home or anywhere else you have internet access. When it comes to earning a degree as a working adult, a competency based degree program from an online university can be the perfect choice.

Walden University is an accredited institution that offers select degree programs in a competency based format online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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