Anya Kamenetz (known for her book DIY U and free-to-download The Edupunks’ Guide to a DIY Credential, among other things) has just written a piece for NPR on competency-based degrees, a subject near enough to our hearts and a core initiative for some of our partners. The occasion of her article is a just-out report from the American Enterprise Institute called “The Landscape of Competency-Based Education“. Read the NPR piece for a quick overview of CBE or dive into the AEI report, a fairly friendly read at just a touch over seventeen pages.

Although the concept and its implementation are not without controversy, the essential idea of competency-based education (CBE) is sound: students get credit for what they know or are able to do rather than for seat time in a series of classrooms. Competency-based education appeals especially, though not exclusively, to working adults — many of whom are able to get credit for skills learned on the job.

Competency-based programs may still feel niche, but they are cropping up in familiar places (think major public universities) as well as in quirkier neighborhoods of the higher education community, and the numbers compel interest. Kamenetz writes:

Most programs don’t report their competency-based enrollment, but there are nine colleges that are entirely competency-based; these nine colleges alone enroll more than 140,000 undergraduates and 57,000 graduate students.

Saylor Academy can take credit for some students who did not make the count. Our college credit offerings depend on programs’ recognition of prior learning and competencies — knowledge and skills that were picked up from our courses and, in many cases, are tested with our exam. We invite you to learn more about our credit pathway courses.

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