What is Competency-Based Education?

What is Competency-Based Education

Competency-Based Education (CBE) posits that learning is best measured by students demonstrating what they know and can do rather than by the number of hours spent in a classroom. CBE is student-driven and self-paced, guided by individualized feedback from an instructor and advisor. CBE is also flexible, and offered fully online, so it works around the busy personal and professional lives of adult learners and working professionals.

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Competency Based Programs at A&M-Commerce

Criminal Justice (BS) Law Enforcement Leadership Emphasis, Competency-Based

The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Law Enforcement Leadership (BSCJ-CJCB) at Texas A&M University-Commerce is a 100% online, competency-based program designed specifically for first responders: law enforcement, peace officers and military personnel with existing work experience, police academy training, or other certifications. Courses are offered in an accelerated format, so students can move swiftly through material they already have mastery over, and focus more attention on topics that are new and challenging to their existing knowledge base. The courses are self-paced, so students can work according to their own schedule. Students in the BSCJ-CJCB program develop practical workplace competencies that meet current and future challenges facing first responders today.

Health Services Administration (BAAS) Competency-Based

Our BAAS program is flexible, affordable and 100 percent online. If you have earned or worked toward an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree, our innovative BAAS program will provide you with a cost-effective pathway to earning your Bachelor degree. We will accept up to 85 hours of your previous coursework from an accredited institution, which means you are only 37 hours away from earning your degree!

Organizational Leadership (BAAS) Competency-Based

The Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Organizational Leadership (ORGL) degree is a competency-based program that prepares innovative leaders for employment in an increasingly technological and global society. This program provides opportunities for students to receive credit for what they know and can do already, allows them to accelerate completion of their degree and — because it is fully online — students are able to plan their study schedule around the rest of their day to complete the coursework.

Safety and Health (BAAS) Competency-Based

Our BAAS program is flexible, affordable and 100 percent online. If you have earned or worked toward an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree, our innovative BAAS program will provide you with a cost-effective pathway to earning your Bachelor degree. We will accept up to 85 hours of your previous coursework from an accredited institution, which means you are only 37 hours away from earning your degree!

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Effective Practices in Competency-Based Education

Prerequisites for Launching

Successfully launching and maintaining an innovative program that defies some of the key elements of the traditional model requires student centricity, data-driven decision making, leadership support, flexibility and faculty involvement—among other things.

Measuring Student Success

If the field of postsecondary competency-based education is to continue growing, researchers and CBE program leaders will need to demonstrate that CBE programs fulfill core value propositions for students, including access, success, quality and affordability.

“Right on the money”

Competency-Based Education satisfies students and post-graduation outcomes. A review of existing research on CBE program outcomes provides context for the research focus of the essay.

5 Questions to Ask

A&M-Commerce, CBE director details tips for a successful framework based on lessons learned from the university's successful online program.

Enabling Affordability and Success

The systems for Competency-Based Education readiness allow students to advance toward a completion goal based on their mastery of a skill or competency at their own pace. Establishing a CBE program can seem like a daunting task, but, luckily, this post contains some help!

Saving Time and Money

Competency-based education offers the opportunity to accelerate learning and thus time-to-credential through alternative pricing structures such as all-you-can-take subscription models and credit for prior learning.

EdTech and Higher Ed Manifesto

Symbiosis is possible, but edtech corporations and higher education institutions must both engage in some critical changes to allow the postsecondary space to grow to serve today's learners.

Development Framework

The Institute for Competency-Based Education has developed a framework based on the development process for the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program, with some additions from lessons learned post-implementation.

A topography of Texas CBE

As with the rest of the United States, interest in competency-based education to support student completion and post‐graduation success in Texas—particularly for post‐traditional students such as working adults and students with some college but no degree—has been growing steadily over the past decade.

Importance of Metrics and Data

By understanding what metrics to track (and why) right from the get-go, competency-based programs can do a better job of showing their quality while allowing for rapid growth and improvement through data-driven decision making.

Predictive Analytics & Transfer Students

The competency-based program at A&M-Commerce has begun to analyze enrollment data to better understand their transfer student population and make predictions regarding future students.

Graduate Gives Thanks

Learn how competency-based education helped one Texan adult, veteran, fully-employed and grand parent achieve another important title: college graduate. Thank you to Judith Sebesta, Institute for Competency-Based Education, uninsured drivers become subject to license and vehicle registration suspension when accident damages amount to: A&M-Commerce for contributing this inspiring story.


Our work is aligned directly with the mission of A&M-Commerce to provide a personal, accessible and affordable educational experience for all learners, engaging in creative discovery and dissemination of knowledge and ideas related to competency-based education. 


In order to support our mission, the Institute serves as a campus, state and national collaboratory for innovation in order to:

  • Assist institutions and state agencies with the development of competency-based programs.
  • Work with policymakers and others to determine the effectiveness of competency-based programs.
  • Share best practices in the development, implementation and study of competency-based education.

How can We help You?

We are able to help you in the following areas of competency-based education:

  • Program design and development
  • Training and workshops
  • Speaking engagements
  • Data and research
  • Access to subject matter experts
  • Webinars and conferences
  • Other consulting services

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State Of Competency-Based Education Symposium

Our state-wide symposium “State of CBE” is held yearly to help grow CBE programs and academic awareness about the growing field of CBE and its instructional methodologies. All Texas CBE programs will be encouraged to discuss their programs, their strengths, weaknesses, areas of concern and opportunities for growth. The 2021 symposium is currently under development.

Please join our email list to receive an update when more details are available. Also check out other CBE related events:

CBExchange by C-BEN

CBExchange, an annual conference hosted by C-BEN, is the foremost conference on competency-based education, where leaders from hundreds of institutions gather to learn how to build and bring to scale high-quality programs. This conference, which is dedicated 100% to CBE, will help you understand, plan or enhance competency-based education through facilitated sessions, focused on listening, learning and leading.

Fast Track to Success by CBEC

The Fast Track to Success Project is an annual conference developed around innovation in higher education. This conference will provide a forum for sharing lessons-learned, strategies, outlooks, data, pedagogy and design elements of competency-based education and other innovative models at all levels of instruction and learning in higher education.

CAEL Annual Conference

The CAEL Conference is widely known as the leading place to support adult learners through PLA and Credit for Prior Learning advancement. But it’s also a place where leaders across the work-learn-earn spectrum make necessary connections between education and career success to generate the powerful ideas that promote sustainable economic growth to transform individuals and help communities thrive.

D2L Fusion

Fusion, D2L's global learning conference, brings together education professionals every year. This is an opportunity to share, collaborate and learn from each other all the cutting-edge solutions within the education community.

These are just a few of the institutions we have partnered with to offer competency-based education pathways to their students.

Institute for Competency-Based Education :: Program Admission Requirements copied not edited

Spring Webinar Series Archive

CBE::Webinars 2021

January 28th @ 2 p.m. Central

Carlos Rivers and Courtney Clanton form the Institute for Competency-Based Education will showcase the lessons learned over five years as Texas A&M University-Commerce built and implemented their first and second CBE programs. Reflecting on the journey, this presentation/discussion will cover defining characteristics of CBE, recommendations for starting points to include operational best practices and current logistical issues within a CBE program. The presentation will also include how similar modalities like Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) connect to CBE as well as how CBE connects to Competency-Based Learning (CBL). The final segment of the presentation will show how these modalities/programs are currently linked to the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate (TAB) program and how they are working to ensure the stated goals of 60X30TX.

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March 4th @ 2 p.m. Central

Kelle Parsons and Jessica Mason from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) will share the results of their collaborative study of student outcomes at 7 institutions offering CBE programs, focusing on progression, completion, time to degree and total price to students. The team will examine how CBE outcomes compare to outcomes for similar students in traditional programs; also sharing tips to consider if you would like to evaluate outcomes in your own CBE programs.

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March 25th @ 2 p.m. Central

This diverse panel includes the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Associate Dean of Digital Learning & Innovation – Dr. Susan Wegmann, Student Success Coach – Tesha Graham, Director of Recruitment CBE – Marissa Boughtner, Financial Aid CBE – Greta Wheeler, and Instructional Designer – Kelsie Livingston. An effective CBE program requires buy-in and engagement from multiple people on campus. This panel will discuss various roles needed to provide an optimal CBE program. Speakers will share best practices in their respective areas, and a Q and A session will occur at the end.

April 8th @ 2 p.m. Central

George Swindell, Instructor, College of Innovation & Design, Texas A&M University-Commerce, will share his tips on the construction of a CBE course. The purpose of this session will be to present a demonstration of how a Core-Curriculum course can be structured to meet both university and state goals. We will discuss best practices when designing a CBE course as well as tips to help facilitate the learning process for all learners. Participants will receive some basic knowledge of curriculum mapping when discussing course design as well as get a hands-on look at the application of a CBE course in action.

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April 22nd @ 2 p.m. Central

What should one expect in seeking regional accreditation approval for competency-based education programs? What should universities consider during the design phase of building CBE programs that align with regional and national standards? Please join Dr. Laurie G. Dodge, Vice Chancellor of Institutional Assessment & Planning and Vice Provost at Brandman University, to learn more about the regional accreditation process and expectations for approval of competency-based education programs. Dr. Laurie Dodge will share best practices in seeking regional accreditation approval and introduce the new USDOE regulations for direct assessment competency-based education programs.

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May 6th @ 2 p.m. Central

Dr. Yvonne Villanueva-Russel and Ricia Montgomery from Texas A&M University-Commerce will share an insider perspective. Taking a look at the process and results of an integrative approach to maximize teaching load, pay scale, and course enrollment caps for adjunct and full-time instructors within the College of Innovation and Design at Texas A&M University-Commerce which houses both traditional and competency-based education programs. We will share a customizable Excel spreadsheet and will consider implications for scaling programs while aiming to adhere to accreditation standards and best practices.

Watch the Recording

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CBE::Webinar 2020

Yvonne Villanueva-Russell, Dean, College of Innovation & Design, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Jimmy Womack, Coordinator, TAB CJ Program, Texas A&M University-Commerce Presenters will share their tips for innovation in the rapid design of a criminal justice competency-based program that was constructed and implemented in 11 months. Strategies to “lean in” by seeking collaboration with campus partners will be discussed along with strategies to “lean out” by utilizing an advisory board and outside consultants. Participants will receive practical advice about how to sidestep landmines and overcome obstacles to achieve a successful launch of a new program.

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As new education models emerge in the higher education landscape, constituents and stakeholders increasingly demand greater evidence of the return on investment to both students and the institution. The purpose of this presentation is twofold. First, the presentation will show a program performance comparison of two completer degree programs targeting adult learners. The comparison analyses key student success metrics including student enrollment, retention and graduation rates, as well as other data points such as time-to-degree, cost-to-degree and student debt scenarios for both a CBE program and a comparable traditional program. Second, the presentation will showcase six years’ worth of financial data for the program, highlighting both revenues and expenses associated with launching competency-based programs. The findings of this presentation suggest that the CBE program results in higher performance across all key performance indicators for the adult learner population. The results also support the notion that institutions should expect a competency-based program of this type to break-even by the fifth year of operation and a strong long-term financial outlook. While further research is needed, this presentation adds to the limited body of knowledge to understand both the return on investment for both students and institutions alike.

Watch the Recording

Please join us to discuss findings from the 2019 National Survey of Postsecondary CBE, focused on exploring the “state of the field” for CBE. The discussion will include what types of institutions are adopting CBE, their path toward adoption, and barriers and facilitators of the process. Following a brief presentation, we’ll open up for Q&A and discussion.

Presenters: Kelle Parsons & Jessica Mason

Watch the Recording

Competency-based academic and workforce programs have proven to be one of the most effective innovations in higher education to increase student recruitment, retention, and graduation rates. This presentation, based on the soon-to-be-published book, “Competency-Based Education Made Easy: A Step-By-Step Handbook for Developing and Implementing Competency-Based Education Programs in Institutions of Higher Education,” offers a step-by-step guide on how to plan, develop, implement, and administer CBE programs. The presentation is designed to be timely and relevant to attendees, ranging all the way from beginners to more experienced colleagues who are looking for ways to develop and/or improve an existing CBE program. Particular emphasis will be placed on developing and implementing CBE online courses and entire CBE online programs in response to recent and possible future restrictions on student mobility associated with the Corona Virus. Attendees will have the opportunity to sign-up to receive a free copy of “Competency-Based Education Made Easy: A Step-By-Step Handbook for Developing and Implementing Competency-Based Education Programs in Institutions of Higher Education.”

Watch the Recording

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CBE:: Webinar 2019


  • Charla Long, Competency-Based Education Network

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  • Kelle Parsons, AIR
  • Howard Lurie, eduVentures

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  • Dr. Yvonne Villanueva-Russell, Texas A&M University-Commerce
  • James Fountain, Texas A&M University-Commerce
  • Carlos Rivers, Texas A&M University-Commerce


  • Dr. Ali Esmaeili and Dr. Emma Miller, South Texas College

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  • Carlos Rivers and James Fountain, Institute for Competency-Based Education

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  • Cali Morrison, American Public University System

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CBE:: Webinar 2018


  • Howard Lurie – Principal Analyst| EduVentures
  • Carlos Rivers – Operations Research Analyst | Institute for Competency-Based Education, Texas A&M University-Commerce
  • Dr. Christopher Sessums – Learning Strategies Consultant | D2L

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  • Carlos Rivers – Operations Research Analyst | Institute for Competency-Based Education, Texas A&M University-Commerce

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  • Kelle Parsons – Researcher | American Institutes for Research,
  • Todd Nobles – Research Assistant | American Institutes for Research,
  • Cameron Smither – Research Associate | American Institutes for Research

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  • Dr. Amardeep Kahlon, Director, Fast Track to Success & Professor, Computer Science/Computer Information Systems, Austin Community College

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  • Jennifer Nailos – Program Director | Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

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  • Dr. Kurt Linberg, Consultant, Hastad Marketing Company

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  • Charla Long – Executive Director | Competency-Based Education Network
  • Deb Bushway – Consultant | Competency-Based Education Network

Watch it Here

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Competency-Based Education Network Member logo.


The Institute for Competency-Based Education is an official member of the Competency-Based Education Network. Committed to serve as an advocate for competency-based education.

Our Partners

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Competency Based Education

A network of institutions, employers and experts committed to unlocking the potential of competency-based learning to ensure education and training is more flexible, responsive and valuable.

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American Institute for Research

AIR is committed to increasing the effectiveness of education at all levels through rigorous research and evaluation, training and technical assistance.

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Competency-Based Education Consortium

The mission of the Competency-Based Education Consortium is to share lessons learned and best practices from the field in competency-based education. In doing so, they enable post-secondary institutions to leverage CBE, paving a path from recruitment to mastery and, ultimately, employability.

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