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Competency-based education: Driving the skills-measurement agenda

Competency-based education (CBE) is structured around competencies, and is primarily concerned with what students know and can do. Students in CBE programs work through material and assessments, usually online and at their own pace with support from faculty advisers and assessors. The time it takes to complete a CBE program depends on an individual’s prior learning, ability and motivation but the outcomes are consistent, anyone holding the credential has demonstrated mastery of all defined learning outcomes or competencies. CBE programs offer the potential to graduate students with prior learning relatively quickly, cost-effectively and with the skills needed to meet employer demands. CBE has been slow to take off in Canada and to date has been concentrated in professions where mastery is seen as essential for public health and safety. However, there is particular utility and promise for CBE programs to meet the needs of Ontario students with family and work responsibilities, or Ontarians with previous education and work experience who require retraining to pivot or advance in the labour market – a group of students that is currently underserved in Canada.