The University of Texas offers a unique approach to the model of online competency-based education in order to position it as a legitimate form of education. As it stands, the structure of competency-based education is widely regarded – and implemented – as being completely online, self-directed, and self-paced. As a result of this, competency-based education has been the subject of great debate in academia, with many questioning the quality control and deliverables of the programs.

Online competency-based education is designed to provide any person regardless of age, background, work and familial commitments access to applied college certificate and degree programs. Courses generally have rolling admissions and students are given as much, or as little, time as they need to complete them based on their understanding of the course material. Because the programs are often entirely self-directed, lectures pre-recorded, and there are no instructors for students to speak to for clarification on the material, competency-based education has been met with skepticism.

The University of Texas recognizes the flaws and criticisms surrounding competency-based education, and has adopted an approach in their model that is fundamentally different from other programs.

Competency-based education programs at the University of Texas feature:

  • Career-aligned training which also provides students with a strong liberal arts education.
  • Faculty collaboration in the development of courses.
  • Cohort-based and course-aligned program structure.
  • Hybrid approach of adaptive learning and traditional course structure.

Competency-based education has the opportunity to provide lasting positive effects and change in higher education. The online structure provides the opportunity for anyone to earn an affordable education while the competency model meets each student’s individual instruction needs. The largest issue facing competency-based education is its legitimacy and academic rigour compared to traditional on-campus programs.

The University of Texas recognizes this and has designed its online competency-based education programs to provide its students with a high level of academic education and practical experience.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.