About Us

Competency-based learning (CBL) includes structured and unstructured opportunities for learning and the assessment of learning—both self-created and those designed by employers, educational institutions, and training providers—that are aligned to workplace-relevant competencies. Examples include modules offered by institutions of higher education; prior learning assessments; military credit; other work-based learning, apprenticeships, and returnships; industry certifications; and government licensures.

Competency-based education (CBE) provides structured learning opportunities that are designed by postsecondary institutions and lead to recognized educational credentials. They are created by backward design from a disciplinary perspective on what a credential holder should know and be able to do and are assessed authentically. Examples include Direct Assessment programs and non-Direct Assessment CBE programs. Taken together, CBL and CBE have the potential to provide access to economic opportunity, through a postsecondary credential, for more learners.

Despite CBE’s growing popularity in postsecondary education, additional research still is needed to address unanswered questions and ultimately inform the actions taken by policymakers, practitioners, and students.

Our work includes the following:

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National Research Collaborative on Postsecondary Competency-Based Education and Learning
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National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education
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Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Student Outcomes Research and Capacity Building

Research Agenda

The National Research Collaborative on Postsecondary Competency-based Education and Learning’s research agenda, which was developed with input from a range of stakeholders across the CBE and CBL landscape, focuses on answering key questions that advance the field and build evidence for CBE and CBL. The research agenda is continually updated and is based on lessons learned from completed projects and developments in the field.

Currently, our priority research questions are centered on building foundational knowledge for the field, supporting a better understanding of the CBE and CBL landscape, understanding the efficacy and equity of programs, and measuring quality in programs. Key questions include the following:

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Current Landscape
What is the state of the field?
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Efficacy and Equity
Does CBE work and for whom? Do CBE programs promote equity?
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Quality
How is quality measured and ensured in CBE programs?
Other research topics of interest include program design and implementation and gauging public perceptions of CBE.

Our Team

Jessica
Jessica Mason

Jessica Mason is a researcher at AIR with expertise in postsecondary and higher education. Her current areas of focus include postsecondary CBE and student success initiatives.

Kelle
Kelle Parsons

Kelle Parsons is a senior researcher at AIR who is focused on postsecondary and higher education. She currently leads research projects related to postsecondary models of CBE, postsecondary student success initiatives, and organizational change in postsecondary settings.

Hana
Hana Gebremariam

Hana Gebremariam is a research assistant within the domestic education and workforce practice areas at AIR. She has experience in developing and conducting research, conducting evaluations and providing administrative support on multiple projects in K-12, secondary education and college-career readiness.

Mark Hatcher
Mark Hatcher

Mark Hatcher is a research associate at AIR who is focused on postsecondary and higher education. He currently supports research, evaluative, and administrative tasks on projects related to CBE, postsecondary student success initiatives, and workforce preparation at minority serving institutions.

Our Partners

Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. The foundation envision a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Lumina's goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

The National Research Collaborative is supported by a generous contribution from Lumina Foundation.

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization that focuses on conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving peoples’ lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.

Our work in postsecondary CBE builds evidence about student outcomes in CBE and provides tools to program leaders and researchers to support local evaluation and continuous improvement efforts.

The Competency-Based Education Network is a group of regionally accredited colleges and universities working together to address shared challenges to designing, developing, and scaling competency-based degree programs. Lessons and updates from the group’s collective efforts will be shared here in the future.

Eduventures® for Higher Education Leaders provides primary research, analysis, and advisory services to support decision-making throughout the student life cycle. Building on 20 years of success in working with education leaders, Eduventures forward-looking and actionable research is based on proprietary market data and advisory services that support clients at both strategic and operational levels. Our recommendations and personalized support enable clients to understand the top traits of leaders in critical disciplines and evaluate the opportunities presented by new technologies.

Advisory Board

The NRC’s Advisory Board is a group of key leaders from across the CBE and CBL landscape. The Advisory Board plays a key role in setting the NRC’s research agenda and driving its work. Specifically, the Advisory Board advocates for evidence needs; shares important insights from the field about aligning research to those needs; uses knowledge of higher education policy and practice to inform the NRC’s goals; and champions efforts to build the field of CBE and CBL research.

Advisory Board members come from a range of settings, including institutions of higher education, research organizations, policy organizations, and vendors that support CBE and CBL work in postsecondary settings.

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