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.
For more information, please refer to AIR's CBE/L definition.
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.