Designing quality into direct-assessment competency-based education

June 15, 2017


Meeting the nation’s need for 60% of its working age population to hold postsecondary education by 2025 is not possible through traditional educational institutions and formats. They simply do not have the “seats” available. Students, employers, and regulatory agencies are actively exploring educational alternatives, such as competency-based education, rightfully expecting assurances of quality.


In this study, we apply design principles using the Association of American Colleges & Universities quality framework to direct-assessment CBE. This quality framework arises from AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise. The University of Wisconsin Flexible Option (UW Flex) is used to illustrate the application of the AAC&U quality framework.


The LEAP design principles are used to create an aspirational vision to guide the development of direct-assessment CBE. We describe the work and design decisions made when creating UW Flex to illustrate how the LEAP quality framework can ensure high-quality direct-assessment CBE programming.


This study builds the case for how quality CBE can expand opportunities for more Americans. We promote a particular vision of quality that is an aspirational model for CBE, based on the AAC&U LEAP design principles of Proficiency, Agency and Self-Direction, Integrative Learning and Problem-Based Inquiry, Transparency and Assessment, and Equity. The intense excitement over CBE presents an unprecedented opportunity to design high-quality educational models that focus emphatically on student learning versus faculty teaching, allowing higher education leaders to remove impediments to optimal learning. Only then will all students have the chance to reach the levels of talent and ability needed to navigate and flourish in today’s world.

Journal of Competency-Based Education