Quality Principles and Standards Released for Competency-Based Education Programs

The C-BEN Network

October 20, 2016—The Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) today released eight draft Quality Principles and Standards for Competency-Based Educational Programs that are designed to address, head on, the quality and intentionality of competency-based education (CBE) programs and how well these programs meet the needs of students and institutions.  

The draft quality standards for CBE programs were outlined by a panel of institutional experts at the CBExchange convening, which drew over 400 CBE visionaries and practitioners.

“Our goal is to provide standards to the field that institutions can draw on to inform the design or scaling of high-quality programs,” said Charla Long, executive director of C-BEN. “These quality elements can provide guideposts and assurances to policymakers and accreditors tasked with regulating this vibrant, and still emerging, field of practice.”

The eight elements, with expanded principles and related standards, include:

  • Coherent, competency-driven program and curriculum design
  • Clear, measurable, meaningful and complete competencies
  • Credential-level assessment strategy with robust implementation
  • Intentionally designed and engaged student experience
  • Collaborative engagement with external partners
  • Transparency of student learning
  • Evidence-driven continuous improvement processes
  • Demonstrated institutional commitment to capacity for CBE innovation

“The draft principles and standards are universal enough to apply to all CBE programs, regardless of model variations,” stated Laurie Dodge, C-BEN board chair and vice chancellor of institutional assessment and planning and vice provost at Brandman University. “In the future, we envision these universal principles and standards will be augmented by additional stackable principles and standards based on model-specific, programmatic features.”

The draft is available for comment by the broader C-BEN community and the wider field. An online portal has been created to collect input on the draft and this feedback will inform the final version. Rubrics for each of the standards are currently in development and will be collaboratively developed by C-BEN members, institutional representatives and assessment experts after the standards themselves have been finalized through input from the field.

The finalized standards and associated rubrics will be released in early 2017; the evolution of the field and evidence base will require that these standards be regularly reviewed and updated.

The quality standards can be accessed at: and information on CBExchange 2016 is available at:

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New Tool Provides Institutions with Guide to Plan and Implement Competency-­Based Education Programs

The Competency‐Based Education Network (C-BEN) today released an interactive CBE Design Planner tool that allows institutions to plan for designing, developing and scaling high-quality competency-based education (CBE) programs capable of serving students of all backgrounds. The tool is the latest resource developed by C-BEN, which serves as a network of institutions as they create and offer degree programs with well-defined learning outcomes and rigorous assessment.

Access the CBE Design Planner here.

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CBE Design Planner

Thinking about starting a CBE program at your institution? Here’s your chance to help test a prototype of  the “CBE Design Planner,” a new interactive tool designed to guide you through the ten design elements that are key to creating a quality CBE program. The CBE Design Planner has a visual interface that lets you see all ten elements at a glance, and  helps you build a plan tailored to your community’s unique needs. Each element also has associated practice indicators for you to consider. The end result is a custom-designed plan that you can save, print, share and edit. The CBE Design Planner prototype is a model for you to explore and comment on so that we can deliver the best tool specifically designed to meet the on-the-ground needs of those tasked with developing CBE programs. Please note that this is a prototype, not a fully functional website, and is designed to collect comments and feedback.

Click here to launch the CBE Design Planner.

C-BEN Year 2 Report

This report shares the highlights from C-BEN’s second year.

Click here to download the full report.

Understanding the Academic Calendar: A Resource Guide


Developed by C-BEN, this resource helps higher-education professionals better understand definitions and terms related to the academic calendar.

Click here to download the resource guide.

Questions Every Financial Aid Professional Should Ask About Competency-Based Education Programs: A Resource Guide


Institutional leaders have many questions about financial aid when they are designing and implementing a competency-based program. Developed by C-BEN, this resource helps financial aid professionals address these questions and best support competency-based innovation on their campuses.

Click here to download the resource guide.

Questions Information Technology Professionals Should Ask About Competency-Based Education Programs: A Resource Guide


Developed by C-BEN, this resource helps information technology professionals support competency-based innovation on their campuses. The questions raised in this document will ensure institutions have the technological systems needed to launch and scale sustainable competency-based education (CBE) programs on their campuses.

Click here to download the resource guide.

Competency-Based Education Ecosystem Framework

The Competency-Based Education Ecosystem Framework provides the most detailed and accurate description to date of what competency-based education (CBE) looks like from the perspectives of learners, higher education professionals, policymakers and others involved in this rapidly expanding movement. The report gives everyone involved in CBE programs a baseline understanding and common language to guide the development of high-quality programs.

Click here to view the report.

Shared Design Elements and Emerging Practices of Competency-Based Programs

Public Agenda

In January 2015, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Public Agenda set out to find program design elements shared among thriving competency-based education (CBE) programs. Several months of research, and conversations surfaced ten shared design elements. These elements were sourced and vetted in collaboration with project sponsors, partners and CBE program leaders. Then, the elements were validated through a comprehensive field survey. The field is young and growing. Amid such rapid change it is striking to see these ten shared design elements and their emerging practices show up again and again. These design elements and practices are meant to instruct rather than prescribe. We hope our findings guide and support your CBE program design process, leading you and your team to the most robust and quality program possible.

Download the resource.

Faculty and Staff Roles and Responsibilities in the Design and Delivery of Competency-Based Programs: A C-BEN Snapshot

Michelle Navarre Cleary, Associate Dean of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, DePaul University

A new report reveals that colleges and universities offering competency-based education (CBE) programs have common expectations for program design and that those responsible for designing and delivering these programs tend to be full-time employees with a master’s or a doctorate degree.

Click here to view the full report.