What is the Collaboratory?

C-BEN’s early influence on the field, and its fast growing reputation as a network focused on leading for the greater good, can be traced in part to its founding members’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and work together across institutional boundaries on common challenges to building high-quality CBE programs.

The CBE Collaboratory will deepen and extend C-BEN’s founding commitment to collaborative work, creating time-bound and field-advancing projects aimed at accelerating progress and raising the profile of the network and its members. Based on member feedback, the first two Collaboratory projects will be focused on Quality and on Storytelling.

Best Practices for Competency-Based Assessment

 C-BEN’s early influence on the field, and its fast growing reputation as a network focused on leading for the greater good, can be traced in part to its founding members’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and work together across institutional boundaries on common challenges to building high-quality CBE programs. The C-BEN Collaboratory will deepen and extend C-BEN’s founding commitment to collaborative work, creating time-bound and field-advancing projects aimed at accelerating progress, enhancing learner and program outcomes, and raising the profile of the network and its members.

Apply here.

Collaboratory #5 aims to produce an equally as helpful Resource Guide for CBE Assessment Practices. Collaboratory participants will collectively seek to:


  • Identify the hallmarks of high-quality CBE assessment practices and provide agreed upon definitions
  • Illustrate how hallmark practices are applied through a credential-level strategy example
  • Explore the range of assessment types that lead to successful demonstration of competence
  • Identify the evidence needed to show compliance with C-BEN’s Quality Framework for Element #4 (Credential-level Assessment Strategy with Robust Implementation).
Project Guidelines

Participants will be selected through an application process. The most important qualification for participation is the ability to work effectively with a diverse team, and to appropriately balance institutional or individual interests with a broader commitment to supporting a healthy field of practice.

Successful applicants will commit to practicing and advancing the competencies of servant leadership, including self-awareness, the desire to listen closely, an ability to catalyze the energy and intelligence of others, and the willingness to work in service of progress for the field of CBE.

Successful applicants will be expected to:

  1. Participate in a kick-off and project framing conversation on Thursday, January 28 from 2:00-4:00 PM CT.
  2. Participate in three virtual half-day convenings in March, May, and September of 2021 to provide feedback on draft resources, training materials, or other field-facing outputs.
  3. Commit a maximum of 5-10 hours per month over 9 months to help accomplish the goals of the Collaboratory.
  4. Share institutional data and other non-proprietary information relevant to the Collaboratory project.
  5. Present at CBExchange 2021, or take part in the creation of pre-recorded training vignettes on hallmark CBE assessment practices.


Apply here.

Benefits to Members & Institutions

Through the Collaboratory, both participating individuals and the institutions they represent will be given the opportunity to work at the forefront of the movement to advance Competency-Based Education.

In addition to the intrinsic benefits that come with exercising innovation leadership through the C-BEN Collaboratory, participants will be given special opportunities and recognition. In the course of the projects, participants will have an exclusive opportunity to learn from colleagues and experts across the country in safe-space workshop settings, and they will have their work highlighted at C-BEN conferences and at CBExchange. Participation in the Collaboratory will increase the visibility of both individuals and the institutions they represent, and C-BEN is committed to elevating the profiles of all involved in the work. In addition to receiving special opportunities and visibility, travel and accommodations for workshops and conferences will be paid for by C-BEN.

PROJECT 6 in partnership with JFF

The Equity Collaboratory

Higher education is meant to be an engine of economic opportunity and mobility; yet, for too long, institutions have struggled to provide equitable access and produce equitable outcomes. Black and Latino populations experience wide achievement gaps, underserving many of the learners most in need of higher education to advance socioeconomically.

It seems everyone is talking about equitable outcomes and what must be done to address the systemic challenges and barriers faced by students of color in higher education. But, too few institutions and state systems are urgently changing their higher education models which means these disparities will remain.

Learn more and apply here.

Quality Framework Use and Adoption

This project focused on building field capacity and supporting widespread adoption and skilled use of the CBE Quality Framework in the design, implementation, improvement and scaling of CBE programs. Participants selected for this project participated in refining and testing ancillary resources and training materials to support competent and committed use of the CBE Quality Framework. Members of the Collaboratory Project 1 created the Quality Framework for Competency-based Education Programs: A User’s Guide.

Quality Framework for Competency-Based Education Programs: A User's Guide

Members of the Collaboratory Project 1 released the Quality Framework for Competency-Based Education Programs: A User’s Guide to assist institutions in using and adopting C-BEN’s “Quality Framework for Competency-Based Education Programs”. As the number of CBE programs continues to grow, many constituents are looking to build high quality CBE programs in accordance with the Quality Framework. This guide is intended to make the Quality Framework more accessible to institutions wishing to use it. Our goal is not to offer a pathway or the “right answers” to developing and/or improving CBE programs, but rather to offer the high-level, high-leverage questions to be considered to accelerate and enable institutional work. The User’s Guide breaks down each of the 8 Elements of Quality and provides key considerations about where institutions should start, including key people to have at the table, resources needed, institutional illustrations, and pro tips. To access this guide, please click here.

CBE Storytelling

This project focused on growing demand for CBE and advancing field capacity to tell the story of CBE. Explaining CBE to key audiences including students, internal stakeholders (faculty/staff/administrators), regulators and policymakers remains a leading challenge for many institutions building programs. This project aimed to build the capacity of C-BEN members to tell their best stories in the most compelling ways to different audiences. Members of the Collaboratory Project 2 produced The CBE Story: A Strategic Storytelling Toolkit. Additionally, this project conducted a national storytelling contest and created an online repository of learner stories.

The CBE Story: A Strategic Storytelling Toolkit

Members of the Collaboratory Project 2 created The CBE Story: A Strategic Storytelling Toolkit. The Storytelling Toolkit is designed to help you communicate more effectively about the purpose, value and results of competency-based education. Inside this useful resource, you’ll find a framework for bringing your CBE story to life. There are activities, prompts, tips and templates to help you tell your best stories to different audiences, including students and families; faculty, staff and administrators; governing boards; regulators and policymakers; and employers. You will also find tools and resources that can aid you in helping others, such as students and faculty, to tell their stories. To access this toolkit, please click here.

Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR)

During the first phase of the Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) project (2015 – 2017), three institutions developed and implemented a competency-based education program CLR.
From the successful CBE CLR models developed and implemented in phase one, phase two of the project expanded the number of institutions with CLR, and specifically identifies the inclusion of CBE CLR’s. The CLR collaboratory:
1. Facilitated the scaling of CLRs in up to 150 colleges and universities.
2. Standardized the components of a CBE transcript/record with 10 participating institutions in this second phase.
-Draft standards universal enough to apply to any CBE program, regardless of technology being used.
-CBE participating institutions developed a CBE CLR that aligns with standards.
3. Addressed the data integration issue:
-Clearly identified the challenges across institutions at various resource levels.
-Identified potential solutions appropriate to these levels.
4. Leveraged existing degree audit technologies to track progress toward learning outcomes/competencies.

The resulting report, Standardized Components for a Competency-Based Educational Record, can be accessed here.


Employer Engagement

This project focused on achieving the following five objectives:

  • Articulate the business case for higher education attainment. Emphasis will be placed on the business case for recognition of non-institutional learning. Collaboratory participants will help develop, pilot, test and share tools to show the financial impacts of recognition of non-institutional learning for both postsecondary institutions and employers.
  • Identify best practices for working with employers and industries. Collaboratory participants will both gain access to leading employers and thinkers in the space of corporate learning and development, and help develop tools, resources and practices for CBEN peers.
  • Create guaranteed pathways for industry-recognized certifications. Utilizing existing research and frameworks, Collaboratory participants will assess the competencies validated through industry-recognized certi cations, and determine how those competencies can align to degree programs. Collaboratory partners, working with Lumina, will publish those pathways. Collaboratory partners will also partner with ACE’s competency-based CREDIT program to accept certi cations and work-based learning through that channel.
  • Recognize work-based learning. Collaboratory participants will assess the competencies included in key work-based education and training programs, and determine how they can align with degree programs.
  • Elevate CBE institutions. Collaboratory participants would make a concentrated effort to speak, write and present publicly about all they have learned, and how CBE institutions generally are an effective partner to employers and for adult working learners.

Targeting employer engagement strategies, this Collaboratory produced 3 field-facing resources — the Employer Engagement Best Practices Toolkit and the ROI Estimator with an accompanying User’s Guide, as well as a report, Creating CBE Pathways: Insights from          C-BEN’s Employer Engagement Collaboratory. You can access this report here

Become A Member

C-BEN strives to represent an ensemble of institutions, systems, delivery providers, vendors and others with a vested interest in advancing the field. Membership is open to institutions, regardless of their stage within the CBE program development cycle.

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