May 21, 2014

VSU Selected for National Competency-Based Education Initiative

VALDOSTA—Valdosta State University has been selected as one of 14 universities, colleges, and higher education systems nationwide to participate in the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) Competency Based Education (CBE) Jumpstart program.

“Competency-based approaches take the important step of placing the focus on what a student knows and can do, while minimizing the importance of where the student learned it or how long it took them to learn,” said Pamela Tate, CAEL CEO and president. “CAEL is excited to be working with these colleges and universities to help them launch CBE initiatives to enable adults to access new learning modes, demonstrate their college-level competencies and progress more rapidly to degree completion.”

Through CBE programs, a student’s progress is evaluated on the demonstrated skills learned and not the amount of time spent in the classroom.

"CBE is but one of many innovative approaches to education that we are exploring at Valdosta State,” said Valdosta State University President William J. McKinney. “I am proud of the leadership in the Dewar College of Education and Human Services, and look forward to building on this initiative as we build a more educated Georgia."

With funding from the Lumina Foundation, CAEL is providing special training and professional development to Valdosta State’s faculty and staff on competency-based education.

“This is a national movement and we are very fortunate to get the attention of CAEL to secure this grant,” said Dr. Anthony Scheffler, associate dean of the Dewar College of Education and Human Services. “This will bring us to the next step, where we are going to identify a program or programs and CAEL will help us understand how you move from a traditional to a competency-based environment. It is a huge challenge.”

Students in CBE programs learn and progress at their own pace, using learning from life and work experience, which saves considerable time in degree completion.

“In a traditional system we are talking about seat time or semester hours to complete a degree,” said Dr. Brian Gerber, interim dean of the Dewar College of Education and Human Services. “With competency-based education as long as the student demonstrates the outcome competencies they can move through the program.”

Gerber said CBE will include involvement from potential employers, who will help establish the competency sets for the program.

“The employers are part of the process. They will help define what set of competencies and skills are needed and what they expect from graduates to be successful,” Gerber said.

For many years, Valdosta State has been a leader in the efforts to improve access and college completion for adult learners. In 2012, the university received the CAEL Institutional Service Award for creating educational opportunities for working adults and other traditionally underserved populations.

“There are many adults in Georgia that have some college credits and a lot of work experience; these students would be able to start a competency-based education program and through an assessment see where they are in the program. Then we would create a very individualized program and they would move forward to complete their degree,” said Gerber. “We are not necessarily talking about retention in this case, but it is about progression at a student’s own pace until they can demonstrate they are competent in the skill.”

For more information on the CAEL Jumpstart program, visit the website