VALUE Research Hub

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment


Klein-Collins, R. (2013). National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. NILOA.


This occasional paper by Rebecca Klein-Collins examines competency-based education in the higher education system. The author defines a competency-based education as one that focuses on what students know and can do rather than how they learned it or how long it took to learn it. This paper defines unifying concepts shared by different competency-based education programs, describes current competency-based models using the direct assessment approach, and examines the national policy context that could determine the extent to which these programs are able to go to scale. The author argues that competency-based education provides an opportunity to rethink what a college degree means for student learning while addressing concerns regarding higher education’s quality and cost.