Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Student Outcomes Research and Capacity Building

AIR’s postsecondary CBE research is aimed at building evidence about CBE’s efficacy and providing tools to program leaders and researchers to support research, evaluation, and continuous improvement efforts.

Explore our webinar series, Making the Case for Competency-Based Education, as well as numerous other publications and tools.

    Webinar Series

    The Making the Case for Competency-Based Education webinar series, produced by AIR in partnership with the Competency-Based Education Network, is designed to support you in using data to demonstrate the value of CBE programs for students, campus leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

    Getting Started with Evaluation considers the importance of conducting evaluation, provides guidelines for summative evaluation, and delves into findings of an early study on CBE student outcomes.

    Evaluation for Improvement covers the fundamentals of two continuous quality improvement models—root cause analysis and the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle—and how they apply to improvement within the context of CBE program.

    Aligning for Learning - Evaluating Connections presents the importance of alignment in relation to validity of learning and evaluation of program effectiveness, and explores implications for ways to address misunderstandings in the larger field of higher education around high quality CBE programs through communication of internal alignment.

    • Module 1: The Importance of Alignment in CBE - Provides an overview of the series, then discusses the importance of aligning competencies, learning activities, and assessments.
    • Module 2: A Guide to Internal Alignment - Walks through steps for using data to ensure that competencies, learning activities, assessments and evaluative criteria are well aligned, including tracing competencies throughout a program, using data to identify potential misalignment, and engaging in continuous quality improvement to address misalignment.
    • Module 3: A Guide to External Alignment - Presents steps for using data to ensure that competencies are aligned through programs to post-completion outcomes and employer requirements, including using data to make a case about CBE student performance and collaborating with employers.

    Communicating Research Findings explores ways in which you can effectively communicate evaluation findings and data to build support—or, make the case—for CBE.

    • Module 1: Introduction - Provides an overview of the series and a general introduction to communicating your research findings.
    • Module 2: Audience Analysis - Focuses on effectively identifying your audience and understanding how to tailor communications about data, research, or evaluation to specific audiences.
    • Module 3: Storytelling - Demonstrates using the power of narrative to further engage your audience.
    • Module 4: Data Visualization - Explores how to use visuals to present data in a way that’s more compelling and more easily digested by various audiences.


    Postsecondary Competency-Based Education: Key Lessons Learned

    This infographic summarizes cross-cutting lessons learned about AIR’s research on postsecondary CBE. Lessons learned begin to address key areas of inquiry in the CBE field and can inform actions taken by policymakers, and institution or program leaders.

    CBE and Learner Self-Direction

    This brief summarizes findings from a recent exploratory study supported by the National Research Collaborative on Postsecondary Competency-Based Education and Learning at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) that investigated the capacity for students’ self-directed learning within a CBE program to cull insights into how a student-driven learning process can lead to changed outcomes.

    Improving Measures of Student Progression: Lessons for Postsecondary CBE Practitioners and Institutional Research Professionals

    This resource, based on the work of the CBE Student Outcomes Research Collaborative, shares measures of student progression tailored to the flexible nature of CBE programs and the student populations they commonly serve. These metrics are designed primarily to equip program leaders, institutional researchers, and program faculty to examine students’ experiences and continuously improve their programs.

    Measuring Student Success in Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Programs: Toward a Student Outcomes Metrics Framework

    Drawing on other early research, the Framework articulates metrics that can be used across many CBE program types to build toward a common language about CBE students and outcomes. In addition, the brief articulates key challenges to that common language, calling for CBE program leaders and researchers to engage in field-wide conversations about addressing them.

    On the Path to Success

    Broadly, this brief presents evidence that CBE programs are on the path to success in fulfilling their value propositions of broadening access, offering paths to credentials, and improving cost and quality. In the brief, we offer early findings and outline the key challenges related to data and measurement in CBE contexts.

    A Snapshot of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Students

    Who enrolls in postsecondary CBE? Using data from programs in the CBE Student Outcomes Research Collaborative, we explore the demographic characteristics of postsecondary CBE students.

    Making the Case for Competency-Based Education: Early Lessons from the Field

    This brief outlines seven considerations for CBE program leaders who want to begin gathering and using rigorous evidence as they build a case for CBE for internal and external audiences.


    Research Explainers: What Are We Learning about Postsecondary Competency-Based Education?

    This series of “explainers” provides brief summaries of the existing research on CBE. This series is intended to be useful for practitioners, program leaders, and researchers—both those already working in CBE and those interested in pursuing work in this area.

    Using Continuous Quality Improvement in Competency-Based Education Programs: A Quick Guide for Practitioners and Program Leaders

    This guide provides a framework, along with recommendations and tips, for continuous quality improvement in CBE programs. This guide may help you answer questions such as the following: How do we know when a change is an improvement? What works, for whom, under what conditions? Open configuration options

    Key Characteristics of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education (CBE)

    This rubric, drawn from the expertise of leaders within the postsecondary CBE field, helps CBE program leaders, their campus colleagues, and researchers describe key features of their CBE program. This descriptive rubric poses questions across six broad categories.

    Kelle Parsons
    Principal Researcher