The Future is Here: Competency-Based Education (CBE) & Online Education in 2020

Lisa Conner
Updated November 10 2020
young man looking up what is competency-based education
Lisa Conner
Updated November 10 2020

Given the abrupt transition to remote and virtual across the country, coupled with the uncertainty around what the upcoming year holds, competency-based education (CBE) is becoming an increasingly critical component in today’s world.


In 2020, many enterprise organizations are now hosting an almost 100% virtual workforce for the foreseeable future.  Now more than ever, enterprises are quickly moving to the approach that creating a competency-based education program with robust visual, interactive and engaging video content for training will foster the development of higher order critical thinking, problem solving, organization, innovation, and communication skills for their remote workforce.


Competency-Based Learning Creates a Flexible Learning Path

So what is competency-based education?


Competency-based education is an approach to designing educational programs with a focus on competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities) rather than time spent in a learning environment such as a classroom or live training session.  Competency-based education combines an intentional and transparent approach in which the time it takes to demonstrate competencies varies and the expectations about learning are held constant. Employees acquire and demonstrate their knowledge and skills by engaging in tailored and customized learning exercises, activities and experiences that align with clearly defined programmatic outcomes.


An interactive competency-based education program not only improves your business continuity but continues to allow learners to create flexible learning paths. The employee essentially self-guides their learning with no rigid schedule and are in complete control of their learning and process with proactive guidance and support from their managers. They decide when to enter the program, at what pace of learning and when to complete the program with a test or assessment. This allows them to master a skill or competency at their own pace, in their environment leveraging engaging videos.


Highly Motivated

Competency-based education programs are tailored and self-paced, where the focus is on the final outcome and not the journey of learning. Since the employees are given the freedom to learn at a pace that suits them and are not confined to a strict method or schedule, they tend to be highly self-motivated as they seek mastery over their subject. With a competency-based education program, quizzes are a useful way to engage, and to certify people have understood material by solving problems in context. Employees can learn through competency-based learning visual simulated training activities that reflect such real-world experiences.


Experience Provided

Unlike traditional training, a participant who engages in a competency-based program spends plenty of time learning the concepts repeatedly and gaining real-world tangible skills related to their function.  Competency-based learning gives you a better understanding of what an employee can do and puts the emphasis on learning in the learner’s hands.


Competency-based systems recognize that each employee may need more time to learn concepts and skills deeply. If they have gaps in their mastery, scaffolding may be required to attain all the prerequisite knowledge and skills. More instructional support and time are provided if needed and learners advance when they are ready.

For those that quickly grasp the concepts, competency-based education empowers and motivates employees by creating opportunities to co-create impactful learning experiences.  They are able to own their education by learning about things that matter to their role and career path in ways that are effective and allows them to be successful in their role quickly.  This advances them to the next level and allows them to go deeper into topics that interest them as soon as they submit evidence of learning that demonstrates their proficiency.  This also forges a path to leadership opportunities in which they can shape or contribute to team or environment at a much faster pace.


Video is for Everyone

Video content is a very big part of competency-based education program. According to the survey Video and Learning at Work – The State of Video in the Enterprise, the majority of employers use video for learning and development. 91% of respondents report that their company is using at least some video for training or learning and development. 90% of employees have used video to learn a specific skill. Different people learn, consume and absorb information differently. For instance, there are people who can absorb information by listening and there are others who can grasp information by watching. Video accommodates all these people. Video is a powerful and effective way to pass along educational, informative, and business information whether live or pre-recorded for future viewing.

Videos can:

  • Be flexible, creative and innovative
  • Accessed from anytime, anywhere
  • Offer better engagement
  • Shared easily among teams and peers
  • Measure the effectiveness of the training more efficiently

We do offer one tip, if hosting live training sessions is important to your organization, try virtual classrooms, but also keep the recordings so employees can review and find it later and it use it as learning tool.

What About the Data?

As you begin your quest to build your own competency-based educational program by understanding what metrics to track (and why) right from the get-go, competency-based  learning programs can do a better job of showing their quality while allowing for rapid growth and improvement through data-driven decision making.  Video learning creates an abundance of meaningful data and is an important benefit with any competency-based education program, allowing you to measure direct impact of your program. Historically this data had been used to tell us what has happened already and improves strategic planning moving forward.  Now, it’s time to glance into the future with Predictive Analytics and see what is going to happen next. Companies are already leveraging predictive analytics to develop adaptive learning courseware, which modifies learning routes based on the interactions of the learner with the technology.


The importance of predictive analytics, metrics and data collection by far will create the most valuable asset to your organization’s competency-based learning program allowing you to measure ROI and garner true business results. Tracking these metrics over time, allows an organization to build accurate models of what actions and behaviors align with the success of the company and the employee lifecycle.


Competency-Based Education can be a powerful enabler to combat this “one size fits all” mentality. No doubt that digitally training your staff with powerful videos allows for increased performance, better cost-efficiencies, and ultimately accelerated innovation.  We must understand each employee is a unique learner and providing choices that make learning purposeful and relevant to them benefit not only the employee but the company as a whole.