#CBE Storybook Tales of a Dissertation: Episode 6 Ongoing Initiatives

More from the Neverending Story of the Literature Review (dating myself?  Anyone?  Anyone?)

Thoughts, feedback, criticisms, it’s all welcome!  If I’m missing any that you think are mission critical, please let me know.

AND, a giant thank you to everyone who has been willing to talk about my research!  I am indebted to Larry Good for the great conversation last week.  And anyone I met at CBExchange or CBE4CC, a gentle reminder that I may be calling on you for some feedback on the concourse when I’m implementing the actual Q study!  (As per usual, please don’t cite this:)  It’s all “draft” format.)

Initiatives in the Field

There are many ongoing initiatives in the field of CBE that have supported and accelerated the development of CBE programs.  Some are government funded, like the U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT grants, while some are funded by large and influential foundations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation (Johnstone & Soares, 2014; Competency-Based Education Network, 2014).  Several of these large initiatives are highlighted here to provide some context surrounding the important projects that have received both support and attention nationally.  Though there are many ongoing initiatives that could have been included here, such as ACE’s CREDIT initiative, those selected here cover a wide array of concerns related to systemic implementation of CBE outside of more traditional methods of credit transfer or PLA.  Described initiatives include TAACCCT grants, EDUCAUSE’s Breakthrough Models Incubator, Connecting Credentials, the Credential Transparency Initiative, and IMS Global’s Technical Interoperability Pilot.


The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (or TAACCCT grants as they are commonly known), were signed into law by President Barack Obama as part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, 2011).  These large grants focused on community colleges and other higher education programs who could train workers in less than two years in order to enter the workforce in “high-wage, high-skill occupations” (para. 2).  The TAACCCT grants announced in September of 2014 included 270 community colleges with a total award amount of $450 million dollars.  The grants were targeted to colleges training in high-demand careers like “information technology, heath care, energy, and advanced manufacturing” (ETA News Release:  Vice President Biden announces recipients of $450M of job-driven training grants, 2014, para. 4).

Many early adopters of CBE in this second wave of popularity utilized TAACCCT funding to design and develop their programs, including Broward College (Myers, 2014).   Other TAACCCT grants included West Virginia Community and Technical College System, Vincennes University Logistics Training and Education Center, Cape Cod Community College, Texas State Technical College, a consortium project made up of Polk State College, Santa Fe College and Seminole State for the “Training for Manufactured Construction or TRAMCON Consortium,

EDUCAUSE Breakthrough Models Incubator

EDUCAUSE’s Breakthrough Models Incubator (BMI) was created to build on the concept of Breakthrough Models in higher education (EDUCAUSE, 2015).  EDUCAUSE, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the League for Innovation in the Community College created the Breakthrough Models Incubator as a way to support the leadership teams of institutions in exploring and launching new learning models using student-centered design, exploiting technology and with an emphasis on sustainability (EDUCAUSE, 2015).  Cohorts 2 and 3 of the initiative (2014 and 2015) are centered on developing CBE programs in colleges and universities (EDUCAUSE, 2015).  Participating colleges in the 2014 and 2015 cohorts include University of Maryland University College, the University of New England, Ivy Tech Community College, Central Arizona College, Rio Salado Community College, Austin Community College, Empire State College and Excelsior College (EDUCAUSE, 2015).  In Appendix A a more comprehensive list of colleges and universities engaged in CBE can be found; institutions from the 2014 and 2015 cohorts are noted there.

Connecting Credentials

Connecting Credentials is an initiative sponsored by 80 organizations including the Lumina Foundation, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, and CLASP (Connecting Credentials, 2015; Connecting Credentials, 2015).   The initiative was designed to create a credentialing system that is more “student-centered and learning-based” (Connecting Credentials, 2015, para. 1).  The impetus for this initiative comes from the fragmented nature of credentials throughout higher education, industry, and professional certificates and licenses.  The wide array of invested parties involved represent the actual producers and users of the credentials; convenings and summits were hosted in order to start the conversation (Connecting Credentials, 2015).

From this initiative, a Beta Credentials Framework was created (Connecting Credentials, 2015).  The Beta Credentials Framework organizes competencies into two domains:  knowledge and skills; the second domain – skills – is then further delineated into three sub-domains of specialized skills, personal skills and social skills (Lumina Foundation, 2015).  In order to describe the level of sophistication of competency, or rather their “relative complexity, breadth and/or depth of learning achievement, rather than subject matter” eight levels are described for these skills (Lumina Foundation, 2015, p. 2).  As of November 2015, next steps in the further refinement of the Beta Framework are categorized into four components: (1) mapping credentials using the framework in order to validate it and/or make improvements, (2) having a technical team review the Framework’s internal structure as compared to international qualification frameworks and other industry and human resource professionals as well as educational psychologists, (3) apply in real-world situations to determine proof-of-concept, and (4) improving the Beta Framework through continual conversations for thorough stakeholder feedback (Lumina Foundation, 2015).

Figure 3 illustrates the complexity of the current credentialing system as described in CLASP’s Call for a National Conversation on Creating a Competency-based Credentialing Ecosystem.

Figure 3:  Credentialing System in the United States
 Credentialing System in the US from CLASP

CLASP. (2014). Call for a national conversation on creating a competency-based credentialing ecosystem, (April), 1–10. Retrieved from http://www.workcred.org/Documents/Developing-a-Competency-Based-Credentialing-Ecosystem-032814.pdf p. 4

Credential Transparency Initiative

The Credential Transparency Initiative is another Lumina-funded project, a partnership between George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy, WorkCred, and Southern Illinois University (Credential Transparency Initiative, n.d.).  The outcome of this project will be a national, searchable registry that will allow stakeholders to transparently determine what the bearer of the credential should be able to know and do as a result of having achieved it.  Additionally, the project will include the development of apps and create a common set of terms with which to describe credentials.  The project is designed to accommodate all types of credentials, including anything from formal degrees from institutions of higher education to micro-credentials (Credential Transparency Initiative, n.d.).

IMS Global’s Technical Interoperability Pilot (TIP)

IMS is working on several initiatives related to the integration of learning technology systems, including several related to CBE.  In partnership with C-BEN, IMS is creating an ecosystem around the many technology systems based on their LTI standards.  The focus behind this is in order to support a focus on outcomes from the technical infrastructure that makes up the back-end of a students’ online learning experiences in a CBE program including the Student Information System (SIS), the Learning Management System (LMS), online instructional materials, assessments, financial aid, data, support services, and others (IMS Global Learning Consortium, 2015).

The Technical Interoperability Pilot (TIP) will support colleges and universities in five “solution use cases” including (1) managing competencies, (2) evaluating results, (3) managing program information for use in systems that support institutional needs like financial aid, (4) measuring interaction (through a new data analytics tool Caliper,) and (5) CBE eTranscript publishing (IMS Global Learning Consortium, 2015).  Initial results were shared in Fall 2015.   Figure 4 delineates the complex systems of which IMS is attempting to facilitate integration between through common languages.

Figure 4:  Reference Education Enterprise Architecture with IMS Global Integration Points
 IMS interoperability figure

IMS Global Learning Consortium. (2015). Enabling better digital credentialing. Retrieved from https://www.imsglobal.org/initiative/enabling-better-digital-credentialing


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