Competency-Based Degree Program

Update Winter 2015

Goal: Our goal is to flip the relationship between time and learning.  We are developing programs in which students earn credit not by how much time they spend in class but by demonstrating mastery of all the course competencies. The first pilot program is an 18-course business transfer degree piloted by eight colleges in the Washington community and technical college system.  Students will work at their own pace in completely online, openly licensed, credit-based courses.  They will be supported by a dedicated completion coach and by qualified faculty in each discipline.

Courses: 18 courses that constitute the business transfer degree are being developed by system faculty with support from Lumen Learning using existing open content where possible.  Courses will also include adaptive testing developed by Difference Engine.  Currently, the course competencies are being mapped by faculty from the pilot institutions.

Faculty:  Columbia Basin College will hire four full-time faculty and six adjuncts to teach the courses starting March 2015.  Most pilot colleges plan to begin in July 2015.  Full-time faculty will be hired in English, math, accounting and economics/business law. Adjuncts will teach the remaining distribution requirements (art, sociology, geology, biology, public speaking, and political science).  Faculty will work directly with students and will design and administer assessments for mastery.

Completion Coaches:  Each student will be assigned to a completion coach, also hired by CBC, to help the student plan their program for degree completion and to help students stay on the plan.

Students:  The program is designed for adult students who have some college, some work or military experience, but no degree.  Students will attend a required online orientation.  They will receive credit when they demonstrate mastery of all course competencies at 80% or better.  Their transcripts will show regular five-credit transfer courses with a grade of A, B, or Incomplete.  

Structure:  Students will enroll in six-month terms and pay the equivalent of two terms of full tuition.  During each term, students can complete as many credits as they are able.  All courses will be available all terms.  Students will use adaptive assessments in the online classroom to chart their progress.  For the final assessments, students must demonstrate mastery of the course competencies, so the final assessments will be project or performance based.

 Development process:  As lead institution, Columbia Basin is developing the processes for advising, registration, and financial aid.  This work will be shared with the pilot colleges.  The web conversations listed on the next page will focus on specifics of these processes and documents.

Marketing:  CBE and SBCTC staff are working with pilot colleges to develop marketing materials for students.

Timeline:  This project has an aggressive timeline with plans to have students working in their courses by March 2015.

For more information, see the project resources blog: 

Or join the listserv:

CBE Conversations In October:

Click on this link for a list of webinars and system meetings where the CBE Business Degree Program will be discussed.


Connie Broughton, Project Director 

Cathy Clary, Student Services Coordinator