“Like many educational institutions these days, we are actively exploring alternative ways of doing business, and we were intrigued by the competency-based education model and its success at the University of Wisconsin,” says Dr. Anthony Scheffler, Interim Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, and professor in the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services, VSU.
While VSU staff explored possibilities surrounding CBE, Scheffler and the school’s Dean were approached by the Valdosta City School System to partner in the delivery of a science endorsement program, allowing K-5 elementary teachers to strengthen and enhance their competency levels for teaching elementary science. The School System was dissatisfied with the existing endorsement programs offered by the state, and were seeking a better option.
“As those discussions evolved, we saw this particular endorsement program as a great fit for us to pilot using a CBE model,” says Scheffler. “Each endorsement has three courses so they are small. The curriculum could be completed in a short timeframe, and we had a school system ready to sign on and provide ongoing feedback. We saw it as a win-win for VSU and the schools.”
To fund the initiative, VSU’s Dewar College of Education and Human Services was selected by the Council of Adult and Experiential Learning to receive a national JumpStart grant to assist with the implementation of the CBE program.
VSU has been a D2L Brightspace user for several years. It was first introduced to the learning management system through a state systems-wide learning initiative. Brightspace is used university-wide, and all classrooms are provided with access to the LMS for face-to-face, blended, and strictly online learning. For the CBE pilot, VSU staff arranged for a separate instance of the platform allowing them to try and test out new features unique to CBE.
“We were looking for a lot of flexibility. We knew CBE would be different from the average online course. We needed a platform that could be shaped in a way to achieve the model we were trying to build. Based on our knowledge of the Brightspace platform, we knew it could be molded to the goals and objectives of the program,” says Vincent King-Spezzo, Senior Online Instructional Designer, Centre for eLearning, VSU.
In CBE, content personalization is key. “Our students are working professionals, so they have to be able to accomplish a course where time is not a limiting factor. Brightspace allows our science endorsement students to progress in highly personalized ways, while still capturing the metrics we need to demonstrate the student has fully accomplished the course and achieved mastery,” says King-Spezzo.