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Los Angeles Pacific University

Equipping Students With Competency-Based Education: A Path to Empowerment

How Los Angeles Pacific University (LAPU) created mobile-first, competency-based educational offerings to support learners advancing on their own terms.


Los Angeles Pacific University



  • Brightspace Core and Performance+
  • Homepage Widget Expansion Pack
  • HTML templates


  • George Hanshaw, director of e-learning operations



  • Empowers adult learners to engage in content on their own time and balance education with their busy lives.
  • Provides students with micro-certifications to demonstrate tangible accomplishments to potential employers.
  • Accessible, mobile-first layout accommodates diverse preferences for all students.


Adapting to new learning demands

Los Angeles Pacific University (LAPU) is a fully online university designed to serve learners by offering flexible, accessible education from anywhere. The university recently took the opportunity to enhance its learning model to support LAPU’s continued mission of excellence in education.

“Our mission is to bring learning to as many people as we can, in a way that is very accessible and attentive to everyone,” says George Hanshaw, director of e-learning operations at LAPU.

“We saw competency-based education as the perfect next step in our evolution as an educational institution. Because our first CBE degree was a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology, we knew we had to make the learning experience something that really stands out.”

In a competency-based education (CBE) model, students earn credentials by demonstrating mastery of a specific skill or competency at a personalized pace. Throughout courses, there are options for students to earn micro-credentials and personalize their education with these stackable credits. LAPU saw CBE as an ideal fit for its cohort of students and adult learners, who often need to fit their education around busy schedules and full-time jobs.


Finding the right fit

As LAPU looked to evolve from credit-based courses to competency-based ones, the university searched for a best-in-class learning management system (LMS) with the flexibility and feature-set needed to support this new approach. After evaluating several offerings, the organization homed in on D2L Brightspace. 

“When we saw all of the capabilities that Brightspace offered—in terms of technology, data accessibility, mobility, intelligence agents, specific rubrics and widgets—we knew we couldn’t settle for anything less,” says Hanshaw.  

Not only did LAPU get top-of-the-line capabilities with Brightspace, it also found a partner who was committed to understanding its requirements and building a solution that matched them perfectly. 

“Often when you introduce a new piece of technology, you have to conform to the constraints of that system and its delivery team,” notes Hanshaw. “But D2L came in and said, ‘We see what you want. We’re on board; let’s figure it out together.’ And that was so refreshing.”

A flexible approach that’s learner-centered

Today, Brightspace sits at the heart of a reimagined approach to learning at LAPU. The university has rebuilt each course around a core competency, which is divided further into program learning outcomes. Students can progress through these outcomes at their own pace, accessing course content, exercises, and assessments on a range of devices. 

Visually, each competency is shown as a widget. “From their home page, students are shown their progress through a donut widget, and students are one click away from jumping into the competency they want to focus on. When we set up technology to drive personalized learning and learner connection within the content and each other—we succeed in our goal,” shares Hanshaw.

Every aspect of the new experience has been designed with the needs of adult learners in mind. For instance, students can build up a portfolio of stackable micro-credentials that serve as tangible representations of different skills. Even before they’ve completed their full degree, students can use this portfolio to approach current or potential employers with proof of the skills they’re building.


Making an impact

Embracing a CBE model has empowered LAPU to shape an experience that adapts to different learning needs and makes it easier for students to pursue educational opportunities that both reflect and fit around their lives.

“We like to say that we’re giving students the remote control for their learning,” remarks Hanshaw.

They can pause when needed, speed up if they’d like, or rewind and relearn skills. Students are supported to do whatever they need to make the experience work best for them. We’re able to do that thanks to the tools we have in Brightspace. It really puts the power in the learners’ hands.

George Hanshaw, director of e-learning operations, LAPU

LAPU is advancing its mission to provide comprehensive and accessible education for all, with the implementation of Brightspace. It’s now easier for the university to provide truly personalized instruction that supports each person on their learning journey. And as learners need to prove competencies to complete CBE-focused courses, they have more clarity and confidence on how to apply what they’re learning to their working lives.

“I can’t state enough how much work D2L does to make sure that that accessibility is front-and-center in the Brightspace experience,” comments Hanshaw. “That’s so important because we want everybody to be able to be able to interact with the content and get a lot from it—no matter how, where or when they choose to learn.”

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