A competency-based educational record: What is standard?

September 10, 2019
  • Comprehensive Record
  • Comprehensive Learner Record
  • Comprehensive Student Record
Comprehensive Learner Record2

Most of the American and Canadian higher education infrastructure is based upon the completion of discrete courses in pursuit of an overall credential (certificate or degree). Curriculum is divided into courses, each carrying specific credits, and courses can be combined into any number of possible credentials. 

Current mechanisms to record and report student outcomes are confined to these constructs, originally designed to measure internal and faculty-based outcomes -- they capture what students have taken and when, but not what they learned. 

While effective as a construct for measuring faculty workload, student time on task, and associated qualifications for student aid, traditional transcripts may be opaque in regard to student learning.

Competency-based education (CBE) has gained significant traction in higher education as a means to clearly identify the learning that is designed to take place within and around an academic program. Because CBE is based on demonstrated mastery of knowledge and skills, it may not be tied to traditional timeframes and does not fit into a traditional framework of terms, courses, grades and credits. 

Therefore, CBE demands new mechanisms to capture, record, and report learning -- a system that can align outcomes with the standards or rubrics for competence and capture that evidence for assessment as well as for the learner’s use in demonstrating competence to others.

Technologies and records standards do not exist to accommodate this growing educational practice, although emerging technologies are focusing the learning experiences into new record formats. Even when crosswalks to traditional frameworks are created, the rich evidence of learning is lost.

For these reasons, new standards must be established for records that reflect competency-based courses and programs.

Relevant questions include:

  • When designing CBE programs, what information should we be expected to capture, assess, record and report?
  • What should we commonly expect to be contained in such a record when we receive one from another institution or from a student? 

Explore potential answers to these questions in AACRAO's recently published report, The Standardized Components for a Competency-Based Educational Record. Download the full report.