Processes around Competency Based (CBE) Module Creation

Processes around Competency Based (CBE) Module Creation

The trend of Competency Based Education (CBE) gained considerable traction in 2017. This method of curriculum development is all the craze. But why? What is so important about CBE?

The U.S. Department of Education states, “Competency-based strategies provide flexibility in the way that credit can be earned or awarded, and provide students with personalized learning opportunities” (, 2017).

Capella University, College of America, University of Wisconsin, Western Governors and so many others have created CBE programs that meet not only student needs, but the needs of the industries they serve. Many other colleges, including the Minnesota State System, have been working on moving course outcomes, courses, and programs to a true CBE structure or framework.

Course ModuleUsing a standard curriculum framework, we are able to develop meaningful CBE modules, courses, and/or programs through standardization. A curriculum framework provides guidance for implementing the competencies that industry desires from current and future employees. A framework looks at a set of competencies that define what students will learn, what they should know and what they should be able to do.

At the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence, our goal is to help industry partners and academic leaders come together to collaborate and serve student needs. As part of our continued effort to improve student learning through innovative teaching and learning, we have developed a CBE Curriculum Framework in line with many of the academic institutions who excel at CBE education.

Our process is simple –

  • Develop learning objectives that can match industry needs through the state of Minnesota, create innovative content and discussions for students to participate in
  • Determine meaningful exercises for students to test their knowledge.
  • Finally, complete a valid assessment of knowledge, learning, and skills.

Below is a visual of the CBE Curriculum Framework guide that faculty can leverage when creating new and innovative course modules, learnings, courses and/or programs.


Description of Each Area

Course Module

Covers 1 competency within an area (takes 1-2 weeks to complete)

Course Module & FlexibilityLearning Objectives: 3 or 4 of the main areas that would cover the competency

Flexibility:  In order to provide students with learning the meets industry standards each course module will have standardized objectives to follow as content, discussions and exercises are created. Due to these standardized objectives there is 0% flexibility in adjusting these objectives within the course module and should be completed as part of the course module building.

Content/Discussion:  Student ability to be part of the content understanding. Examples, lectures, readings that provide the substance of each objective

Flexibility: There is 80% flexibility in the content and discussions faculty create to obtain the learning objectives. It is critical that faculty bring in relevant and meaningful materials that meet THEIR student needs as well as that can be supported by their individual programs, systems, or personnel. Example may be a hardware system the college has that is not available at another college. Faculty should use the resources they have to create content and discussions

Practice/Exercise: Use of tool, software, or system that allows student to have experiential and/or hands on experience with learning

Flexibility:There is 30% flexibility in practice and exercise. Standardized exercises that allow for students to successfully complete the learning objectives are given, but with the content flexibility it is critical that faculty create practice and exercises around what content they are providing.

Assessment: Questions, hands on or summary of student learning – How do we know they have this competency?

Flexibility: There is 10% flexibility in assessment as all learning objectives should have standards for assessing student understanding. The flexibility come in the process used to assess the learning. Some faculty may create a hand-on assignment while others complete a virtual platform to assess understanding. In short, the learning objectives should have standardized assessment strategies but allow for flexibility in documenting student understanding.

It is our hope that as you continue to enhance our learning and teaching you can keep this process in mind as a viable way of helping students understand, gain, and prove their industry knowledge throughout the Information Technology Academic niche.