Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Competency-Based Curriculum: An Effective Approach to Digital Curation Education

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Competency-Based Curriculum: An Effective Approach to Digital Curation Education

Article excerpt


Novel trends within higher education over the last decade have seen the emergence of innovative learning initiatives that involve the application of new and emerging technology tools, delivery platforms, and/or new business models and pedagogy. One such initiative is competency-based education (CBE), which has become one of the biggest "buzzwords" in academia today. This is evidenced by recent publications on this topic, for example, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative White Paper, "7 Things You Should Know About Competency-Based Education, " (2014). Likewise, the New Media Consortium Horizon Report 2015 listed CBE as an alternative to traditional place-based education and as a way to bring greater personalization to higher education curricula (Johnson, Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015). CBE was also discussed in the 2015 Association of College & Research Libraries Environmental Scan as one of the emerging issues that will define the future of academic and research libraries (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2015).

Although the concept and boundaries of CBE are frequently blurred, there is a general agreement that CBE is characterized by the development of clearly defined competencies, a mapping of the curriculum to achieve those competencies, and an assessment process matched to the competencies. (Jones, Voorhees, & Paulson, 2002). Such competencies are often linked to workforce needs, as defined by employers and the profession-i.e., specific knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) valued by working practitioners in the field. A curriculum consists of a specified, organized body of learning activities designed to equip students with the KSAs and integrative experiences that lead to the acquisition of competencies needed for a degree (Jones, 2001).

While this approach to preparing professionals goes back to the 1970s, an emphasis on program goals and objectives was widely adopted in the early 21st century (Frank et al., 2010). In the United States, the competency-based teacher education movement served as the starting point for the next movement. The approach also influenced the design and delivery of vocational education in the United Kingdom and particularly in Australia, where national reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s required that all accredited vocational education programs be competency-based (Hodges & Harris, 2012). Later, the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative convened a group of experts in CBE and published a report that explored CBE models in postsecondary institutions. According to that report (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002), implementing competency-based initiatives is important for two major reasons:

One main reason is that specific articulations of competencies inform and guide the basis of subsequent assessments at the course, program, and institutional levels. Secondly, specific competencies help faculty and students across campus, as well as other stakeholders such as employers and policymakers, to have a common understanding about the specific skills and knowledge those undergraduates should master as a result of their learning experiences (p. vii).

In recent years, the approach has attracted renewed interest among educators in higher education (Fain, 2013; Parry, 2013). In March 2013, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance for higher education institutions that offer competency-based programs. The department announced that colleges could begin providing student federal aid based on students' mastery of "competencies;" that is, what students know and can do. This focus on the demonstration of competency has been exemplified in several initiatives, including Mozilla's Open Badges and edX's Verified Certificates of Achievement. Furthermore, the shift from credit hours completed to competency demonstrated has been executed in a number of institutions in the USA, such as Indiana UniversityPurdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Michigan State University, and University of Wisconsin. …

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