The process of educating people has been evolving since the very beginning of human history. New theories, methods and avenues are developed in order to meet new demands and educate an ever-growing and changing populus.
Competency-based education is one of the many new ideas arising in the fallout of the standardized test age — entailing students advance through mastery of material, not through age or one specific test.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, competency education allows for flexibility and individual performance to be the key factors in deciding student mastery of the subject.
This model is becoming increasingly popular in online classes due to the often hectic schedules of nontraditional students.
As the Board of Governors examines expanding online competency-based programs in the UNC system, they should approach the model with extreme caution.
While online education can help reach nontraditional students, by making classes affordable and accessible, it is absolutely essential to move forward with caution, avoiding relaxed academic standards within classrooms. Legitimate concerns exist over the academic integrity of some competency-based programs.
Faculty and other pedagogical experts should be tasked with leading all moves toward competency-based education.
Perfectly legitimate arguments both for and against this education model exist and should be considered equally alongside other models as potential strategies to be implemented.
But in academia, professors are the most knowledgeable on their subjects and have the most in contact with students. They should be able to decide which system of evaluation is best for their class’ expectations and for their students.
Thankfully, the board has not created any policies to require professors to change their curricula to fit a competency-based system.
Saving money is important, but it should not come at the cost of the value of the education being purchased.
Efforts toward competency-based education or online classes as an option for professors and students to pursue should not necessarily be stymied. But it is important it remains an option — not mandated.
Caution and increased planning are essential when deciding to create new online, competency-based classes. Nothing is worth sacrificing academic integrity.
A class that is cheaper but doesn’t offer useful skills or knowledge to students is a bad deal.
Ultimately, a professor knows more than anyone else on the best ways to measure their students’ progress and mastery of the subject. Any policy suggesting to take these decisions away from professors should be opposed.
Every student should have an equal access to education, and while competency-based education may seem like an easy way to make classes affordable and available to all, the Board of Governors must be democratic in its approach to implementation.
It must be able to guarantee a good deal for North Carolinans.