Impetus for Change: Growth, Evolution, and Lessons Learned at NAU Competency-Based Education

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Innovation at its core means designing and doing things differently.  This presentation will focus on the 4-year growth, evolving changes, and lessons learned of the NAU Personalized Learning Competency-Based Program, including observations as the PL programs move into the next stage of development.  This session is presented by two NAU faculty from the PL CBE at NAU who will present an overview of the highlights, changes, and most current challenges of their innovative competency-based program. 

The primary goal of the session is to give participants an opportunity to discuss how competency-based programs are serving to the student learner, adapting to local and state governance, integrating financial aid, curriculum changes, and creating a new faculty structure.


Jeannie Copley is an Assistant Clinical Professor, Lead Faculty for Northern Arizona State University Extended Campus Personalized Learning. In this position, Jeannie led the development of the first competency-based bachelors degree program in Computer Information Technology for the University. The CIT degree program is designed to provide the foundational skills for continuous learning and to adapt to the high-paced and fast changing information technology environment. The program includes competency-based and hands-on learning modules to enhance acquired business skills and strategies. Jeannie is also an adjunct faculty for NAU Extended Campus with teaching focus on Management Information Systems. With over twenty-seven years of corporate and educational industry experience, Jeannie has devoted her entire career in the field of Information Technology. Her industry experience includes working as a Programmer Analyst, Senior Network Engineer, Senior Firewall Engineer, and as an I.T. Director in both national and global scale. Jeannie Copley has broad experience in the Global business operations, especially IT deployment, IT Project Management, Information Security, Network Engineering. She also has extensive experience in online learning curriculum design and technology deployment. She has worked for organizations such as University of Rochester, Eastman Kodak, Translational Genomics and Arizona State University. Jeannie has a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Communication and a Masters of Science on Telecommunications and Software Technology from Rochester Institute of Technology.
Dora Maria Donovan serves as the Lead Faculty for the Personalized Learning Small Business Administration program. In this capacity, Dora was instrumental in the design and development of the first CBE SBA program, a pioneer undergraduate business program that is built around competencies and structured for adult learners and business professionals. In the private sector, she has worked professionally as a Certified Business Analyst, and Business Management Consultant, providing services in training, coach and Project Management services for over 30 years.

Extended Abstract

The NAU competency-based education (CBE) launched in June 2013 has captured the imagination of many higher education institutions across North America as a model of innovation and new ground-breaking change in higher education. The design promises greater flexibility for adult learners, such as lower costs, and an assessment-driven approach that validates students who possess skills valued by employers. As within any traditional university setting the launching of NAU Personalized Learning did not come with few hardships, yet with a team of determined and talented faculty, the rise of one of the few CBE accredited programs was created to full capacity within a traditional HE structure. Now in the fourth year of operation, and at the heels of explosive growth, PL faces new challenges in the interconnected work streams that address strategy and integration, institutional-wide organization, program development adaptations, technology, data analytics, faculty management and marketing and recruitment and so much more!

In response to this growing demand, the PL initiative faces a comprehensive assessment and re-evaluate their organizing framework, their work stream processes and the core value of their competency-based driven philosophy. Included in this transformation, providing the right leadership for change and the capacity for resource planning is a growing demand for the online CBE education model. To re-engineer, organize, and manage the many phases and key decisions, and strategy areas that form the building blocks of this comprehensive CBE program initiative is at the core of student success and ongoing optimal expansion. 


Tentative Agenda

(40 minute presentation, 20 minutes Q&A)


Personalized Learning Overview                                                    

Summary of student subscribers                                                   

  • Overview Demographics
  • Enrollment and Graduation Rates

Changes to programs

  • Redefining competencies: Curricular 1:1
  • Learning Management System and Student Dashboard
  • Transfer credit process
  • Integrating Financial Aid
  • PL Faculty & Staffing Support                                              

Future Challenges & Projected Growth    

  • New Programs
  • Assessing Outcomes & Competencies
  • Workforce Outreach
  • Understanding competency-based
  • Understanding competency-based accountability                   





Speaker: Jeannie Copley Assistant Clinical Professor-Computer Information Technology (CIT)



Speaker: (co-speaker): Dora M. Donovan (Assistant Clinical Professor – Personalized Learning-Small Business Administration (SBA)

Organization Address: Personalized Learning-Northern Arizona University
               15451 N 28th Avenue |Phoenix, AZ  85053
               Office: 602-776-4653; Cell: 480-452-9893