Case Study of One Faculty Member's Transition From Traditional Online Courses to CBE Courses

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Hear the experience of one faculty member who made the transition from traditional credit-hour, semester-based online courses to CBE courses.


As a research scientist at UWF’s Innovation Institute Dr. Dawson develops working methods for integrating emerging technologies into collaborative instructional design and development processes for online professional development, performance support, and immersive learning projects. Through the Institute, he is part of the team engaged in consultation with government, especially DoD, industry, and academe to improve performance, and reduce costs on large-scale, high-stakes projects centered around learning and performance improvement. He is also currently engaged in the design, development and implementation of a Competency Based online IT Bachelor's Degree program for which he also serves as the program coordinator in the Department of Instruction, Workforce, Administration and Technology at UWF. In addition to developing the curriculum and implementing the fully immersive STEM programs delivered through the National Flight Academy at Naval Air Station Pensacola Dr. Dawson is currently engaged in coordinating the UWF chapter of Coder Dojo for grades 4-12 and has been assessing learner performance in the Cyberthon cybersecurity competitions held annually in Pensacola. He serves on the University’s IT Strategic Planning advisory committee as well as UWF’s Technology Fee Committee and has served on the planning committee for the iTen Wired regional IT conference for the past three years. He has been a principal in the patent application and commercial licensing for the underlying technology supporting the mobile location-based application 'Next Exit History' . Dr. Dawson earned a Bachelor of Arts at Florida Atlantic University, a Master of Arts in Communications from the University of Michigan, and a Doctor of Education degree in Instructional Technology from the University of West Florida.

Extended Abstract

Competency-based education (CBE) in higher education is an instructional model that permits students to progress through a course or program based on their demonstrated mastery of required competencies, usually through various forms of authentic assessment such as projects or portfolios. This contrasts with traditonal higher education models in which students progress through courses based on completion of coursework over an established time period such as a term or semester. Specific features of competency-based programs often include:

ï Student-driven Schedules: Students take responsibility for their learning and progress through competency-based courses at their own speed.

ï ëTesting-out' Opportunities and Non-Traditional Start Times: Competency-based education programs provide students with opportunities to test out of sections of coursework or out of the entire course.

ï Multiple Course Completion Pathways: Various pathways for progression through the CBE course are available to the student, typically based on the student's performance on pre-tests or self-assessments taken at the beginning of a course or module. Based on their scores, students are directed down various pathways of greater or lesser content with more or less instructional strategy and direction.
ï Authentic Assessments: Competency-based education requires that students demonstrate their mastery of new competencies by performing real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills (Mueller, 2014).

Implications for Faculty Role
The features that are hallmarks of competency-based education place different requirements on faculty than do traditional online programs. Because students tend to work on different lessons at different rates of completion, faculty no longer drive the pace of their courses through the usual lecture and assignment format. Rather, they act more as mentors, answering questions and providing guidance as needed. Furthermore, the wholly online delivery of CBE coupled with the need for scalability demands levels of automation of instructional strategies, activities, and instructor interaction that have not been necessary in traditional online courses. Finally, the need for authentic assessments requires changes to the way faculty have typically managed their classroom time, delivery of content, and approach to assessment.

This session proposes to share the experiences of one faculty member who made the transition from traditional online courses to CBE courses. These courses were developed for delivery within a traditional credit-hour, semester-based infrastructure and so were confined by the parameters of that system. Furthermore, the courses developed were the first in the university to be converted to CBE and so served as a pilot test of the approach.

Included in the case study will be descriptions of:
ï the development of new course flows driven by student performance on module pre-tests

ï the use of only online resources
ï the reconfiguration of classes previously developed around 14 weekly lectures and assignments into modularized lessons of varying number and length
ï the conversion into machine-gradable formats of projects that previously required manual grading and significant face-to-face discussion and debriefing
ï the population of huge item banks sufficient to create the required pre-tests, post-tests, and embedded assessment items required in CBE courses
ï the automation of responses to student questions to improve response time and improve overall classroom management capabilities
ï techniques for promoting virtual group collaboration

Upon conclusion of the presentation, the presenter will open the floor for questions and open sharing of experiences others have had either in developing and teaching CBE courses themselves or in working to support faculty in the transition.