Dipping Our Toes Into CBE Waters with a Learning Technology and Leadership Innovation Graduate Certificate

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Struggling to create a competency-based program? In this session we will take you through the steps used by a university new to competency-based education to design a Learning Technology, Leadership, and Innovation graduate certificate within the constraints of accreditation requirements and will describe the importance of partnerships between academic units. 


Glori Hinck DC, EdD is an instructional designer/technologist for the University of St. Thomas E-Learning and Research Center (STELAR) in Minneapolis, MN. This role involves online and blended course design and development as well as faculty development and support related to academic technologies and online learning. Glori earned an MET and EdD in educational technology and a certificate in online teaching through Boise State University and a certificate in instructional technology from the College of St. Scholastica. For her doctoral dissertation she studied quality assurance in online MBA programs. Glori has over a decade of teaching experience, both online and face-to-face, and has created and taught a wide variety of courses from physiology and chiropractic technique to social media professionalism and online course design. Glori is also professional development faculty for OLC.
C. Candace Chou is a professor of Learning Technologies at the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. She was a Senior Fulbright Scholar (2015-16) conducting research on digital equity in education in Taiwan. Her main research interests include digital equity, instructional strategies of online learning, pedagogy of emerging technologies, and mobile learning. Her recent publications examined the effectiveness of iPad in K-12 classrooms and digital badges for online contribution in higher education.

Extended Abstract

Struggling to create a competency-based course or program? In this session, we will take you through the steps used by a university new to competency-based education (CBE) as we designed a Learning Technology, Leadership, and Innovation graduate certificate comprised of four courses. In this session, the participants will learn to: 

  • Evaluate the applicability of a novel model of CBE for their own institution. 

  • Apply instructional design processes to create CBE templates for consistency across the certificate 

  • Establish successful teamwork between faculty, administration, and instructional designers 

  • Use student feedback to inform the continuous quality improvement of a CBE program 

This session is divided into three parts: (1) phases of development, (2) competency structure, (3) and quality assurance and improvement. Participants will have multiple opportunities to share their perspectives,  approaches, and strategies to CBL through online interactive tools such as Jamboard and Mentimeter

Competency-based education (CBE) is a way to move teaching and learning from time-bound constraints within a classroom to a more personalized model of learning focused on mastery of specific and measurable learning objectives. CBE offers many benefits in higher education but also involves implementation challenges in a university focused on traditional course delivery. Moving a program into an online CBE model requires collaboration between partners across the university to address program and course design, accreditation, technology, financial aid, faculty workload, compensation, and more. The partnership between the program and the e-learning division of ITS was key to initial success of our program and will be the focus of this session. Our instructional designers work within an elearning center under the ITS umbrella. Our journey to delivery of the first CBE program at our university started with a call for grant proposals for innovative teaching and learning projects. These grant proposals were funded through ITS under the direction of the Associate Vice President (AVP) of Academic Technologies who served a key role in facilitating a dialogue with university stakeholders.

The focus of this session will be on describing our unique model of CBE, developed to offer students maximum flexibility and personalized learning while fitting within the constraints of a 15-week term and accreditation requirements. We will briefly describe the ITS/Academic project team and share the preparatory steps taken by the members of the project team to launch the program. We will describe how academic technologies including Canvas, Zoom, Portfolium, InScribe and Flipgrid were used to support asynchronous CBE delivery, optional synchronous sessions, and student engagement. 

Phases of Development 

The team approached the development of this new CBE program in three phases- planning, design and implementation, and quality assurance and evaluation.  

Phase I Planning, Spring 2019 - Fall 2019 

The faculty developing the courses were funded by a university grant through Innovation and Technology Services (ITS) and supported by the instructional team at the E-Learning and Research Center. During phase I the team addressed the four project goals below: 

  1. Review examples of competency-based education in higher education 

  1. Identify the infrastructure and stakeholders needed for collaboration in the development and implementation of a CBE program 

  1. Determine core competencies for the LTLI program 

  1. Develop program structure  

During Phase I, the team reviewed several CBE models in the United States and worked with university stakeholders including the Faculty Development Center, Registrar, Financial Aid, HLC accreditation coordinator, Chief Academic Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and others to explore options in the structure and length of the CBE courses. During this phase the following occurred: 

  • Worked within existing university schedules to maintain current course start and end dates,  

  • Determined enrollment processes, 

  • Developed competency-based structures within each course,  

  • Identified a list of competencies based on job trends for educational technology leader’s national standards by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Consortium for School Networking (COSN).

Phase II Design and Implementation, Spring 2020- Fall 2020 

During phase II, the process was heavily weighted on formulating the learning objectives for the courses and program and aligning these to ISTE and COSN standards. The instructional design team worked with four subject matter experts (SMEs) to develop the content and strategies for each course. Specific activities and decisions during this phase included: 

  • Establishing four competencies per course, 

  • Creating a template for each competency set including the design of a flow for tasks,

  • Developing media and content for each competency set, 

  • Requiring mandatory instructor-student meetings for each competency set, 

  • Encouraging student-student interaction through optional monthly webinars and online discussion,

  • Developing and mapping the evaluation rubric back to letter grades, and,

  • Creation of a Canvas community site for sharing cohort related information and as a consistent resource for program-related information.  

Phase III Quality Assurance and Evaluation, Spring 2021-ongoing

The first course in the certificate, Instructional Design for Leaders, was taught Spring 2021. The flexibility offered by this model was appreciated by the students, many of whom were K-12 educators, as they faced the challenges of teaching during a global pandemic with the need to pivot to in-person or online teaching at short notice. In addition to the end-of-term IDEA evalutions, students were surveyed following each competency set to elicit their suggestions for improvement with immediate improvements made as appropriate and other suggestions integrated into the design of the subsequent courses. Ongoing evaluation will determine future modifications to the program.

PROGRAM Structure 

In this session we will discuss how we structured this CBE program to meet the needs of our university and accrediting body.

Course Duration 

Each course in this certificate program adheres to the regular 15-week semester schedule and uses the standard registration process. Students can complete the course work within this timeframe at the pace they choose. No changes to the semester schedule will be incorporated into the initial certificate offering. Only one course in the certificate is offered at a time and students may register for a maximum of one additional course per term. 

comptency sets and Mastery ProjectS 

Each course is structured to include four modules designated as competency sets. Each competency set consists of an overview, baseline assessment, self-rating of proficiency, development of a mastery plan, and final mastery project.  While students must complete each step in in a competency set, they are graded solely on the four mastery projects that they submit in each course. Instructors work individually with students to develop a plan for mastering each competency and this mastery plan must be approved before students can proceed to the mastery project. These mastery projects allow students to demonstrate their competency within an authentic context. Mastery projects are graded using a standardized rubric and a score of  >80% is required for passing. Deficiencies in mastery of a competency are typically identified in the individual meetings and through formative feedback and students are given the opporunity to improve their work. In select situations, students may be allowed to submit artifacts and a reflection to demonstrate alternative mastery of a competency (i.e. QA reviewer). This will be agreed upon during the mastery plan discussion for each competency.

Additional Program Details

Our presentation will address the Canvas templates used to support consistency across courses, the technologies and techniques used to support student engagement, and our ongoing evaluation and continuous quality improvement measures. 

Successful completion of the mastery projects in each course would reflect learning time equivalent to a 3-credit course. The first offerings of each course will allow us to evaluate the work submitted across all students, and assign “credit” value to each assessment.   

III. Quality Assurance and Program Evaluation 

Before a course is published, the instructional design team uses an Online Course Readiness Checklist adapted from the online learning literature to ensure the completion of basic online components such as homepage, syllabus, modules, assessments, course navigation and settings, course facilitation, and plan for first week. Program evaluation will be conducted at mid-point and at the end of the program. Since the program is still in progress, we will report this finding at the conference. 

Participant Engagement in This Session

Jamboard or Mentimeter will be used in for participant engagement and will include prompts related to participant understanding of CBE, how they have structured their own CBE programs, and how our presentation might influence current or future CBE offerings at their institution.