C-BEN's Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Program Model Map Framework


Published in 2023, the CBE Program Model Map Framework  was developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in partnership with the C-BEN Network. The framework documents and understands the diversity of CBE program model designs at colleges and universities in the United States.  It is intended primarily for use at institutions considering designing or redesigning a competency-based education (CBE) program.   

The framework is intended to: 

  • Support existing and emerging CBE programs in their programmatic decision making and knowledge sharing across model types.  
  • Support researchers in the field in identifying the ways in which CBE programs vary and therefore informing further investigation about CBE efficacy—the ways different design features affect student outcomes. 

The framework identifies 10 categories of design features which generally align with the eight elements in C-BEN's CBE Quality Framework.

  1. Institutional Context Institutional context includes information about the institution in which the CBE program is housed and the way the CBE program fits into the larger university structure. This tool was designed with institutions of higher education in mind, rather than employer-based CBE programs or other options.
    • Institution Type 
    • Program Credential/Type 
    • Program Location within Institutional Structure
  2. Administrative Elements — The program’s administrative elements describe the general administrative features of the program.
    • Federal Financial Aid 
    • Federal Student Aid (FSA) Calendar 
    • Financial Aid Disbursement 
    • Accreditor Review/Approval 
    • Pricing 
    • Price Set Higher, Lower, or About the Same as Traditional Programs
    • Length of Period/Term
  3. Competencies — This section begins to articulate the form and type of competencies in a CBE program. This section is limited, however, by the lack of a consistent definition of a competency or its components in the field. Therefore, it includes a relatively short list of common features at this time as a first step.
    • Competency Size 
    • Count of Competencies
  4. Program and Curriculum Design — This section includes information about program design, including sequencing and faculty model. There are several options for CBE programs when it comes to structuring program curricula. This can include the number of units, faculty structure, program sequencing, and personalization of curricula.
    • Curriculum Structure: Units 
    • Curriculum Structure: Courses 
    • Faculty Model 
    • Prior Learning 
    • Learner Agency 
    • Engagement Timing (Synchronous and Asynchronous) 
    • Flexibility of Pacing
  5. Assessment Strategies — This section focuses on the policies, activities, and design sources that were included to create assessment approaches.
    • Assessment Approach 
    • Assessment Attempts Policies 
    • Summative Assessment Activities 
    • Assessment Design Sources
  6. Learner Experience — This section focuses on the learner’s experiences throughout the entry process and progress through competencies within the CBE program.
    • Recruitment Approach 
    • Admissions Approach 
    • Initial Program Enrollment 
    • Orientation Approach 
    • Learner Progression to Next Unit/Course 
    • Methods for Granting Credits for Prior Learning
  7. Program Pathways and Support — This section describes the services, supports, and resources that are available for students as they work to complete their program. These can range from peer supports to supports provided by the program or university. These supports can be focused on students’ personal or professional lives.
    • Coaching/Advising/Mentoring Role 
    • Wraparound Services 
    • Career Services/Connections 
    • Delivery Modality 
    • Work-Based Learning: Opportunities 
    • Work-Based Learning: Structure 
    • Learner Engagement with Peers/Other Learners 
    • Redirection Policy
  8. External Partners — This section focuses on industry, employer, and community partners and explores structure(s) that CBE programs have for engagement with external partners.
    • Employer/Industry Connections 
    • Community-Based Organizations Connections 
    • Employer/Industry Partner Engagement Activities
    • Employer/Industry Partner Relationship
  9. Transparency of Learning — This section focuses on credentialing approach and transcription, both of which are approaches to making learning transparent to the learners, as well as to other institutions, faculty, staff, accreditors, regulators, and potential employers.
    • Credentialing 
    • Transcription/Learning Transparency 
    • Grading 
    • “On The Way”/Stackable Credential
  10. Continuous Improvement — This section focuses on the processes and metrics that are utilized to assess factors such as learner progress and program efficacy.
    • Tracking Learner Metrics 
    • Approach to Updating Competencies 
    • Approach to Updating Assessments 
    • Approach to Updating Program Pathways and Supports 
    • Assessing Program Efficacy 
    • Disaggregating Data






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