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The 4 Guiding Elements of Competency Design at Hekademia

We have discovered that there really isn’t one, single prescribed approach to competency-based education. States, schools, content providers, and many others are interested in developing and implementing competency-based education. Understandably, each of these providers will have unique approaches to the pedagogy. The discrepancies that arise often result in disagreements as to what the process should be called. Historically, such methods have been referred to as mastery-based education, but you will hear the terms proficiency-based, performance-based, standards-based, and competency-based, used interchangeably. However, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and the Council of Chief State School Officers, in an attempt to define competency-based education, has proposed the following 5 design elements, which are integral to any complete competency-based program:

  1. Students advance upon demonstrated mastery.
  2. Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  3. Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  4. Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  5. Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.1

Hekademia, through research, trial and error, and course development expertise, has come up with the ACe model. As mentioned in a previous blog post, Hekademia’s Adaptive Competency eLearning (ACe) programs seek to address the needs of students at every level.

To accomplish this, the following 4 elements guide Hekademia when we design our Competency-Based courses:

  1. Academic Rigor: Learning objectives are clearly and consistently communicated to students as they progress through their courses. These learning objectives are measurable and demonstrable, allowing students to work toward developing a complete understanding of complex concepts and ideas. This progress is continuously evaluated and reported on, providing students with remedial or enrichment material to assist them in their mastery of the learning objectives.
  2. Backward Design: Our instructional designers spend a considerable amount of time examining state and national standards to create learning objectives that form the base of our ACe courses. Following this, our instructional designers create engaging assessments and interactive activities based on the learning objectives. Finally, our core instruction, with the addition of remediation and enrichment, ensures that students develop a high degree of mastery of the more comprehensive state and national standards.
  3. Engagement: We develop our own interactive activities and videos to highlight essential concepts and build to levels of learning that ensure student success in our courses. Our multimedia department works closely with our instructional designers to optimize differentiated learning opportunities. Our courses contain notes, clear instructions, images, simulations, and videos, all of which give students an interactive and engaging learning experience.
  4. Authentic, Real-World Assessments: Assessments are designed to evaluate student performance as defined by the expectations of various state and national standards, not as defined by relative measures of performance such as student-to-student comparisons. Student learning is scaffolded by means of formative assessments, allowing students to receive feedback and to check their learning throughout the learning process. We understand that learning is gradual, and that to achieve the expectations associated with today’s standards, students need to master all elements of complex ideas or concepts.

By adhering to these 4 guiding elements, Hekademia’s ACe programs provide students with a course model that will undoubtedly prepare them for success.

1. S.F. Bristow and S. Patrick, An International Study in Competency Education: Postcards from Abroad, 2014.

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