College for America Blog

10,000 competencies and counting


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Posted In: Academics, CFA News

Apr • 23 • 2014

10,000 Competencies and Counting

By Yvonne Simon, Chief Learning Architect, College for America

As of last week, College for America students have collectively mastered a total of 10,000 competencies since our launch!

Why are we so excited?

First, some background: unlike a traditional school, our degrees don’t measure how many classes you’ve taken or how long you’ve sat in a seat. Here at College for America, we’ve made a clean break from the traditional “credit hour.” Our students learn, measure their progress, and earn degrees by completing projects made up of specific competencies they’ll need in their life and career.

With 10,000 competencies mastered, more students are getting even closer to their degrees. Our first degree offered—an A.A. in General Studies—is made up of 120 competencies. We’re extraordinarily proud of our 17 students who have already graduated, but their huge milestone achievement extends well beyond the degree. Collectively, our students have 10,000 new (or newly articulated) competencies to use in their professional and personal lives.

Not surprisingly, one of the most commonly completed competencies is one of the first we put in front of every student. Ninety-one percent students have mastered this competency:

·Can reflect critically on his or her learning experiences and processes

This competency is achieved by completing what we call a “learner autobiography.” It helps students become more effective learners, so they can confidently move through the degree program and advance in their jobs and careers.

Thirty-two percent of our students have mastered the following competencies by completing a team project:

·Can plan and organize work, including setting and meeting deadlines

·Can negotiate with others to resolve conflicts and settle disputes

·Can provide constructive criticism on peer writing

Students often avoid team projects in online programs (and in life); however, teamwork is essential at College for America because our employer partners regularly prioritize teamwork-based competencies when assessing their top-ten list of most critical workplace skills. (Another piece of background on CfA: we’re designed specifically for working adults. So rather than accepting any student, we partner with employers and enroll classes of students who are employees at that company or organization.)

Although CfA students worry about doing teamwork projects just like any other student, upon project completion, they often report being surprised by how much they enjoyed the collaboration. They note that their ability to listen and give feedback, for example, has improved significantly with positive results from colleagues and supervisors.

Students from one partner – Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield – earned more competencies in total than any other partner (about 11 percent of the 10,000 competencies). To date, five employees from Anthem have already graduated, with more well on their way.

Because we’re growing and our students are becoming increasingly competent, we expect to reach our 20,000th competency before the end of the year. Here’s to our students’ ongoing mastery and the resulting changes they can bring!