Suggested Examples:

  • “Online Programs”
  • “Business Degrees”
  • “Brandman Resources”
  • “Social Work”

Brandman University is now University of Massachusetts Global.

Learn More
Online Learning

Competency-based education from a subject matter expert

May 16, 2017 by Jalin B. Johnson


With the emergence of Competency-Based Education (CBE) in the higher education cosmos, the journey seeking continues. The career professional, retired service member, 'career changer,' overachiever and the like, are looking for ways to expand their knowledge bases and ultimately, earn degrees that acknowledge their skill sets. Discover how they are finding new ways of thinking through and realizing their education.

Navigating Uncharted Territory

The standard pathway for obtaining a degree is now an emerging area of assessment and re-discovery. Douglas Adams, humorist and author of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (1978) and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984) offered his thoughts on some of technology's turning points. 

21st century Computer Scientist, Alan Curtis Kay believes that “technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.” As a parent, it is not lost on me that today's youth have admission to an array of emerging technological advancements, many of which they may consider standard issue. If there is something they need access to and a smart phone is handy, chances are, there's "an app for that!"

A newer occurrence in elementary school classrooms is to offer tablets of all sizes as supplements to textbooks. The online learning component (expanding the classroom environment), offered through Pearson Realize, Study Island, Education City, Star Fall, Scholastic, K-12 and others, is only the tail end of the comet. Several of these programs have been offered through district pairings in the K-12 setting for decades. 

Educators are also reading the star charts, showing that this evolution has begun to transform the learning environment in higher education. The technology used to bring MyPath to students was an ever-evolving and dynamic process. As a member of the academic side of this development (dubbed a Subject Matter Expert, or SME, labeling those who built competencies that are offered in the program), I was fortunate to be part of this emerging venture as it set sail.

Building a New World

Through the use of the very tablets of all sizes that our K-12 students are mastering during the day, our CBE students navigate through readings, video and other types of compatible learning tools while they earn their degree. The reliance on competent technology in the execution of the program was approached with much deliberation and discussion from both the technological and academic ends of the spectrum. It was consideration on this part of the process that motivated me to seek insight from my peers (fellow SME's), who have also developed competencies for the CBE program with the technology platform in mind. One of Adams' (1984 characters, a scientist, shares a reminder that he gives himself often:

University of Massachusetts Global SME’s saw the opportunity to explore and begin something new, approaching the emerging genre with open-minds. They thought through content selection with much research and curriculum driven reflection, relying on collaboration with colleagues. They tested the learning through trials with quality control; all the while, gaining a better understanding about the nuances of launching a CBE program.

Expert Insights

I asked several of these trailblazers how they perceived the influence of Competency-Based Education’s (virtual) degree program delivery on current technology methods used within Higher Education. As is often celebrated, the diversity in feedback speaks to the array of thought and inventiveness that poured into the exploration of this initiative.

The Constraints of Technology

Dr. Kat Ringenbach, Associate Professor of Psychology, spoke to the "constraints of technology," offering that she does "not think that CBE influences technology, but rather the other way around." She believes that:

Education is Evolutionary

Dr. Tim Becker, Assistant Professor of Marketing shared his thoughts, offering that “Education is evolutionary!” He notes that:

A Scientific Method

Dr. Sheila L. Steinberg Professor, Social Sciences added:

As University of Massachusetts Global and other institutions in the higher education cosmos begin the journey of exploration, determining how Competency-Based Education and emerging technologies will break new ground in tandem, one certainty is that it is an emerging 21st century discovery worth making way for!


*University of Massachusetts Global Senior Leadership and Administration also continue to explore CBE’s place in higher education through legislative and media based platforms.




Become a Student

Have questions about enrollment, degree programs, financial aid, or next steps?

Further your education with a few questions

Please enter your zip code to proceed.
Please enter a valid zip code to proceed.
Is this an international zip code?
Please select a degree type
Please select your area of interest
Please select a program type
Please select a session
Please enter your name
Please enter your last name
Please enter your email to proceed
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter your phone number to proceed.
Please enter a valid phone number.

About UMass Global

Earn your bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or certificate at UMass Global, a regionally accredited university.

We value your privacy

By submitting this form, I agree that UMass Global may contact me about educational services by voice, pre-recorded message and/or text message using automated technology, at the phone number provided, including wireless numbers. I understand that my consent is not required to attend University of Massachusetts Global. Privacy Policy