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NECC is First Community College in MA to Offer Competency-Based Education

Submitted by on September 7, 2016 – 8:35 pm

 

Victoria Gonzalez

Victoria Gonzalez of Haverhill was one of the first NECC students to sign up for a competency-based education course at NECC.

Northern Essex Community College is the first community college in Massachusetts to offer a method of learning designed especially for busy adults who need flexibility in order to pursue a certificate or degree.

Northern Essex has launched an eight-course certificate in computer applications as well as two additional art courses—Two Dimensional Foundations and Computer Graphics—delivered online as competency-based education (CBE) courses.

CBE addresses the needs of adult learners, allowing them to start and complete courses online on their own schedule.  Each CBE student is assigned a learning coach, who will provide course orientation and advice on how to succeed academically.

These new CBE options will complement Northern Essex’s already robust online learning options which include 19 degree and certificate programs—ranging from business transfer to criminal justice— that are offered fully or almost fully online as well as hundreds of online courses.

Kim Burns, Northern Essex’s dean of academic innovations and alternative studies, says there’s a noticeable difference between CBE courses and traditional online courses.  “In a traditional online course, students work at the instructor’s pace.  In a CBE course, students are able to work more independently while juggling busy work schedules and personal responsibilities.”

The great majority of Northern Essex students—82 percent—work full-time or part-time while attending college and a large percentage have children.  The majority are pursuing a college education in order to advance in their current careers or transition to a new field, and they want to complete their education as quickly as possible.

“College students are no longer 18-years old who are concentrating on their studies full-time,” said Burns.  “Our students are working during the day and caring for their families in the evening and we want to be sure we have flexible options available to them.”

Victoria Gonzalez of Haverhill, a business transfer major at Northern Essex, was one of the first students to sign up for a fall CBE course.  Gonzalez is a 2014 graduate of Whittier Vocational Technical School, where she majored in marketing business technology, and she’s hopeful that her computer experience will allow her to move quickly through the course modules.

Gonzalez says she’s developed her study habits while at Northern Essex and she’s counting on that plus her computer skills to help her “fly through the class.”

These new CBE options will complement Northern Essex’s already robust online learning options which include 19 degree and certificate programs—ranging from business transfer to criminal justice— that are offered fully or almost fully online as well as hundreds of online courses.

Kim Burns, Northern Essex’s dean of academic innovations and alternative studies, says there’s a noticeable difference between CBE courses and traditional online courses.  “In a traditional online course, students work at the instructor’s pace.  In a CBE course, students are able to work more independently while juggling busy work schedules and personal responsibilities.”

Students can still enroll for CBE courses starting this fall, says Burns.

Burns hopes that Northern Essex will become a statewide leader in competency-based education.  “Our goal is to grow the number of programs and courses that we offer.  It’s all about helping more people to access a college education.”

For more information, visit the website or contact Burns at kburns@necc.mass.edu.