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State tech college leaders attend Nicolet summit to learn about the college’s new, flexible learning model

June 13, 2018

tech college leaders hear about competency-based education

Academic leaders from across the Wisconsin Technical College System gathered at Nicolet College recently to learn about Nicolet’s innovative efforts to make college more accessible to students.

More than 50 vice presidents, deans and directors from nine of the state’s 16 technical colleges attended the Competency-Based Education (CBE) Summit at Nicolet. They were there to learn about the details of this educational model that has been around for decades but is largely new to Wisconsin.

“At it’s core, this new structure helps students better fit college around their lives,” said Jeff Labs, Nicolet dean of Trade, Industry, and Apprenticeships. “The Nicolet My Way Competency-Based Education format combines flexible open labs with online classes that students complete at their own pace and at times that are best for them. Students still learn all the same skills as in the past, but now in a structure that fits better around job and family responsibilities.”

Nicolet launched the highly flexible Nicolet My Way Competency-Based Education format this past January in the Welding program. Information Technology will adopt the format this fall with additional academic programs expected to implement CBE in 2019.

Instead of earning college credits by passing a 16-week, semester-long course where all students move through the curriculum at the same pace, the CBE model takes that same curriculum and breaks it into smaller chunks, known as competencies.

Once students have proven that they’ve mastered one competency, they move on to the next. When they’ve demonstrated proficiency with all of the required competencies, they are awarded college credits and ultimately a college degree.

“What’s beneficial to students is that they progress through the competencies at their own pace,” Labs explained. “If they have previous experience with a specific skill, they can progress through that competency fairly quickly. If they come across one that is more challenging, they can work one-on-one with the instructor until they grasp the concept and master the given skill.”

Because the structure of the open labs and and online classes is so flexible, students who prefer the more traditional classroom structure can set up their schedules to reflect that as well, Labs added.

He also noted Nicolet staff held extensive discussions with students and area employers about the new CBE learning model prior to implementation to ensure graduates have the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace.

“It’s exciting to share what we’ve learned with so many others in higher education who are interested in bringing the CBE model to their colleges,” Labs added. “This tells me there’s a lot of interest in what we are developing here at Nicolet.”

Click here for more information about academic programs available at Nicolet, including those offered in the traditional lab and classroom format, or call the college at (715) 365-4493, 1-800-544-3039: TTY 1-800-947-3529 or 711 relay.

In the photo above, Nicolet Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives Chuck Komp, standing center, addresses the contingent of Wisconsin technical college leaders during the summit.