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Handbook of Research on Competency-Based Education in University Settings

Handbook of Research on Competency-Based Education in University Settings
Author(s)/Editor(s): Karen Rasmussen (University of West Florida, USA), Pamela Northrup (Bigger Picture Strategy, USA) and Robin Colson (Tallahassee Community College, USA)
Copyright: ©2017
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0932-5
ISBN13: 9781522509325
ISBN10: 1522509321
EISBN13: 9781522509332


View Handbook of Research on Competency-Based Education in University Settings on the publisher's website for pricing and purchasing information.


The majority of adult learners are looking to attain their desired academic credentials within the shortest amount of time possible. By implementing competency-based programs, learners are accelerated through their designed program or course.

The Handbook of Research on Competency-Based Education in University Settings is a pivotal reference source for the latest academic research on the use of competency-based testing in higher education institutions. Focusing on innovative practices, strategies, and real-world scenarios, this book is ideally designed for educators, students, administrators, professionals, and academics interested in emerging developments for competency-based education initiatives.

Table of Contents


Reviews and Testimonials

Education scholars describe competency-based education as an instructional model that permits students to progress through a course or program based on their demonstrated mastery of required competencies, usually through various forms of authentic assessment such as projects or portfolios. This contrasts with the conventional approach in which students progress by completing coursework over an established period of time, term or semester. They cover setting the stage, building the system, going live, and case studies.

– Protoview Reviews

Author's/Editor's Biography

Karen Rasmussen (Ed.)
Karen Rasmussen is a higher education expert who works in areas of faculty professional development, online learning, curriculum development, competency-based education, survey research analysis, evaluation, micro-credentialing, micro-learning (e.g., program, course, MOOC design and development), performance, and innovative solutions that meet student/user needs. In addition to over 25 years as a faculty member in Instructional Technology (earned rank of Tenured, Full Professor) and academic leader, she has led university- and state-wide initiatives related to academic policy, new program development (and program redesign), innovative practice, degree completion, and career and technical education. She helped create the first online graduate program (in Instructional Technology) at UWF in 1998. Dr. Rasmussen led the department of Engineering and Computer Technology at the University of West Florida, which included programs in Instructional Technology, Career and Workforce Development, Electrical Engineering Technology, Construction Management, and Information Technology Systems for over 10 years. She has served as Department Chair, Associate Dean, Assistant Provost, and Associate Vice President during her work at the University of West Florida. She has led state-wide initiative related to degree completion and career awareness. She creates experiences that serve participant needs, as they develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities to meet personal and professional goals.

Pamela Northrup (Ed.)
Pam Northrup is President of Bigger Picture Strategy, providing consulting services to higher education institutions and agencies on maintaining operations while planning toward the future. Currently, she works on campus operations, career and workforce planning for higher education, long-term online growth and academic master planning for the future. Dr. Northrup continues to work on digital frameworks supporting scale and strategy for institutions planning to design and launch microcredentials by working with both higher education and key industry partners ensuring alignment with both academic requirements and industry needs. Dr. Northrup has spent the past 25 years focused on advancing learning opportunities for non-traditional learners. She launched online learning in 1994 at the University of West Florida and led its continued growth for over 20 years. She led the Division of Continuing Education and shaped it to support students, employers and the community in reskilling and upskilling the workforce, while building bridges for youth to “inspire and engage” toward future careers through K12 “Explore” summer camps. She led the effort to launch a military and veterans resource center to support both academic and support services for military students. Finally, she led the design and development of a statewide initiative in Florida to support adults that had some college and no degree to complete and connect to future job opportunities. For many years, Dr. Northrup served as CEO of an Innovation Institute, where she participated in design and action-oriented programming to support multiple accelerated learning strategies supporting non-traditional students. She and her team developed competency-based education models, techniques for badging in areas that were meaningful to employers and began an initiative to launch microcredentials in workforce focused areas. She also served as a Vice President leading research, innovation and economic diversification by launching initiatives including aligning industry recognized certifications to academic credit to support the future while working with middle and high school aviation-focused career academies on advancing industry certifications prior to graduation. Dr. Northrup served on multiple state level-appointed groups focused on advancing online learning for higher education. She served on the Florida Board of Governor's 2025 Online Strategic Planning Committee, was affordability chair for the Florida Board of Governors' Distance Learning Strategic Planning Committee and worked on numerous system level tools to support Florida’s higher education institutions.Aligned to career-ready education, Northrup focused much of her research and time on initiatives supporting STEM education for K12 students to include co-writing the curriculum for the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation’s National Flight Academy that is a fully immersive, simulation-based environment designed to inspire students into STEM disciplines. She also served on the group that launched a statewide career education and planning tool to serve K-20 and Florida citizens. She also worked on several other STEM focused projects through the years including serving as a lead designer for the launch of her former university’s Center for Cybersecurity where she and her team aligned curriculum and launched kids “Coder Dojos”. She has worked with TEQGames at Universal Studios to develop the STEAM App series for the Universal Studios youth programs that highlighted the science of roller coasters and other themed entertainment. Finally, Dr. Northrup worked closely with a team from the Center for Simulation and Maritime Training to support the development and evaluation of training for cruise ship captains, engineers and environmental support teams.

Robin Colson (Ed.)
Robin Colson has a 30-year-plus career in performance management consulting, providing professional services to clients in both the public and private sectors. Dr. Colson began her career as a high school teacher before transitioning to corporate training. After earning her Master’s degree, she honed her skills in performance management in Andersen (now Accenture) Consulting’s Change Management division. Upon earning her doctorate, Dr. Colson started her own small company, Infoworks, providing training, instructional design, organizational development, performance improvement, and change management services. Over the past decade, Dr. Colson has worked primarily in higher education. Currently, she manages the Tallahassee Community College Workforce Development Online Learning & Professional Development program, which provides 2,000+ online training courses and certificate programs to adult learners throughout Florida. Prior to this position, Dr. Colson provided research and innovation services to the Florida Virtual Campus, an organization created to support Florida’s 40 colleges and universities in the delivery of online library, learning, and student support services. There, her research focused on adult learner success, hybrid student support systems, and alternative credentialing. In 2019-2020, for example, she and her colleagues conducted a qualitative research study with transfer students from Florida’s community colleges and universities to detail the transfer student journey from the student’s perspective, identifying common pain points statewide and opportunities for improved coordination between colleges and universities. Throughout her career teaching and training almost exclusively adult learners, Dr. Colson has identified one common truth among all adult learners that is in direct contrast with traditional learners: adult learners are people first and students second with needs that are very different from those of traditional learners. She believes it is this truth that makes alternative practices like experiential learning, competency-based learning, and micro-credentialing critical for higher education and lifelong learning as the number of non-traditional students continues to swell, but their success rates remain low in a system designed for traditional learners. Dr. Colson received her BS degree in Health Education from Indiana University and her MS and PhD degrees in Instructional Systems Design from Florida State University.


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