Revolutionising Learning for Lifelong Growth and Success: The Power of Competency-Based Education

Dan McFadyen, Managing Director at Edalex speaks with Dr. Charla Long, President of the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) where they cover various aspects of competency-based education (CBE) and its future impact. Overall, the interview provides insights into the revolutionary nature of CBE and its potential to revolutionise learning for lifelong success.

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0:00 – Introduction
5:00 – The Formation of Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN): Missions, Values and Goals
11:42 – Redefine Learning Outcome Metrics: The Shift from Time-Based to Competency-Based Education
16:31 – A Global Shift towards Competency-Based Education: Unleashing the Potential of Skills and Competencies
25:41– Building a Common Language for Skills: Unlocking Learning Exchange and Global Collaboration
30:41 – Empowering Learners Through Personalised Learning Pathways and Asset-Based Approach to Education
37:55 – C-BEN Vision for the Future of Competency-Based Education as a Nexus of Lifelong Learning

Chapter videos

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(This transcript has been lightly edited for readability)

Dan McFadyen (DM): Hi, I’m Dan McFadyen, Managing Direct of Edalex and it’s my great pleasure to be joined today by Dr. Charla Long. Charla is the president for the Competency-based Education Network (C-BEN), an international consortium of Higher Education institutions and statewide systems seeking to design, develop and scale new models of student learning. Additionally, she leads C-BEN Consulting Services, which is dedicated to helping institutions with competency-based learning. In 2016, Charla was recognised by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of its top ten most influential people in Higher Education for her work in competency-based education. Charla is also the co-author of the book “A Leader’s Guide to Competency-Based Education”.

Charla Long (CL): There’s a lot of “competency-based education” in there, isn’t there?

DM: There is! I think maybe it is something that we talk about today.

CL: It’s a great idea.

DM: Thank you so much for joining me today. Really appreciate it.

CL: Absolutely.

DM: So I want to kick off by taking us back to last year, to CBExchange 2023, the annual conference for C-BEN. And I have to admit: it’s the only time in my 20+ years in the education space where I’ve felt like a rock star at a conference – or more appropriately, in this case, a sports star, because that was the theme of the conference. We came in and we were blown away by the fact that there was an actual high school marching band. There are cheerleaders doing CBE chants, and people dressed in football uniforms. And you were a ref, so – Wow, like what an experience. So can you tell us about that CBExchange, the motivation behind the conference, and what you hope that all the delegates take away from it?

CL: Absolutely – Well, I have a background in meeting planning and convention management of all things. I used to run the meetings division for Apple Computer. So for me, people remember themes way after they have heard a general session that they thought would stick with them forever. They’ll remember running through the tunnel and coming out onto the football field and being cheered on. For me, themes are really, really important. They set the tone for a conference. The theme of last year’s conference was CBE (Competency-based Education), it’s a game changer and we really do believe it is a game changer. And before that, we were explorers and it was really a moment in time in which we saw a huge exploration of new entities and CBE so we were explorers and we were earning our adventure badges and we were really trying to dig in and learn about CBE. So the themes really correspond to what’s happening in the movement at that time and how do we help people really see it’s a different kind of conference. I’m not much for the boring conferences that we all have to go through, and you have these meager little food and beverage breaks, and sometimes they don’t even feed you well. So I kind of approach conferences kind of consistent with my teaching philosophy, which is I don’t think I can reachyour mind if your belly is rumbling. And so I used to, as a teacher, bring a cooler to class with refreshments for my students. And I felt like if I could connect with them and if their belly was full, I could get to their mind a lot more easily. And so I approach conferences in the same way. They’re warm, they’re inviting, and they’re packed with fun activities. And it’s a moment where innovators from college campuses that are often getting beat up by their colleagues for doing this work can get together with people who are like-minded, people who really get them, and be encouraged, go back to do that fight that they do on their college campuses with regard to innovations. So I like them to be a lot of fun. So I’m glad you enjoyed last year’s conference with you.

DM: You absolutely delivered in spades. And we’re already looking forward to and talking about this year’s conference. And hopefully, we’ll have some time to circle back to this year’s conference  conference. But yeah, we were thrilled to sponsor it last year. We’re very much looking forward to that again this year.

CL: We appreciate that very much.

DM: And I think just that tone that you set that everyone was in that collaborative mood and really looking to explore and learn, and share their own experiences. So yeah – it was a job well done.

CL: Thank you.

Chapter 1: The Formation of Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN): Missions, Values and Goals.

DM: So let’s now back up and talk a bit more about C-BEN itself – the history of the organisation, what are the goals of the organisation? I am really thrilled to hear about the explosive growth that you’ve seen in membership.

CL: Well, I think if you want to know, just a quick snippet about the history of C-BEN. It is a network, it’s got the word  ‘network’ in it, was a place in which about ten years ago the Lumina Foundation said: “We’ve got schools out there trying to do some really innovative things, but they’re each doing it in silos and they’re all facing the same kind of issues and they’re all looking to solve similar challenges. What if I brought them together?” And so there were seven schools: Southern New Hampshire is probably one of the most recognizable – Paul LeBlanc, their President created College for America; the University of Wisconsin was in the mix; Brandman University, which is now UMass Global; Northern Arizona; My institution – Lipscomb University, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. They said: “All of us were trying to say: How do we put into place the thing that Amy Laitinen wrote in  “Cracking the Credit Hour”? How do we un-tether from time and just focus on what it is a student needs to know and be able to do?” And so Lumina said: “We’re going to fund these seven schools to come together to meet regularly on the shared challenges.”

We began meeting every couple of weeks, and I would go on behalf of my institution, sometimes bringing my provost or my register or my financial aid, depending on what we were talking about. Lumina would bring together national experts to help us think about the challenges we would all go way back to Northern Arizona or New Hampshire or Wisconsin and work on implementing what we talked about and then we’d come back in a couple of weeks, and take on another challenge in this little group of seven schools. Really, we were on to something and we became this community of folks that could be real with one another, could say: “Here’s what I’m really struggling with” or “Here’s what I’m up against;” “I experience that same thing; and here’s what we tried.” So that network is what became C-BEN. We opened it up, brought in another 15 schools, and then we brought in 30 more schools into the conversation. And then we finally were like. “Hey, I think we’re on to something here.” Lumina Foundation said: “Well, what would happen if we actually spun this off not as a Lumina-funded project, but as a standalone non-profit entity?”

And so I left my institution to serve as the Founding Director to help stand up what is now known as C-BEN – The Competency-based Education Network and to try to get that organisation moving. And so I left my institution at the end of 2014, and have been serving as the President of the Competency-based Education Network ever since. And we just want to be an agile group that can help find a path forward for folks, people who want to respond to a skills-based economy and know that competencies are at the core of making that happen. And so that’s really what C-BEN exists to do: bring together like-minded people; create a welcoming environment for them, and help them find a path forward. That’s a little bit about C-BEN, and I think just the environment we create, the network, and the collaboration amongst our members has been what’s attracted more and more people to join the movement, as well in the network.


DM: That’s wonderful and coming back to your saying around “there’s a lot of competency-based education.” So what is it? I mean, you gave us a tantalising clue there with that expression that I love – “un-tether it from time”. So yeah, what’s at the heart of C-BEN?

CL: Really, at the heart, it’s about what people know and can do – it’s not enough to have book knowledge; it’s not enough to have only skills, you need both the knowledge and the skills coming together and that being demonstrated in new behaviors, right? So it takes knowledge, skills, and abilities, it takes intellectual behaviors. And we look at that and we say: “What do I need in this given context?” So if I’m creating an accounting program, what is it an accountant needs to know and be able to do? They may be really, really good at the code of conduct and debits and credits etc. those kinds of things. But they’re miserable to work with as a colleague or they’re mean and rude to their clients, right? They’re not going to be successful. So we’ve got to have both the knowledge, we need skill and ability, but we also have to have the right kind of behaviors.

So in C-BEN, we first start by saying: “What is it a person needs to know and be able to do?” And then we look to validate. Do they have those knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors? We don’t care about how long it takes for them to acquire it. What’s most important is that they have it. We also don’t care so much about where they got it, so maybe they learned that skill through a workforce development course. Maybe they got it on the job, maybe they got it in the college classroom. All we really care about is do they have the knowledge, the skill, the ability and the behaviors that we’re looking for. Are they at the level we would expect? And if so, let’s validate that and let the person earn the credential.

So the time-based component is variable in most CBE programs, but the learning we’re holding asfixed – the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors. So it’s about what a person knows and can do; what they can do with that knowledge. And then intentionally making sure we can validate that, and then not worrying so much about how much time it’s going to take them. Some people need longer, and some people need less time, but we want to hold that learning constant. Does that make sense?

DM: It sure does. And I think especially today, that resonates so much more.

Chapter 2: Redefine Learning Outcome Metrics: The Shift from Time-Based to Competency-Based Education

DM: But yet, I mean, with the CBE, you’re running up against more than 100 years of a very rigorous structure around the Carnegie units, that it is time-based. And how does that work in today’s environment? And do you see that evolving?

CL: So if we look at the way education works today, you hit the time limit and what you know is what you know. As long as you know, at least usually 65 or 70%, you get to go on and keep moving right? That’s wrong because we said in the Carnegie unit this amount of time is how much time you get to learn something. You may have seen recently that the Carnegie Foundation came out and said: “We believe we need to rethink this. And that time shouldn’t be the measure of learning.” The original conception of the Carnegie unit was the way in which we could calculate how much retirement funding a faculty deserved based on how much they taught, had nothing to do with how much learning happened. It was about how much retirement they had earned.

And then somehow, literally in a period of about ten years, it became the way in which we measured learning: how much learning has happened and how much learning can occur in this unit of time. And so we need to abolish that. And we’ve heard the Carnegie Foundation come out and say hey’d love to see us move away from timely-restricted measures of learning and to replace it with learning – the actual knowledge, skill, ability and behaviors, the competencies that a learner has. So I think we’re starting to see some of the historic entities, some of the entrenched roots of Higher Ed said: “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. The way we’re doing it, the ability to accept 70% as proficient is not going to work. Instead, we need to go back to saying: what is it a learner needs to know and be able to do? How do we hold to that and allow them to move at whatever pace makes the most sense.”

So certainly the Carnegie Foundation coming forward and saying we need to change this is going to help. ETS, that at least in the U.S. control standardised tests, they’ve come forth and said: “It’s not about the standardised knowledge demonstration. It’s got to also be about performance. So how can we measure for performance the doing of knowledge, not just the knowledge itself?” Those kinds of big public statements I think will help. There have been plenty of other occurrences really since COVID that I think will also move the map. But the Carnegie Foundation and the ETS – they were two big signs in the last couple of months.

DM: That’s massive. And I think it is, as you’re saying, the reflection of the reality for learners of all ages and also for employers. So they’re saying that the degree itself is no longer the ticket to employment that it once was. And there is a recent survey that revealed that 81% of employers would rather hire based on skills, based on competency, than just looking at the degree.

CL: And I think that’s because our degrees don’t mean what they used to mean, right? Because when you accept and you say somebody is competent because they have this degree if they’ve only had a Master’s – 65% of the content in order to earn it, right? How competent really are they? And so we have because we’ve been bound by time, we’ve been graduating people that don’t have the competencies – the full competencies. They’ve got 65 or 70% of them, or we’ve grade inflated because we didn’t want everybody to get a C or a D, that would be bad. So we grade inflated, and now an employer doesn’t know what that degree means. So I recognise that – hey, we want to know this person does in fact have this knowledge, these skills, and these abilities. How can I verify that? How can I know that that’s validated? Because the degree isn’t doing it for me if that degree is not based on holding to the competencies that made up that credential.

Chapter 3: A Global Shift Towards Competency-Based Education: Unleashing the Potential of Skills and Competencies

DM: No – makes a lot of sense. So let’s dive into that a little bit more. Can you tell me and you’ve already said it’s not just skills themselves, it’s not just knowledge and it is the application. So how do you put a framework or a structure around that makes sense for the institution, for employers, and for the learners themselves?

CL: Yeah. So first of all, in many professions, their accrediting body, their licensure body is already putting some framework around it. You’ve got to have a set of competencies that we can align around. Does that mean that we’re going to have a universal set of competencies? – Maybe at some point. Take a look at Singapore. Singapore has the SkillsFuture. They have a whole framework that undergirds every job, every role, and every occupation in Singapore. Will every nation move to that? I don’t know. I can’t quite see us in America giving up our freedom to do whatever we want to do. So that’s probably not going to happen any time soon. But I do think we see by occupation, alignment around common knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors. I was on a call yesterday with a group that oversees accounting programs, and they have released all of the competencies that need to go into an accounting program.  AACN – the nursing accrediting body has said this is how we define competencies, knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors.

This is the performance we’re looking for. That starts to be your ontology if you want to put it that way. I said it is competencies under which we can all align. I think we have to get more discrete on what the performance of those competencies looks like because in a program that’s what they would do. These are my competencies. This is what the successful performance of that competency would look like. And then how do I teach to that performance? How do I get each and every learner to a place in which they can know and do the things that are required in this profession? So I think we see more and more of a push towards this ontology or this ability to communicate in those competencies and skills that a person needs. We’re seeing more of that globally and in specific countries.

DM: Wonderful – Continuing on with that theme, I remember from CBExchange last year that there were quite a few of us internationally. And since the description of C-BEN is an international network, now initially as you described it, was focused on the U.S. So what sort of interests are you seeing nationally and globally?

CL: If you think of the European Union has called 2023 the European Year of Skills to start to bring into focus for European nations the importance of competencies. What are the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors one needs in order to be successful? It is about the ability to take 2023 in the EU and really focus on skills. India, you may have seen has announced its K-12 systems, and their Higher Ed systems are moving competency-based. The K-12 just released, I think it’s like three year oldsthrough what we would think of as second grade, the competencies that need to undergird those grade levels. What is it that we expect our young children to know and be able to do in India? And they’re beginning to build upward through the rest of the learning ecosystem? – A connected series of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors. So countries like India are moving in that direction.

I had a call on Uganda just the other day. Uganda has announced they’re going to move to competency-based. So as more and more nations, we’re doing significant work in Singapore as more and more nations move towards a skills-based economy, and thinking about how our learning aligns with the skills we need, I think that’s really important. You may have seen the World Economic Forum released a report in early May on putting skills first – What does it look like to have a framework that’s based on those kinds of competencies that people need? I think we’re going to see more and more nations aligned as we create this global skills economy, right? The geographic borders are already gone. We’re working with people internationally all the time, but we aren’t so easily able to share competencies and skills and learning – “Is yours accredited by the right place?”

I often think about my old academic institution where I used to work. The janitor on my floor who cleaned our building was an attorney in her home country. But in the U.S., I couldn’t even recognise her knowledge, her skills, abilities, and behaviors. We had no way to validate what she knew. I have no way of giving her the U.S. legal system to supplement what she had in her home country so we could get her to work in a good-paying job in America. We couldn’t move learning from country to country. That’s got to change. And I think we’re seeing the skills-based economy where we could begin to exchange competencies more easily across nations. That I think is what we see the call out to countries to do right now.

DM: Makes incredible sense given the global war for talent. So globally, the numbers keep on going up to all times high: it’s 75 – 79%. Here in Australia, 81% of employers are struggling to find prospective employers with the right skills.

CL: It is certainly the case here.

DM: Yeah. And in that report that you referenced here, one of the highlights that really jumped out at me was the fact that 100 million more people could be added to the workforce if we looked at skills and competencies rather than just … what a crime for I saw that former attorney who’s not able to rise to her ability and her skills.

CL: Exactly – And we have them. We have no way of saying how we validate what a person knows and can do. This may not be what you wanted, but we are right now in the state of Illinois running a validation center. It’s really a performance-based assessment center for paraprofessionals, for folks that do not have teaching credentials but are working as a teacher’s aid, have maybe been a helper in a classroom, but they have picked up knowledge, skills, abilities that we ought to be able to validate, to be able to recognise, to help put them on a pathway to a teaching credential because we have a massive teacher shortage. And yet we say: “oh, no, no, you can’t do that unless you’ve sat through X number of hours of classroom instruction on this. And unless you’ve gone through this pathway, you can’t be a teacher.”

But there are folks that have knowledge, skills, abilities that we could validate and recognise. I think that with 100 million people globally that have knowledge, skills, and abilities that we have no way to validate, in a competency-based environment we could do that. We could send them through an assessment center, just like we’re doing in Illinois. They participate in a virtual assessment that puts them in a classroom. We give them a real-life scenario with a classroom full of kids, parents that have questions that need to be answered. And we see how they maneuver. Can they demonstrate what we’re expecting? And provided that they do what’s validated and move on, what are all the ways we could be validating the skills of folks and signaling to employers: “This person may be over here in this position, but they could go in this direction, or this direction, in this direction.” That’s the kind of work I think we’re doing in CBE that can really help power a skills-based economy.

Chapter 4: Building a Common Language for Skills – Unlocking Learning Exchange and Global Collaboration

DM: That’s so exciting and so important. And I’m thinking back to the theme of CBExchange of football [football in the U.S.]. But to most of the world, football means what we call ‘soccer’. And here in Australia, ‘footy’ or ‘football’ could mean Aussie Rules Football, could mean Rugby League or could mean Rugby Union based on where you live. So it is the context, the look and the geographic location, but also the environment that someone’s in, you know, those words in and of themselves mean different things.

So how important is it to have a library and common definitions to be able to see a dictionary so that we can all speak to each other and have that ontology and translation there so that employers and educational institutions and most importantly learners understand and have that context?

CL: Yeah, I think is absolutely essential, right? We trade when you think about a currency, and we will often say: “We want competencies to be the currency of learning”. I want to be able to exchange competencies while I can exchange competencies if we have different definitions, if we measure them differently if we weigh them differently. How much is this competency worth? What is the weight of this? Is that similar to what you think of as a credit hour or 15 hours of instructional time, which is all we have to tether to today? So if we don’t have common definitions, if we don’t have similar ways of measuring what we mean by that competency, if we don’t start working on the ontology, and coming to an as you agreement on the ontology, we won’t be able to replace time, especially in the U.S., as the measurement of learning. That’s what we use today – “How many credit hours do you have? How many minutes has your butt sat in a classroom seat” or “How many hours do I think you probably spent studying for that?” instead we would say: “I can take this demonstration for the equivalent of that demonstration. I’m looking for somebody who can do this. Oh, they scored this on that performance-based assessment – that’s similar to this.” Therefore, I can accept that. And unless we start to build out the systems that allow us to barter incompetency, unless we build out the ontology so that we’re using the same words to mean the same things, we’re going to continue to talk at each other and not be able to connect learning. So it’s absolutely essential.

I think you saw on the World Economic Forum report that says you need to have a common skills language. You may have to start in your own country, building your common skills language. How could we do that with an eye to what other people building? How could we connect? How could we leverage? So going back to that Illinois example, the language is now shared in 77 of the 78 academic institutions that have education programs, and 77 of the 78 institutions said all align around those common definitions. They now share assessment tools. So now if I administer that assessment at my institution and a learner past, I can know that if they went to the next institution, they would pass, too. So we can, through a common assessment, begin to share learning. And it’s not so much based on time anymore, it’s based on what that learner has been able to demonstrate that they know and can do. But it took putting that undergirding in place first, right? – Getting that language together.

DM: Excellent. Now that’s so encouraging to hear.

CL: The work you all are doing is so essential, right? Don’t be discouraged when so many people are like, “oh, we can’t align around.” It’s exactly what we need. We need those libraries and we need those skills definitions to power a new way of learning, right? That connected way that says to my janitor: “You’ve got knowledge, skills, abilities, and I have a way to validate that.” That’s going to mean something not only here, but in other countries as well.

DM: Brilliant – Thank you for those kind words. And from our perspective, it’s about creating these open global libraries that everyone can access and contribute to so that …

CL: It’s amazing how quickly we go to territorial, isn’t it? We want to create something open and then I’ll be able to monetise all the spinoffs from it, right? We really want an open ontology so that we can begin to share in the future of learning.

Chapter 5: Empowering Learners through Personalised Learning Pathways and Asset-Based Approach to Education

DM: Absolutely. So what you’ve described is really about the person, about the individual learner. The potential for RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) sounds like that’s really important. And when we think about the 39 million Americans who have not finished an undergraduate degree – they’ve started, so instead of a demonstration of “look at all the skills, knowledge, skills and abilities that I demonstrated and learned through that process”, it’s actually a black mark against them that they failed. So yeah – How does CBE flip that on its head and give people that?

CL: First of all, I think that personalising education is really helpful. We have an AI, we have all kinds of technology we could be enabling today. We often think of education as you got to have Sociology 101, and then you need English 102 and you need this and you need … This has to be the way you go: This course, this course, and then this course. No, it’s really about these competencies, right? So first of all, we ought to be personalising and we see CBE programs doing this – ‘personalising the learning pathway’. What do you bring to me already that I can validate?

So thinking about ourselves as validators of what a student already knows and is able to do. It doesn’t mean they’ve had a job for three years and that they must be good at this. No, we’re actually validating their demonstration of competency and then tailoring a customised learning journey based on what then this learner needs to get to the wholeness of the thing they aspire to be, right? So they’ve got these pieces. Let’s give them credit for what they know and can do, and then let’s put them on a very intentionally designed learning journey to fill the gaps of what they don’t have. Even the acknowledgment by an institution of what they have can open up new career doors.

So if we thought of short-form credentials or ways in which you could badge or recognise the smaller skill set before a full degree. That already can start to open up some of those skill gaps that we’re seeing in our economy that we can’t figure out how to fill as they’re moving to the next credential or the next big opportunity. So most CBE programs are putting a real focus on how we personalise the learning experience, how we make that learning journey adaptive based on what this one learner already knows and can do, and where they want and aspire to go.

DM: That’s fantastic. And hopefully broadly across the U.S. and around the world, we’re seeing declining participation rates from learners who are just choosing not to even attempt an undergraduate degree or a diploma. So do you see if CBE stops that or reverses that trend?

CL: Well, I do think it approaches it with an asset-based mentality, right? Where we’re not looking at what the learner doesn’t have, we’re looking at what the learner does have. The reason I got into this work is that a dear friend of mine started out her career very young. She worked her way up in the retail sector. She found herself as the Vice President of a $1 Billion Fortune 100 Retail Company in the U.S. And she knew to get to the next level, which was about to come open a senior VP in the company. One of the things required was a bachelor’s degree. Well, she had dropped out of college when she got pregnant at 19. And she had never gone back. She just started her career and grew and grew and grew. And before she knew it, it was her dirty little secret.

No one had any idea she didn’t have a college degree, and yet she had risen in her organisation so successfully without it. She knew I was over adult learning at my institution. And she said to me one night over dinner, “Do you think I could come back and get a degree? Because I know that the senior VP position is going to come open. I’ve never thought about going back, but if I don’t have it, I can’t even apply.” So I said, “Why don’t you come in, and talk to my recruiter?” She came in and met with John, who was recruiting for me at the time, and he looked at her, and this is before I had a CBE program, and he said to her: “Well, you’ve not had marketing 101 – Principals of Marketing, and you’ve not had consumer behavior, and you’ve not had product development.” It was embarrassing. And she walked away, never to go back and get a degree. She’s not in the labor market right now. She ended up retiring early and that’s been very successful for her.

But now if she came into our CBE program, we would be able to say: “You know all about principles of marketing, right? I can see from your own demonstrations that you understand consumer behaviours, and you built customer appreciation programs, right?” We would be able to acknowledge and backfill those little pieces she didn’t have and get her back to what she needed to get ahead, right? In a CBE program, we look at learners by what they’ve got, not what they don’t have. And then we work on getting them into a pathway where they can move as quickly as they can through the content that they still need to learn. That’s really empowering for a learner. So yes, I do believe we can get those people back in because we’re not looking at them with a deficit mindset. We’re looking at them with an asset-based mindset. You bring amazing knowledge, skills, and abilities to us. Let me help round out the part that you don’t have, and get you to that next job or the next opportunity.

DM: Right – that one example you gave of your friend is a perfect example of someone being held back from her potential, and the company not benefiting from all of those skills and abilities. And the fact that was a dirty secret that she had to carry with her for years and years. So it’s amazing work that you’re doing at CBE and promoting it around the world.

Chapter 6: C-BEN Vision for the Future of Competency-Based Education as a Nexus of Lifelong Learning

DM: I know I’ve taken a lot of your time, so I have two final questions for you. It’s time to bring out your crystal ball – What are your hopes for the impact of CBE in the next five-ten years?

CL: Yeah, it’s a great question. I spend a lot of time, especially thinking as an organisation, where do we want to go and what do we think the next five years will bring. I think we’re going to see a continued but a very significant acceptance of that skills-based economy. It’s gotten too big to put it back in the box and I don’t think that institutions are going to be able to ignore it. I think we will continue to see a more laser focus on what does it mean to be about lifelong learning? We often give lip service to lifelong learning, right? But now we’re saying “No, It’s a constant retooling. It’s a constant re-skilling. I’m going to give you what you need right now and we’re going to move you back out.”

So I think we’re going to continue to see schools say, “What do I really mean by ‘lifelong learning’? How do I keep re-skilling and upskilling people so that they always come back to me for the next thing they need to get ahead?” And I think we’re seeing more and more in our country, in particular R1 institutions, these big research institutions come back and say, “Wait, we’ve got to go back to teaching, not give up our research, but to see research and teaching go together. How do I have an assurance of the learning in our graduates?” Really thinking about if their graduates have the skills they need to compete in a global economy? I think we’ll continue to see personlisation of that learning experience. What does Mickey need and how can I help Mickey grow?

I just met a person named Mickey who gave me his life story when he found out I was in Higher Ed. Mickey needs a competency-based approach. He needs something that’s personalised, and tailored to his situation. He needs wraparound student support services. So what do we need to do to create that? I think we’re to see institutions shift to a much more AI-driven, much more technology-powered, personalised learning experience, and we’ll place less emphasis on where learning happened and more on “did it happen, did the learner walk away with the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need?” So I think every institution is struggling. Can we do this more efficiently, more effectively? So a continued focus on that will power those other pieces. So in that amazing that my view aligns with where my organisation is going?

DM: Well, you’re helping.

CL: That’s a good thing, right?

DM: Yes – The future that you see in the crystal ball.

CL: Unless my crystal ball is foggy and it was bad but I think that’s an exciting future.

DM: Thank you for all the work that you’re doing, and support the environments that you create at CBExchange to foster that collaboration. And so my final question is a bit confrontational but yes what does your crystal ball reveal – What can you reveal about the theme or anything about the upcoming CBExchange 2023?

CL: Yeah, I’m a little worried after the football tunnel that people ran through in order to come out in the ballroom. But I try to take my theme, clues, or cues from what’s happening in our world, and I’ll use some phrasing here and I’ll help you pick up on that. I think we’re in a middle of a revolution
right now – a moment in which, similar to an agricultural revolution of the past or the industrial revolution and technological revolution. I think we are in this revolution right now. And when we think about revolutions, it’s something about a big tidal wave coming to people as the world is changing as part of this. And we want to help people ride that wave so they don’t wipe out. We want people to succeed well in the new skills based on a revolution that’s happening in our society. So there are a few titbits in there that you’ll have to come. There might be some simulators that will help people really work on riding the wave and making sure that they cannot wipe out in the skills space revolution.

DM: You know, I asked for some hints, surely you haven’t yet. [Laughing] Okay, well, thank you. That’s some tantalising clues.

CL: So bring a body suit and join us on Amelia Island, Florida this year. There will be all rooms are oceanfront – lovely view and we will be there with bells and whistles in wetsuits or something. But everybody is ready to have a good time.

DM: Yeah well it’s a yes. And my colleague Margo and I are very much looking forward to it. It’s little hard that the only challenge though is with my family, you know, to tell my wife: “No, no, really, it’s work.”

CL: It’s a very important work conference. Bring them with you. We’d love to have the family. If you don’t know, we are also talking about doing a CBExchange in Singapore, and so we are working on that. Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire, has confirmed that he’s going to join us for a CBExchange Asia Pacific edition looking to do that in February of 2024. So be on the lookout for information on that. But we’d love to have you all there, and any of your listeners there as well.

DM: Fantastic – Well, thank you, It’s a really exciting thing to look forward to.

CL: Thank you so much for sharing your insight with us today. And again, thank you for the amazing work you’re doing for the community and for Mickey and for everyone else out there, who will benefit from CBE programs.

DM: Dan, thank you for the opportunity to chat with your colleagues. I really appreciate it. And if we can ever do anything to help, we’re online at and we’d be delighted to connect with those that are listening. Let us all thank you so much

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