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CNM to Offer Its First Competency Based Education Program in Spring

November 21, 2017 -- CNM is the first post-secondary institution in New Mexico to be accredited to offer Competency Based Education (CBE) programs. CNM was recently approved for accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Nov 21, 2017

The college received approval from the HLC in October and will offer its first CBE program, Retail Management Certificate, in the 2018 Spring Term.

Fang Chen, who led CNM’s exploration of CBE, said that developing the new program and getting it approved was no easy task.

A steering committee of 14 faculty and staff members from across the college spent nearly four years creating CNM’s CBE program and getting it approved by the HLC.

Competency-based curriculum is personalized learning for students. It is different from traditional learning because it changes the core requirements for earning credit from the amount of time spent in a classroom (i.e. a semester-long course) to the level of knowledge the student has gained. In the competency-based curriculum model, students can move on to the next level of learning or coursework when they have mastered the necessary knowledge and skills.  

“CBE programs offer a faster, more personalized and more flexible way for students to complete their degree or certificate,” Chen said.

CNM’s CBE courses will be offered in seven-week blocks within the existing term structure. Courses are online and shorter than typical semester length. They follow the fast-track model of CNM’s Business Administration Associated of Applied Science Program. Students will initially be registered for a maximum of six credit hours (two courses) prior to the beginning of each block. They will be encouraged to move through the course content as fast as they are able. Once they finish the initial two courses, they can accelerate into additional courses.  

To support this new program, a CBE academic coach has been hired to monitor students’ progress and provide additional support and guidance to students. Initial funding for this position is provided by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006.

The Retail Management Certificate program is just the first CBE program CNM will be offering. Next, the CBE steering committee is preparing to seek approval from the HLC to offer the Business Administration Associate of Applied Science Degree in a CBE format.

CNM is a founding member of the Competency Based Education Network (C-BEN), which is a national organization developing quality guidelines and standards for competency-based programs. Chen and the other team members studied CBE approaches of colleges around the country, including Northern Arizona University, the University of Wisconsin system, Kentucky Community & Technical College system and more, and included what they liked best about each of them in the CNM model. They then customized a model to fit into CNM’s structure.

“We are really excited about getting our competency-based education model approved by the Higher Learning Commission,” Chen said. “It was a first step and indicated that we are headed in the right direction.”

Serving as a partner in CNM’s first CBE program is the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC). WAFC contacted CNM in the spring of 2014 asking the college to develop a Retail Management Certificate that would provide training to move entry-level employees to management positions within their organization. CNM faculty worked with the WAFC to align its required skills with current CNM courses, resulting in the creation of the Retail Management Certificate.

In January 2017, the Walmart Brighter Futures Foundation awarded CNM a grant for $183,000 to continue developing the existing certificate into a competency-based format and offer retail students tuition assistance. More information regarding CNM’s Retail Management CBE program can be found here.