BC piloted a new online competency-based Business Software Specialist certificate in January 2014. Since its introduction last year, it has replaced the old Business Software Specialist program due to demand and positive reviews from students.
At the beginning of the competency-based pilot program, Suzanne Marks, director of the Business Technology Systems department, was hoping for 30 students to be enrolled in the program. From the beginning, there have been 90 students on average per quarter enrolled. This quarter, however, Marks saw a jump in enrollment, with 127 students in the program currently.
Students have 11 weeks to complete the course at their own pace.
“We’ve got racehorses and we’ve got turtles – it’s all dependent on prior knowledge,” said Marks, commenting on the diversity of students in the program.
The Business Software Specialist certificate is made up of eight different courses, totaling 32 college credits. There are five different Microsoft Office classes, two focusing on the web and one in orientation. Currently, this is the only competency-based course offered at BC.
This competency-based certificate is carried out just like any other online Canvas course. The only difference is that students are able to go at their own pace. There are no homework assignments, no tests and no deadlines. There are assignments for students to practice and use at their own pace, but the idea of the competency-based program is to let students work on their own time and on what they see fit.
Like any other course, the Business Software Specialist program does have a final. This is the only required assignment that students turn in.
The program works through three different steps. There is the pre-test, the practice stage and the post-test. The pre-test gives students a chance to show what they already know and open up doors to work on topics they don’t quite understand. Throughout the program, students will not have to work on topics they have already mastered. The practice stage is where students will study and review the concepts that they don’t comprehend. The post-test allows students a final idea of what needs to be studied more. After that comes the final.
In this program, there are only three potential grade outcomes. The possiblities are an A, B or an F, which is considered “not competent” in the course, according to Marks.
“Our students tell us that they like this system better than they like regular classes. Students like the competency-based learning because it’s on their own time, and they really get the chance to master certain skills,” said Marks.
As a result of student demand and the success of the program, Marks and the rest of the BTS department will be going to the curriculum committee on May 15 to seek approval for the next competency-based program at BC, which would be Web Content Management.
Outside of the potential Web Content Management certificate, Marks sees the idea of competency-based learning growing to other subjects.
Students who are interested in the BTS certificate can take it in the upcoming summer quarter, as well as in the fall.