CBTE: A Philosophy, Not a Model, Part 8

November 26, 2018

Today we continue our conversation on competency-based theological education (CBTE).  Over the past several weeks we have looked at how CBTE invites us to think differently about nearly every aspect of education.  Our focus today will be on how it also invites us to think differently about how this philosophy of education requires institutions to think more integratively.

In the past, schools could divide their thinking on educational, operational, and financial models by assigning responsibilities for the development and implementation of those models across various components of the organization.  The faculty were responsible for the educational model, the finance and development office were responsible for financial models, and the operational model was often developed by a leadership team of some sort.

When a school fully embraces CBTE, I think it becomes relatively impossible to separate those aspects of the institution.  Instead of segmenting them, it becomes necessary to develop collaborative and reinforcing practices that foster a holistic and integrated educational enterprise.  I refer to this as an “enterprise model,” and the concept is not new.  I borrow heavily from the idea of a business model canvas and integrated innovation.

In short, the educational philosophy of CBTE requires institutions to align their practices in unprecedented ways.  For example, if students can progress toward the outcomes of a degree program in a nonlinear, non-time-based, non-traditional way then things like pricing for tuition or course scheduling become integral aspects of the philosophy. Pricing for tuition serves as a prime example of this reality.

In traditional forms of education, tuition is charged by course or credit hour, which means students make tuition payments based on the number of courses or credit hours they complete in a given semester.  In CBTE, students may not enroll in any traditional courses or they may participate in every course the school offers.  As a result, tuition can fluctuate wildly.  Subscription pricing, when students simply pay a particular amount each month, means that students can pick and choose how they progress without worrying about how it impacts them financially.  This simple change of aligning pricing with educational philosophy empowers students to take ownership of their journey of theological education.

Another example is course scheduling.  In CBTE, courses are not the building blocks of the educational journey.  Rather, they are resources students can use as they build knowledge, character, and competency in an outcome.  As such, schools can develop a predictable flow, or rotation of courses, thereby enhancing the student experience.  At Sioux Falls Seminary, for example, we have a two-year course rotation for every course we offer.  This means that students can own their journey and decide when they want to utilize those resources.

I could provide several more examples, but perhaps an image is most helpful.  Below you can see how financial, educational, and operational models can work together to create an integrated educational enterprise. This level of alignment is as important as an aspect of the educational philosophy.  Without this type of alignment, the various aspects of the organization will push against each other.  By collaboratively developing reinforcing practices, we can ensure students are able to progress through a tailored journey of discipleship.  In short, alignment creates the possibility to scale organic systems of human development!

Come back next week for a recap of our conversation and a note about where we are headed!

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