New Hampshire is leading the way in competency-based education (CBE). The state has required that NH schools implement CBE by the 2015-2016 school year—replacing seat time with more personalized, student-centered learning. Many districts emerged early, ready to develop and begin measuring student progress using an evaluative process derived from the concrete skills necessary for student success in college, career and life. Challenges encountered along the way have led to the emergence of new technologies and systems that are pushing the limits of the traditional model of education and turning it on its head.

Student-Centered Learning Environments

A leader in New Hampshire’s move to CBE is VLACS (Virtual Learning Academy Charter School). Founder and CEO, Steve Kossakoski unveiled a new and improved student-centered virtual learning environment to his staff of educators, mentors and counselors at their annual Aspire conference. Kossakoski embraces individualized education and champions the power it has to improve the current learning model of most schools. “Our mantra is, ‘Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!” Kossakoski told a panel of child and adolescent psychology experts who were gathered to address the needs of the whole-child in a holistic student-centered approach.

Kossakoski’s mantra was echoed loudly by countless in attendance at Aspire, including VLACS teacher Ollire Lane-Wortley who encouraged her colleagues to become “students of your students.” This connection is invaluable in providing student-centered learning that cultivates student success. Educators in every domain, whether online, charter, public or private brick and mortar schools, must make this an imperative component of their student centered approach.

Attendees also heard from New Hampshire’s leading advocates of educational innovation. Andy Calkins from Educause shared the power of Next Generation Learning that accelerates educational innovation in New Hampshire and across the nation. Paul Leather. the State of New Hampshire’s Deputy Commissioner of Education, walked the audience through NH’s “Live Free and Learn.” New Hampshire is the first state in the nation to require schools become competency based in their approach to education. Brian Peddle, our CEO at Motivis Learning whose Learning Relationship Management (LRM) platform fully supports competency-based education in K-12 and higher education, spoke about partnering with VLACS to improve their student information system and help facilitate the management of their competency-based approach.

Innovation and Collaboration in CBE for Public Education

In my role as a public school educator, I worked with many students who utilized VLACS as a resource for credit recovery or acceleration to graduation, but have always felt that VLACS was an entirely separate entity from our school. What Aspire inspired me to see was the holistic nature of the VLACS program and the possibilities for collaboration with traditional brick and mortar schools. Students, parents and educators are empowered by choice and the ability to learn anywhere, any time. Traditional time constraints of current school scheduling models have educators searching for alternatives to allow for the greater individualization that is essential in the move to CBE.

As schools implement CBE this fall, they are likely to encounter many challenges including stakeholder push back as well as a struggle in their ability to manage truly student centered learning (undoubtedly fueling some of the push back). VLACS is poised to provide the very data and evidence educators across the state and nation need to understand how to effectively move CBE forward in their own schools.

To authentically deliver CBE, schools must be willing to create an environment that puts the student first as they work to demonstrate mastery of their competencies. For every school, this will require collaboration beyond the confines of classroom walls with businesses and programs that support the “new” normal learning environment where students’ love of learning is intrinsically inspired by choice and the freedom to learn. Competency-based education is not an easy shift, but with the right supports, student-centered learning, not course-centered learning, will set us free from current limitations inhibiting student success.

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