CBExchange 2017: Telling Your Quality Story (Quantitatively)

This is part two of my posts on “Telling your quality story” part one reflects on the presentation by Alison Kadlec at CBExchange 2017. All posts on this conference are tagged CBExchange 2017.

A good story plus data is more convincing than either alone. But what data best tell the story? Beyond that, what data best tell our collective story? As the standard bearers for competency-based education we face resistance to change that is better faced together with a common proof of quality.

Kelle Parson1 presented a session at CBExchange 2017: “Telling Your CBE Story: A Quantitative Look.” Within the session she referenced the report she and Carlos Rivers2 created with input from others4: Measuring Student Success in Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Programs
Toward a Student Outcomes Metrics Framework.3

The SOM Framework first helps dimension our metrics in three levels:

  • within a program
  • across programs in an institution
  • across institutions

Parsons and Rivers identify a total of 24 metrics in the following three categories:

  • Access
  • Price/Affordability
  • Success & Quality

The authors invite contributions from the community to improve the metrics. As a possible contribution that is implied, but not explicit in the Framework, are measures of success by equity groups. My co-authors and I used metrics of completion/enrollment participation rates, derived from IPEDS data, to compare across institutions in a forthcoming paper that may also be useful. Other sources of metrics are found in the Early-Millenials Report by Chen et al.6

A caution is that any framework can become overburdened and obscure the essential message, so it cannot simply accept all suggestions. And, while programs are small, it is difficult to report meaningful statistics, but the collection of such data from the beginning of the program is essential.

The framework is an important contribution to collectively demonstrating the quality of CBE programs, and I urge institutional research departments to contribute to this important effort.

Beyond the external use of this data is the use by faculty and administrators to set goals, monitor and improve outcomes for the students and programs under their care. Bensimon et al. recommend the use of equity data to create an equity mindset and culture of improvement.7


  1. Parsons, K. (2016, August 29). Biography [Text]. Retrieved September 22, 2017, from http://www.air.org/person/kelle-parsons
  2. Texas A&M University-Commerce. (n.d.). Our Staff – Institute for Competency-based Education. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from http://www.tamuc.edu/aboutUs/IER/icbe/CBE-Our%20Staff/default.asp
  3. Members of the CBE Student Outcomes Research Collaborative
  4. Parsons, K., & Rivers, C. (2017, August 4). Measuring Student Success in Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Programs: Toward a Student Outcomes Metrics Framework. Retrieved September 22, 2017, from http://www.air.org/resource/measuring-student-success-postsecondary-competency-based-education-programs-toward-student
  5. Leasure, D., Apple, D., Fulton, A., & Kavlie, L. (n.d.) “Competency-based Education Practices to Enhance Equity in Higher Education.” Under review.
  6. Chen, X., Lauff, E., Arbeit, C. A., Henke, R., Skomsvold, P., & Hufford, J. (2017). Early Millennials: The Sophomore Class of 2002 a Decade Later (No. NCES 2017-437). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017437.pdf
  7. Bensimon, E. M., Dowd, A. C., & Witham, K. (2016, February 14). “Five Principles for Enacting Equity by Design”. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from http://www.aacu.org/diversitydemocracy/2016/winter/bensimon
David Leasure

An innovator in online higher education, David Leasure has led online university programs, problem-based approaches to online learning, and competency-based education. He has served as provost at Western Governors University, Colorado Technical University and Jones International University. Leasure earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in computer science and was associate professor of computer science at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, where he turned his interests from artificial intelligence to teaching and learning with technology. Leasure led the creation of CTU Online, served as CTU’s doctoral chancellor, and president of Jones International University. His core belief is that all students can learn and his passion is helping them and their institutions succeed.