What is competency-based socio-cognitive learning?
CBSCL is an instructional design approach that values the individual’s personal journey through the online learning experience while harnessing the power of social learning. The primacy of competency regarding learning outcomes and the learner’s unique needs inform the nature of each person's progression through the course.
Everyone starts the online learning experience from a uniquely individual place. Prior experience, age, life experience, interest, content and technology self-efficacy, are among some of the factors that coalesce to form a person’s unique starting point.
What if someone can demonstrate mastery of part of your class? Do they have to do the work that module? Is there a performance based-assessment? Is there a pre-test? What if I make a 100% on the pre-test? These are among some of the questions that instructional designers must grapple with in order to address individual learner’s needs. Instructional design involves curricular choices. CBSCL design deliberately considers the individuals’ learning needs and the instructional outcomes in the design process.
Competency-based socio-cognitive learning is an instructional design method begins with the premise that everyone owns their progress through the online learning experience. Regardless of where the learner starts, the architecture of the learning experience is the same i.e. the instructional design choices regarding scope, content, assessments have already been made. Unlike classrooms where you may sit back and not participate unless called on, CBSCL involves active learning experiences that require all students to engage with the content, and promotes authentic engagement with each other and with the faculty member as their unique learning needs dictate. Together Alone: Each student has a personal and unique experience as they progress (with the group) through the same learning experiences. CBSCL design leverages the unparalleled access to information and communication tools to help authentically bridge the duality of an individual member in an online community.
Implications for practice
Competency-based socio-cognitive learning design allows for individuals to:
Assessment for learning - Assessing individual learners' unique characteristics using diagnostic and formative assessments provides a feedback loop to the faculty member that communicates student competencies and informs course design decisions regarding assignments and assessments.
CBSCL design embeds experiences that promote the authentic use of tools such as blogs, discussion boards, video chats, text, by students to address contextual discipline specific problems. Students are required to 1) develop the facility to use the tools, and 2) enticed to apply these tools while they engage the content, the faculty, and their peers. Students develop socio-cognitive presence as they authentically engage online with the content, peers, and faculty. This socio-cognitive presence is evidenced in student communication and student work.
Discourse is public – Public discourse requires consideration by individuals that private communication does not i.e. Self-image, ego, group dynamics, all shape public discourse.
Discourse is authentic –Distinctions such as social presence and cognitive presence in a community of inquiry are superseded by competency-based standards. CBSCL promotes socio-cognitive presence, the extent to which individuals, based upon their unique vantage, interject themselves into the online community to solve specific content related issues. Because it is based upon individual needs, there is no requirement for a number of discussion posts for example. If someone needs to ask a question, they may post their question. If someone needs to review posted questions/answers they may do so. These are authentic expressions of socio-cognitive presence.
Work is public - Students can see each other’s work. Students’ public blogs act as e-portfolios that are visible to all other students. Learning by example (good or bad) is essential in all aspects of life. The public nature of work samples has promoted self directed learning. Student blogs are a repository for all artifacts and reflections and supplements other communications channels.
Competency based socio-cognitive learning has been empirically studied for over a decade. Positive results have been found in student satisfaction, course outcomes, and improving information and communication technology self-efficacy.
Imagination is the only limit for replicating of CBSCL design in other contexts. Increasingly competency-based education is disrupting traditional notions of credit hour and time in class paradigms, with a renewed emphasis on outcomes.
Competency-based socio-cognitive learning design aspires to address flexible learner’s needs within an online community of inquiry. One person’s essential skill building activity can easily be another person’s busy work, depending on their unique characteristics. Learning experience designers should provide multiple assessments to determine the appropriate adaptive pathway for the demonstration of competency in outcomes. Multiple studies have demonstrated how unique learner needs have been addressed in an online community of inquiry that employs authentic competency-based socio-cognitive design. In particular, non-traditional students, older students, or students who are less confident about their computer skills have benefited from this design (Pierce, 2013; Pierce, 2012; Pierce, 2008). The authentic discourse that is not required has been recognized as an innovative and positive design element. Additionally, active yet, not explicitly documentable, use of threaded discussions, i.e. reading the discussion posts as learning resource has also been recognized as a valuable design element (Pierce, 2012). Student recognition and appreciation of the authentic nature of discussion posts in the situated contest was repeatedly expressed in end of course surveys (Pierce 2013; Pierce 2012).
Leveraging free online tools and consideration of multiple paths to demonstrate competency is required .
Time is money and the most definable cost is the planning of competency-based online learning.