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Where Competency-Based Education is Headed in 2020 and Beyond

By SmartBrief Editors

This post is produced in partnership with UPCEA.

Barbara Kopp Miller is at the forefront of competency-based approaches to education. As the Dean of University College in Toledo, Ohio, she leads one of the most progressive CBE programs in the nation. She sat down with UPCEA to share her thoughts on the growing value of CBE – and where it’s headed.


Question: Tell us about your journey into and in the professional, continuing and online education field. 

Answer: I began teaching online in 1998 when it was just beginning to gain popularity. As I progressed through the administrative of The University of Toledo, I was appointed to the position of Associate Provost for Online Education, which was responsible for all of the online services provided to faculty, staff and students. With a team of 50 instructional designers, educational technologists and a help desk, we assisted faculty in designing quality courses. In 2016 UToledo Online merged with two colleges to become University College of which I am currently the Dean.


Q: Tell us about the university’s competency-based education initiative. Do you see this is as a model for other institutions? 

A: We began our CBE journey in January 2018 with a comprehensive task force that was charged with implementing a CBE program by Fall 2019. After a year of piloting business courses during the 2018-19 school year, we implemented a full CBE RN-BSN program. The University of Toledo was the first public institution in Ohio to offer a CBE program.

Ohio also supports the Ohio CBE Network Steering Committee, which has members from 26 of the 38 public colleges and universities in Ohio. The Ohio CBE Network Steering Committee serves as a forum for activities designed to bring Ohio faculty, staff and administrators together to learn about and share information related to CBE programming and discussing different topics. The Ohio CBE Network Steering Committee strives to create practical tools for colleges and universities interested in pursuing competency-based education to include a network of expert practitioners, and a repository of resources and best practices for CBE development, implementation and sustainment. You can visit https://ohiocbenetwork.org/ to learn more about the Network.


Q: Tell us about your work with quality and compliance with the University of Toledo’s online and blended education. What lessons or advice would you offer to other institutions embarking on this work today?

A: We subscribe to Quality Matters as our quality assurance model. As of October 2019, we were 15th in the nation (out of 441 schools) and 1st in the state of Ohio with the number of formally approved Quality Matter courses.

The University of Toledo adopted Quality Matters in 2011, and our faculty members have really embraced it. More than 50 UToledo faculty members have chosen to ensure the quality of their online courses through the nationally recognized and faculty-driven Quality Matters peer review process.

Quality Matters is a nonprofit organization that provides standards for courses and program review to support quality assurance goals. A recognized leader in quality assurance for online education, its mission is to promote and improve the quality of online education and student learning nationally and internationally through the development of current, research-supported and practice-based quality standards and appropriate evaluation tools and procedures.

The review process centers around the application of the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric. The standards outlined in the rubric were developed and are periodically revised based on research and established standards in the fields of instructional design and online learning.


Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for leaders in our field today? What new and exciting things do you see on the horizon? 

A: The changing demographics of our student population is one of the most challenging leaders face as it relates to enrollment trends. The University student today is very different than 20 years ago and we must adapt to changing the way we do business. We must meet the needs of our students across the lifespan. UPCEA is taking the lead on providing recommendations and action items for higher education to remain relevant, innovative and sustainable.


Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

A: Never say no! Embrace change and new projects no matter how big or overwhelming they may seem.



As the Dean of University College, Dr. Kopp Miller leads the university’s premier educational and service destination for adult, military, online, transitional, and undecided students. University College provides the foundation for learner-focused services and transformational educational initiatives with more than 2500 students enrolled.

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