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CAEL Newsroom

Only 22% of Higher Education Institutions Fully Embrace Skills-Based Frameworks According to The Evolllution, CAEL, and Modern Campus


Research Highlights Gap Between Aspiration and Action in Competency-Based Education, Despite Internal Interest Driving the Move Toward Competency-Based Transcripts or Comprehensive Learner Records 

TORONTO and INDIANAPOLIS – While a vast majority (86%) of higher education institutions acknowledge that postsecondary education models need to be designed around well-defined skills and competencies vital for today’s workforce, only 22% have fully implemented skills-based frameworks across all of their programs.  

This insight comes from the Comprehensive Learner Records (CLR) report, a collaborative effort between The EvoLLLution, CAEL (the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning), and Modern Campus. The report explores the role of skills and competencies in higher education, assessing the degree to which these frameworks have been adopted. 

The research investigates the implementation of CLRs in educational institutions and, relatedly, whether institutions are taking the necessary first steps in such implementation to reconceptualize their courses and credentials in terms of skills or competencies rather than credit hours. CLRs are defined as verifiable, portable, interoperable digital assets that recognize all learning. While the study revealed respondents’ strong interest in skills, 49% of two-year and 52% of four-year institutions have no plans to implement CLRs. While many institutions are largely aware of the need to make deep changes required, few seem to be moving this concept forward with urgency. 

“Lifelong learning is crucial in equipping students with the necessary skills and learning outcomes that remain competitive in the workforce,” said Amrit Ahluwalia, editor-in-chief of The EvoLLLution and senior director of Strategic Insights at Modern Campus. “Higher education can’t fall behind when it comes to competency-based approaches that are valued by learners and sought after by employers.” 

“CLRs are an important way that postsecondary institutions can use to communicate what students have learned from various sources -- and for learners and workers to make stronger connections between learning and work,” said Becky Klein-Collins, vice president of research and impact at CAEL. “But our findings suggest that institutions are not yet tackling some of the key building blocks for making CLRs a reality for the workers who need them.” 

Additional Key Findings 

  • 89% of respondents said their institutions communicate to students about their skills and competencies 
  • 85% of respondents said their institutions talk to employers about their skill needs 
  • 44% of respondents stated that their institution has developed skill/competency frameworks only in some courses and programs. 

To explore the complete findings from the Comprehensive Learner Records report, visit: https://resources.moderncampus.com/empowering-lifelong-learning-in-the-digital-age-2024

Survey Methodology and Respondent Profile

Members of CAEL and subscribers of The EvoLLLution were contacted and invited to participate in this year’s study, with precautions taken to ensure that institutions were approached by only one organization. The survey took place between July and August 2023; 144 institutions participated, of which 133 completed the entire survey.  

Four-year public institutions are the most common institution type (48%), followed by community or technical colleges (29%), and four-year private not-for-profits (15%). Approximately three percent of respondents were listed in the four-year for-profit category, and an additional three percent were listed as other.  

The largest group of respondents are in leadership roles at their institution. Approximately 76% are categorized as a Dean, C-Suite or Leadership. This was followed by Student Services (21%), Faculty (16%), Continuing Ed and Workforce Development (11%), along with Learning Assessment (11%). The remaining respondents were categorized as Other (38%). 

About CAEL
Recognizing that adult learners are the backbone of the U.S. economy, CAEL helps forge a clear, viable connection between education and career success, providing solutions that promote sustainable and equitable economic growth. CAEL opens doors to opportunity in collaboration with workforce and economic developers; postsecondary educators; employers and industry groups; and foundations and other mission-aligned organizations. By engaging with these stakeholders, we foster a culture of innovative, lifelong learning that helps individuals, and their communities thrive. A national membership organization established in 1974, CAEL is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workplace™ certified and is a part of Strada Collaborative, a mission-driven nonprofit. Learn more at cael.org and stradacollaborative.org.

About The EvoLLLution
The EvoLLLution is an online publication focused on the transforming higher education industry. Publishing articles and interviews by higher education leaders on the evolving postsecondary space since 2011, The EvoLLLution was founded by Modern Campus to create an open environment for higher education’s most innovative thought leaders to come together and set out a new vision for what the industry can be. With over 60,000 monthly visitors, The EvoLLLution has become the go-to source for opinions and information on non-traditional higher education. Visit evoLLLution.com.  

About Modern Campus
Modern Campus empowers 2,000+ higher education institutions to thrive when transformation is required to respond to lower student enrollments and revenue, rising costs, crushing student debt, and administrative complexity.  

The Modern Campus learner-to-earner lifecycle platform powers solutions for web content management, conversational text messaging, catalog and curriculum management, career pathways, student engagement and development, and non-traditional student management. The result: innovative institutions engage their modern learners for life, while providing modern administrators with the tools needed to streamline workflows and drive high efficiency.  

Learn how Modern Campus is leading the modern learner-to-earner movement at moderncampus.com