Success Stories

Evaluating Empire's First Competency-Based Learning Pilot

August 23, 2015

Evaluation Report Summary

Building on their unique legacy, SUNY Empire State College (ESC) launched its first self-paced, competency- based learning (CBL) courses in the field of Information Technology (IT) during the Fall 2015 term.  ESC’s team worked with Sagence Learning, Inc. to convert three courses into competency-based experiences delivered through the Sagence Learning platform.  The below findings and recommendations are based on the experiences of Empire State’s coach, faculty,  technical staff, and student participants.  The information presented below is based on focus  groups, surveys, and  behavioral analytics collected by the platform.

Key Findings

The points below summarize key findings of the pilot evaluation, which include answers to defined research questions and  other insights that  emerged from the study.

•  Students responded favorably to the learning journal, pace and progress bar, self-checks and overall layout  of the content.

•  Students affirmed that  the  self-checks were an appropriate way to measure their own progress and enjoyed the  ability to assess their own knowledge as many  times as they  needed.

•   Faculty and the coach believe that the CBL model could scale to support more students.

•   Students greatly enjoyed the amount of independence the CBL model offered compared to traditional models.

•   Students finished the content of the course significantly faster than in the traditional format.

•   Faculty expressed satisfaction at the quality of the completed final assessments.

•   Faculty and students agreed that the necessary characteristics of success include a sense of self- motivation and  effective time management.

•   Students that proactively engaged with the faculty or coach had a better understanding of content expectations and could plan accordingly.



The CBL pilot has proven to be a viable learning model even in its initial iteration.  Students are attracted to the self-paced nature of this format, and over 80% successfully completed their assigned competency. The coach and faculty also found CBL valuable as a means to efficiently support a greater number of students while preserving the academic rigor and learning quality of a course.


This case study was written by Shawn Gunaratne, Evaluation Specialist at Sagence Learning, Inc., and benefitted from interviews and correspondence with the faculty and staff at SUNY Empire State College.

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A National Consortium for Designing, Developing and Scaling New Models for Student Learning


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Common Framework for Defining and Approving Competency-Based Education Programs

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Competency Based Learning or Personalized Learning; Transitioning away from seat time.

Case Study

Evaluating Empire's First Competency-Based Learning Pilot

SUNY Empire State College piloted their first CBL courses. These findings and recommendations are based on the experiences of Empire State’s coach, faculty, technical staff, and student participants.

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