What is Competency-Based Education at MLC?
Competency-Based Education, or CBE, is an outcomes-based approach to earning a college degree or other credential that asks learners to demonstrate their mastery of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors.
At MLC, the goal is for learners to apply knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are deemed essential to their growth in their education, calls, and personal and spiritual lives.
Learners entering a competency-based course of study will already have varying degrees of proficiency in the required competencies. It is essential then, that newly admitted learners engage with their program mentor to review their professional and academic experiences. These experiences will provide the contextual information necessary to best place and support the learner in their course of study. It is equally important, that learners continue to work closely with their course faculty and mentor throughout their individualized course of study.
What are Competencies?
Competencies are statements of what students can do as a result of their learning. They can include knowledge and understanding, but they primarily emphasize what students can do with their knowledge (Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions).
Is Competency-Based Education New?
CBE is not a new approach to education. According to the American Institutes for Research, of 488 responding universities, 13% have full CBE programs, and 47% are in the process of adopting them.
Teacher preparation programs have been in existence for over a decade. WGU’s Teacher’s College and Texas Tech’s TeachTech program provide two different models for developing undergraduate education degrees in a CBE model. There are also established programs for theological education. Grace Seminary in Indiana and Northwest Seminary in British Columbia operate accredited Competency-Based Theological Education (CBTE) programs.
Is the Nontraditional Education Program the only pathway to teaching?
Absolutely not. The Nontraditional Education Program is one of three pathways to an education degree at MLC.
Traditional On-Campus Degree
The majority of MLC graduates are traditional, full-time, first-time undergraduate students who engage in their program of study at our New Ulm campus. Their courses are offered in-person and on-campus during the academic year.
Teaching Ministry Certification
A second pathway exists for individuals who have an education degree from an accredited college or university and are currently serving under a provisional call at a WELS school. These students enroll in the online K-16 Teaching Ministry Certification program. These individuals have the required teaching qualifications or credentials for their call, but they did not complete the spiritual training for a minister of the gospel in a Lutheran context. The online Teaching Ministry Certification program allows provisionally called workers to simultaneously meet the responsibilities of their teaching call and engage in semester-based, online courses to support their spiritual development and deepen their understanding of doctrine.
Nontraditional Education Program
The Nontraditional Education Program provides a third pathway for those learners who do not already have an education degree and are not able to follow the traditional, in-person education pathway provided on our New Ulm campus. The Nontraditional Education Program is specifically designed to support students who have already complete all or most of their General Education courses at another college or university. The program offers theology and professional education (those courses required for a eligibility to apply for a teaching license in Minnesota) courses. The program requirements completed online and through a competency-based education model so learners can accelerate through the curriculum.
What will a typical, competency-based course at MLC look like?
Each of the courses you will complete as part of this program will be delivered online. Many of the courses begin with a brief self-assessment intended to help you identify how your prior learning and experiences connect to the course content. Then you can progress through the course content at your own pace, filling in gaps and augmenting what you already know, as you work toward completing the assignments or activities that demonstrates all that you have learned. The course instructor(s) will also post additional information and provide subject expertise to help you refresh your knowledge and learn new material.
What if I am new to online learning?
MLC provides an orientation to online learning that is specific to the platform we use to deliver courses. This orientation is a good starting point to understand the technology that will be used to achieve your online degree. You will also have a dedicated advisor who can also help address any questions or concerns you may have.
The delivery method might be different, but the goal is not. At MLC we are committed to supporting our learners and engaging them in academically rigorous courses and programs – regardless of the modality of their learning. Our goal in all of the competency-based courses is to create a robust and engaging curriculum that both supports and challenges you as you work through the courses and competencies.
Online? Does that mean I am on my own?
We believe in supporting the whole learner through this program. That’s why we enroll Nontraditional Education Program learners into cohorts or groups.
While the program is designed to be flexible, there is a set sequence of courses for your to complete. You can accelerate for content that is a review and slow down for content that is new. You and your advisor will work through your course pacing before you begin the program and adjust at your monthly mentor meetings (scheduled at a time that is convenient for you).
Plus, you will be enrolled with a cohort of students. While you may move through some courses and achieve some competencies at a different pace than others in your cohort, the cohort provides synchronous and asynchronous opportunities for you to engage with other learners.
Synchronous support will typically be interactions with your advisor and faculty.
- You and your advisor will meet monthly through a virtual meeting or phone call to discuss your progress, share any concerns, and celebrate successes.
- Your advisor will hold monthly, synchronous virtual meetings for your cohort. These meetings will typically include a brief presentation on key information (e.g. field experiences or student teaching) that will be helpful for you as you engage in the program. The brief presentation is followed by an open discussion.
- Specific course instructors may hold optional synchronous meetings and review sessions to support you on your learning journey.
There are multiple opportunities for Asynchronous Support.
- Use your MLC provided email to contact your advisor or instructor with questions or concerns.
- Participate in the online space for your cohort to ask questions, share resources, and share prayers and positive words of encouragement.
- Engage with the licensure resources curated by the MLC library.
By engaging in the program as a cohort, you will have a group of colleagues who will be moving through the courses with you. That way you can rely on each other for study groups and for conversations regarding the content you are learning.
Equally important is the opportunity to build lifelong connections with your colleagues. You are embarking not on a career, but a call. When you complete your course of study, you will be eligible for a permanent call to serve a WELS school and its congregation. The colleagues you have classes with today may become the colleagues you are teaching side-by-side with in a few years.
Will my previous work/college credits be accepted and accelerate my path to completion?
Each learner’s previous formal education will be considered individually. As part of the application process, you will be asked to submit your transcripts from all colleges and universities that you attended. These transcripts will be reviewed individually and credit will be awarded for classes that meet our guiding principles for transfer credit. The current guidelines for transfer credit are included in the MLC Undergraduate Catalog and are available on our Non-Traditional and Transfer Students resource.
Typically, learners who have completed a four-year degree at an accredited college or university are able to transfer in their General Education classes. However, you may have to take a general education class or two to meet the standards for Minnesota teacher licensure. You are welcome to complete those required classes at a college or university local to you.
Additionally, if you completed a degree, certificate, or coursework at MLC; Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; or Bethany College in Mankato, Minnesota that included theology classes, we may be able to accept those credits as well.
Does this program support synod requirements to be a called worker?
Yes! Absolutely! We have designed this program with the same academic rigor and doctrinal integrity. Learners who graduate from the Nontraditional Education Program are equally trained and eligible to be a called worker within WELS and those in fellowship with the WELS.
How do I apply for this program?
We are not currently accepting applications for this program because the program has not yet been reviewed and approved by HLC. Only graduates of accredited programs are eligible for the professional licensure pathway we can offer through MLC. If you are interested in participating in this program, please check back here for updates on our accreditation status. You can also let us know that you would like more information by completing the survey available on Keep Informed.
What can I do while I wait for the program to receive approval from HLC?
If you have not yet completed your two- or four-year degree, focus on classes at a college local to you to fulfill the General Education requirements. Not sure which courses to take? Visit the MLC Potential Transfer Equivalency resource and look for courses that MLC usually accepts for transfer from a college or university close to you. You should also reach out to the director of the Nontraditional Education Program, Dr. Nichole LaGrow, with specific course inquiries before registering and enrolling at your local institution.
If you have completed your two- or four-year degree, consider completing a required doctrine course online. If interested in beginning your doctrine coursework, please contact the director of the Nontraditional EducationProgram, Dr. Nichole LaGrow, for guidance on next steps.