Don't Choose CBT Courses

According to an article in the education supplement of the Australian newspaper on March 7, 2017;

Competency Based Education Not a Good Idea.

Competency Based Education is a system that breaks courses up into small competencies (eg. " The student can identify plants; or the student can lay bricks). The teacher's role becomes teaching and assessing that the student is competent to do that competency. In theory, and to anyone who does not understand educational psychology; this sounds perfectly reasonable. To any capable education professional though, we understand that there are such things as short term memory and long term memory. When something is taught and assessed within a short space of time, it is only necessary to put that competency into short term memory.

Most people will understand if they think back in their own lives to things they did once many years ago. Their memory of how to do that thing now will be fuzzy. If you think back to something you did repeatedly at different points in time, over a long period though, your recollection of that "competency" will be clearer.

We (ACS Distance Education) encountered CBT in the 90's when we were one of relatively few RTO's (Recognised Training Organisations) in Australia. Right from those early days, we saw problems with this concept. In particular we saw opportunities for training organisations to abuse the system for financial gain. Our courses through the 80's and 90's were always "experiential based" rather than CBT; and our research showed graduates long term memory was impacted - we were giving people knowledge and skills for life, not just for a few weeks or months. By 2003, it was becoming increasingly difficult to deliver quality education and maintain our RTO status in a system that was pushing us to change to CBT. For this reason, we resigned our recognised provider status, to concentrate on helping people learn the most meaningful way possible.

Why was CBT Adopted?

CBT is attractive to anyone who wants to measure outcomes in education in a timely manner. Bureaucrats, industry groups and politicians are more easily able to watch and manage the funding of education with a CBT system. In Australia (and some other places where CBT has been adopted); those in power have created a stronger focus on student assessment, and a weaker focus on course delivery. A false assumption has developed that "if the assessment is good, the teaching must have been good too". CBT also falsely assumes everyone learns the same way and will respond to assessments similarly. Educational psychology would say otherwise though.

CBT also assumes that there are clearly defined competencies that everyone needs for a particular job. It assumes that those competencies can be defined, taught, and once a person has them they are then equipped for that job. It doesn't fully account for the fact that jobs are changing all of the time though; and that there may be more value in developing a person's capacity to evolve in a profession, rather than developing an ability to meet a set of clearly defined competencies at one point in time.

Why Other Styles of Learning Might Not be as Readily Accepted

Experiential and other types of learning are not as easily managed. When the goal is to affect long term memory, it is difficult to evaluate the value of a person's education until decades after that education has been completed.

Other ways of learning are always going to appear more vague to people who do not understand education. Before CBT, it took longer for people to complete vocational diplomas and certificates, and people outside of the colleges may have asked "why is this or that studied", or "why does the student need to cover the same ground twice in two different subjects". The same people now ask why recent trades and professional graduates today are not as capable as in the past.

Just Be Careful About Where You Study

In conclusion; the world of education is constantly changing like everything else in society. Terms like CBT and fast tracked learning do keep popping up. At the end of the day though; it doesn't matter a great deal what the label is that is put on a course, so long as the focus is heavily on helping students learn, and the teaching is done by people who both understand their subject and the basics of educational psychology. If the course takes longer and provides opportunity for one to one interaction with teaching staff, it will probably teach you more and better than a shorter, cheaper course.

If you are going to invest time in study, make sure it is going to improve your capacity to do the job and increase your potential to continue growing a career beyond graduation. Our courses try very hard to do this. Always have; and our graduates as such have always been very successful.

Real learning doesn't just help you to remember long enough to pas an examination. Real learning embeds what you learn in your long term memory, and changes your knowledge and capacity to perform, for your entire life. It changes you for the better permanently.  If a course is not going to do that, you must question "why study it?".