American Sentinel Now Offering Competency Based General Education Courses

American Sentinel Now Offering Competency Based General Education Courses

Competency-based education has become increasingly popular in recent years in large part because it offers benefits that both employers and students value.  Employers appreciate a competency-based approach to education and training because it provides them with greater assurance that students have demonstrated mastery over the course and program competencies.  While students may appreciate competency-based education for this reason as well, there are additional reasons many students prefer this approach:

What is Competency Based Education?

  1. Competency-based education allows students to work at a flexible pace that accommodates their work schedule and personal life.   In the traditional approach to education, all students must meet what are called “seat time” requirements.  For a typical three-credit college course, students would be expected to be in class the equivalent of three hours per week for approximately 15 weeks.  In addition, students in traditional term-based courses are expected to work outside of class two hours for every hour they spend in class.  What’s more, students are expected to proceed through the course material at the same pace, which typically means weekly assignment deadlines and fixed, pre-arranged exam dates. 

    In competency-based education, on the other hand, the focus is not on seat time, but on demonstrated mastery of course and program competencies.  Students are aware ahead of time of what competencies they are expected to meet and provided with rubrics that explain how their work will be evaluated.  As a rule, there are no weekly assignment deadlines.  Students are expected to demonstrate mastery of the course competencies, but they are allowed to do so at a more-flexible pace that takes into consideration work and family commitments. 

  2. In the traditional approach to education, students are typically required to demonstrate their learning under high-stakes, one-and-done scenarios, and not given opportunities for “do-overs,” if they fail to demonstrate a satisfactory level of achievement on their first attempt.  Though competency-based education requires students to demonstrate mastery of all course competencies in order to pass each course and proceed in the program, they are typically allowed to resubmit their assessment if they fail to demonstrate mastery on their first attempt.  Thus, in the competency-based approach to education, the focus is exclusively on demonstrated learning; it does not take into consideration time spent in class or how long it takes a student to demonstrate that learning.
  3. Competency-based education also provides students with an opportunity to save money.  In the traditional approach to education, students pay by the credit hour.  Thus, the completion of a particular program, with a fixed number of credit hours, would cost students the same amount of money no matter how long it took them to earn those credits.  In competency-based education, on the other hand, students typically pay by the “subscription period,” rather than the credit hour.  For American Sentinel, this subscription period is 16 weeks.  During this 16-week period, motivated students have the opportunity to save money by successfully completing more courses than they would if they were merely enrolled in a typical “full load” of courses.  This is challenging, but the opportunity is there for students to proceed at a faster pace and save time in the process, and many students take advantage of this opportunity.

How Competency Based Education Works for Students

American Sentinel University has offered its RN to BSN program in a competency-based format we call “SIMPath” since 2017.  Up until now, only nursing courses have been offered in this format.  The general education requirements needed to earn a bachelors’ degree were only offered in a traditional term-based format, with weekly assignment deadlines.  Now, however, American Sentinel is pleased to announce that we will soon be offering four of our general education courses in a self-paced competency-based format:

  1. COM 210 CBE – Business Communications
    This course focuses on the development and application of business communication.  The course includes a series of activities, such as interviewing skills, job application techniques, business writing skills (email, memos, letters, reports), effective speaking presentation skills, and listening skills.  The course includes a series of activities focused on global business communication competencies and audience/stakeholder analysis.   The course includes the application of team communication, the use of technology to facilitate communication, and the formal usage of business style, grammar, and language standards.

  2. COM 220 – Interpersonal Communication
    In this course you will read, explore, consider, and practice interpersonal communication skills. Communication affects patient care in a multitude of ways: patient education, communicating with family members, nursing-clinician partnership, teamwork within the workplace, coordination between office and medical care staff, and navigating conflict. Gaining a greater understanding of competent communication skills through verbal, nonverbal, emotion, conflict, relationships, and deception can help reduce miscommunication and misunderstanding. This class will explore each of these topics in a hands-on, exploratory way by examining real-life situations in case studies, through discussions, by reflecting in papers, and checking understanding through quizzes. The purpose of each assignment is to guide you through understanding your own approaches to communication as well as apply competent communication behaviors in various interactions.

  3. HUM 201CBE – Media and Nursing
    This course examines the effects of media on the image of nursing in society and the professional identity of nurses. Using a media literacy analysis framework, participants will examine a variety of media involving nurses. This course is relevant for anyone who has an interest in the portrayal of nursing and how what we see affects what we think, how we feel and what we do.

  4. HUM210 CBE – Social Justice
    This course will introduce students to key concepts in equity, inclusion, diversity, and social justice that can support and affirm the success and identities of all patients and staff working in healthcare settings.

American Sentinel is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and all institutions accredited by HLC are expected to require a minimum of 30 credits of general education for their bachelor’s degrees.  All of these new competency-based general education courses are worth three semester credits, and will count towards the fulfillment of American Sentinel’s general education requirements:

General Education CategoriesCredit Hours
Communications6-9 credit hours
Humanities6-9 credit hours
Social and Behavioral Sciences6-9 credit hours
Math, Science, and Information Technology6-9 credit hours

These new competency-based general education courses were designed primarily with our RN to BSN SIMPath students in mind, but they are available to other students as well.  If interested in enrolling in one of these new competency-based general education courses, contact your Student Success Advisor or chat us live!  The credits earned in these courses will also fulfill the general education requirements for students enrolled in our traditional, term-based RN to BSN program. 


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