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There is a growing concern in the United States and Latin America to improve the relevance of higher education and keep costs under control. This reality has led countries in the hemisphere to experiment with alternative programs, such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). However, these alternatives often suffer the same limitations as traditional programs.
In recent years, online competency-based education (OCBE) has emerged as a viable option for many individuals who want to advance their careers. This policy brief discusses the experience of the United States with this kind of “disruptive innovation” in post-secondary education. We define competency-based education (in situ and online) and discuss its importance; we evaluate the limitations of traditional university programs and the emergence of online programs; we examine the main characteristics of OCBE; and we analyze the impact some of these programs have had at American universities.
In light of the experiences described and taking into account the current state of higher education in Latin America, we discuss a set of policy lessons that could be applied to the countries in the region to help reduce the skills gap.
María Belén Garrett interned with the Dialogue’s Education Program in fall 2015. Twitter: @MariaBelenGP.