The University of Louisville developed OnTrack, a competency-based education (CBE) framework, to address a critical workforce development need in the community and to serve adult learners more effectively. The net intended effect of our CBE efforts is to also meet the educational needs of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and support the mission and vision of the university as one of the nation’s leading urban research universities.

In response to calls for more innovative and timely educational solutions from state political leaders, the Kentucky Council for Post-Secondary Education (CPE) and specifically from healthcare industry leaders based primarily in the Louisville, Kentucky metropolitan area, the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville, and the School of Public Health and Information Sciences partnered with the Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning – Online Learning to create our first CBE undergraduate program. The 100% online Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Learning, Healthcare Leadership CBE track was developed and opened for admissions in Fall 2016.

The program was designed as an evolved version of our long-standing adult learner degree completion program, but updated to focus specifically on the development and assessment of healthcare leadership competencies based on the industry-established National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) competency model. The prime CBE design elements of the program include open non-term enrollments, prior learning assessment (PLA), and authentic assessments based in applied healthcare settings.

Since 2016, the organizational potential of CBE at the University of Louisville as substantially increased, while the organizational capacity is in early developmental stages. The interest in CBE across academic departments has increased through faculty and staff participation in educational development events, presentations in national and regional conferences, and celebration of the institution’s first CBE graduate within one year of academic operations.

The organizational capacity of the institution to scale CBE enrollments is substantially moderated by information systems and processes strongly tied to term-based enrollments. The institution has contracted to migrate CBE students to a learning management system designed specifically for the competency-based approach. Additionally, the state CPE has agreed to invest resources to update and enhance the administrative systems supporting CBE to expand the enrollment capacity in OnTrack programs.

Looking forward, the university will seek to expand the availability of CBE in academic programs that are well-aligned with the organization’s research and practice areas of strength and that meet current and emerging community workforce development needs. The range of potential CBE educational services could include a full spectrum of higher education from undergraduate to doctoral, and certificate programs that are stackable and/or contribute to full degrees.