Date of Conferral

2017

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Anju Jolly

Abstract

In order to serve its nontraditional students, a university piloted a competency-based program as alternative method for its students to earn college credit. The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to conduct a summative program evaluation to determine if the program was successful in order to make decisions about program revision and expansion. The conceptual framework for the study was grounded in Knowles's adult learning theory and Bandura's social learning theory as they relate to adult learners being self-directed and self-motivated to complete their educational goals. The pilot program involved 60 students taking 12 different courses over 3 semesters. Quantitative research questions focused on student completion and pass rates, pacing of assignment submissions, and achievement of course competencies. Qualitative research questions explored perceptions of students, faculty, and advisors regarding the program through individual interviews and student surveys. Transcribed interviews were analyzed and summarized using structural and pattern coding methodology. Quantitative findings show an 83% completion rate, 60% passing rate, 32% of students falling 2 weeks or more behind, and differences in competency achievement between pilot students and traditional students. Qualitative findings revealed 5 themes: good for some but not for all, student success factors are self-motivation and professional experience, attainment of competencies, student support by faculty, and peer-to-peer interaction. This study has potential to add to the growing research on competency-based education, which can ultimately affect social change by moving higher education to more innovative alternative delivery models that can better serve the needs of nontraditional students.