Developing an Online Direct-Assessment Competency-Based Masters in Healthcare Administration: Insights, Challenges, and Lessons Learned
Originally Published In
Journal of Health Administration Education
In response to the increasing complexity in healthcare delivery environments, there is evidence from literature and the healthcare industry to indicate healthcare employers are seeking graduates in healthcare administration programs who have strong core competencies and proven problem solving skills. The purpose of this article is to describe the unique challenges and opportunities related to developing a direct-assessment, competency-based online Master's in Healthcare Administration program. The United States Department of Education (2013) provided general guidelines for direct-assessment programs noting that, instead of measuring student learning via credit hours, learning is measured via direct assessment measures like “projects, papers, examinations, presentations, performances, and portfolios” (para. 4). In this model, credit hour or seat-time measurements are no longer used as proxies for learning. Instead, a single proxy is used: demonstration of competence through direct assessments. Direct assessments are not directly linked with course material or credit hour. Instead, learners demonstrate competency or mastery at their own pace, and progress through the academic program when they have demonstrated the ability to do so. The authors collaborated with employers, university faculty, and subject matter experts to develop a direct-assessment, competency-based Master's in Healthcare Administration program for an online university that utilizes direct-assessment—allowing students to learn at their own pace and progress forward upon demonstrated mastery. The new program is aligned with healthcare employers' need for graduates who have core professional competencies in the healthcare field, the educational requirements of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) and the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL), and core professional competencies promoted by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). This program will seek accreditation from the Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) once all criteria for accrediting online programs are evaluated and assessed by Walden University. Within this article, the authors have summarized the history of competency-based education in healthcare administration and shared their insights regarding the future of this direct-assessment model.