While Purdue’s NCAA hopes ended early with an unexpected first round upset, their innovation in competency-based learning is earning the university the equivalent of a national championship. The school’s Polytechnic Institute recently gained final approval for a new competency-based program that turns the tables on traditional learning models.

COE The Future of Learning (002)Instead of credit hours and testing, the new Purdue program evaluates eight competencies of students through assessments, application of skills, and earning of digital badges.

Although many other universities offer some form of online competency-based education, Purdue officials believe its new program is the first live, competency-based course in the United States for on-campus students at a major research institution. Purdue, of course, is highly regarded nationally for its technology and engineering degree programs.

Purdue’s new program, which dates back to 2013 with planning and premiered as a pilot program in 2014, is gaining notoriety among undergraduate education programs nationally. But within its own state, it might have been slightly behind the curve in developing future learning models. Behind the Society’s own CPA Center of Excellence®.

Yes, you’ve heard about it. And it sounds a lot like what’s happening at Purdue … competencies (currently there are seven of them), skills assessment, digital badges, a pilot program.

The CPA Center of Excellence®, which specializes in competency-based education for CPAs and other business professionals, was established in 2014 but the work began long before that. Beginning in 2010, INCPAS task forces, the Board, Leadership Cabinet and Emerging Leaders Alliance, and other interested members worked diligently to research, develop and test the various pieces of a puzzle that came together four years later.

But no matter who was first, both Purdue and the CPA Center of Excellence® have been recognized as leaders, and their work can complement each other going forward. And both are helping to make a name for Indiana as an innovative and forward-thinking state when it comes to future methods of learning. That can’t hurt in retaining and recruiting talent.

And while Purdue as a large state university is obviously focused on higher education and the CPA Center of Excellence® is primarily focused on developing professional education, both are filling the needs of lifelong learning, and that pathway develops better students who become better professionals and who ultimately become better at serving businesses and the public.

Building a truly competency-based education system for all stages of life and career is not going to happen quickly or easily. It is a major transformation that will take time and effort. Cooperation and partnership is the key. If educational institutions like Purdue and organizations like INCPAS can work together in the future, or at least be aware of each other’s work, it will make the effort less challenging.