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February 8, 2023

Nicolet College staff members attending the national 2022 CBExchange conference were, left to right, Aaron Panke, Academic Design and Technology manager; Sara Tienharra, Nicolet success coach; Nicolet President Kate Ferrel, Ellen Mathein, dean of Business and Entrepreneurship; and Al Javoroski, Nicolet vice president of Academic Affairs. (Submitted photo)
Nicolet College staff members attending the national 2022 CBExchange conference were, left to right, Aaron Panke, Academic Design and Technology manager; Sara Tienharra, Nicolet success coach; Nicolet President Kate Ferrel, Ellen Mathein, dean of Business and Entrepreneurship; and Al Javoroski, Nicolet vice president of Academic Affairs. (Submitted photo)
11/29/2022 5:28:00 AM
Nicolet educators share experience delivering flexible college classes at national conference

Nicolet College's expertise and effectiveness with providing highly flexible learning options for students seeking a college education was on full display recently at the national CBExchange conference, which drew hundreds of educators from across the country.

"We were absolutely thrilled to be on the national stage where Nicolet staff delivered two different presentations on aspects of delivering flexible competency-based education," Ellen Mathein, Nicolet dean of Business and Entrepreneurship and also a conference presenter, said in a press release. "The conference sets the gold standard for advances in online learning and attracts educators from across the world to both share their knowledge and learn about the latest advances in online learning. To be accepted as presenters by such a respected education organization speaks volumes about the quality of the online education Nicolet delivers to students."

Nicolet started offering competency-based education (CBE) classes in 2018 and currently has eight academic programs that offer the format. These programs include Administrative Professional, Accounting, Automotive, Business Management, Electromechanical, Industrial Mechanical, IT Compute Support, IT Web Development, and Welding. More academic programs are expected to adopt the program in the future. Classes in CBE programs offer a high degree of flexibility, with students completing the coursework at the times that are best for them and fit around their busy lives.

In order to accomplish this, the curriculum is broken down into smaller chunks, known as competencies.

Once students have proven that they've mastered one competency, they move on to the next. When they've demonstrated proficiency with all of the required competencies, they are awarded college credits and ultimately a college degree.

A portion of the required coursework is commonly completed face-to-face with instructors during open lab times or during scheduled faculty office hours. The remainder is completed online at times that best suit student schedules. Throughout any given academic year there are nine different start dates for CBE classes, three for every term.

At the CBExchange conference Al Javoroski, Nicolet vice president of Academic Affairs, and the college's Aaron Panke, Academic Design and Technology manager, gave the presentation CBE Programs: The Expansion Pack, which focused on methods of incorporating continuous quality improvement practices into the curriculum.

During Nicolet's second presentation, Ellen Mathein, dean of Business and Entrepreneurship, and Sara Tienharra, Nicolet success coach, presented Leveling Up: Faculty and Coach Communication in Competency-Based Education. This presentation focused on techniques to improve communications and connections between faculty, students, and success coaches, which are assigned to each student to help guide them through college. While the CBE format for classes has been common for years in other parts of the college, Nicolet was one of the first colleges in Wisconsin and the Midwest to adopt the format.

"There's is a learning curve anytime you try something new and our main focus always has been, and always will be, on student success and putting the processes in place necessary for students to become graduates and earning a college education," said Javoroski, Nicolet vice president of Academic Affairs. One of the areas Nicolet is currently focusing on for improvement is the class completion rate for students in CBE classes compared to traditional college classes.

"The academic rigor is the same for both formats, and college is challenging for many. There's just no way around that," Javoroski added. "Moving forward, we're going to stress this even more to incoming students. Just because a class is much more flexible doesn't mean it's going to be easier."

For more information about CBE classes and Nicolet in general, visit nicoletcollege.edu or call the college at (715) 365-4493.





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