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Portraits of CBE Practice Report

December 30, 1899

Deconstructing CBE: An Assessment of Institutional Activity, Goals, and Challenges in Higher Education


While CBE continues to capture the attention of many higher education institutions, the path toward broader scale and impact remains unclear. To better understand the state of CBE implementation and the prospects for mainstream growth, Eduventures and Ellucian have initiated a 3-year longitudinal study of CBE in U.S. higher education.

This partnership has been designed to help higher education leaders interpret and better understand institutional experiences with CBE, as well as the varying degrees of CBE operational maturity. In April 2016, the American Council on Education joined this effort as a strategic partner.

The 2016 survey was fielded between March and early June, 2016, and resulted in responses from more than 251 institutions. The survey reveals a diversity of practice across a spectrum of schools. In this context, a broad portrait of CBE emerges as a complex, and necessarily nuanced response to deepening enrollment and retention pressures, as well as meeting the needs of non-traditional learners.

The results underscore the need for institutions to carefully weigh the pros and cons of implementing CBE, and to proactively select which components make the most sense for their students and institute mission.

Portraits of CBE Practice

A primary goal of this project is to illuminate the range and diversity of how CBE is implemented across a spectrum of higher education institutions.  Rather than suggest there is a single path forward for CBE aspirants, the 2016 data suggests that there are multiple ways in which institutions can leverage CBE in order to enhance learning and career opportunities for their students. Below are three of 6 models highlighted in the full report.

These institutions can serve as exemplars for other institutions, and point towards patterns of innovative design and practice. Each portrait represents a unique, yet tangible expression of how CBE can be operationalized in higher education.

  • University of Maine, Presque Isle (UMPI): Cohort-driven, Online and Blended Learning for Full-time, First-time Students 

  • Salt Lake Community College (SLCC): Self-Paced, Blended, Workforce-Readiness for Underserved Students

  • Valdosta State University (VSU): Self-Paced and Blended Learning for STEM Teacher Professional Development

Looking Ahead

Over the next two years, Eduventures, Ellucian and ACE will continue examine the prospects for broader implementation and growth of CBE. While external factors, such as accreditation and financial aid, will affect the pace at which CBE expands, it is anticipated that CBE will be most shaped by institutional cultures. A sharper understanding of the accelerators and inhibitors of CBE implementation at institutional and sub-institutional level will be the focus of Year 2 of this study.   

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