Donna Smith
Texas A&M University Commerce

Interview topic timestamps

• Registration systems didn’t recognize competencies
Had to map competencies to courses
Developed middleware for conversion to get LMS to populate competencies
• Students procrastinated
Challenge to get them to accelerate through classes rather than wait to last minute
Students with KLEP experience do better
Challenge when a student needs to decelerate
Developed subscription-based model of tuition so students could take incomplete and extend into next term by re-registering for that class – not ideal but it works
• Decelerating impacts financial aid because an “X” means can’t calculate SAP (student academic progress)
• Highly recommend that anyone starting CBE program do a mock of entire process of financial aid, registration, admissions


• During break between terms, faculty meets/trains with Donna Smith and discusses issues for that term
• Faculty also alerts Donna when a student is at risk of not completing a course
Donna sends out an early alert notice to that student during 2nd week and also an alert during 5th week to get student to finish competencies
• A lot of the faculty were involved during development phase which made it easier to get their buy-in
• Challenge to make competencies rigorous enough but not too rigorous


• Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) led CBE initiative with TAMUC and another institution and held monthly meetings in in which faculty and other entitles discussed what they wanted degree to look like
• Initially looked at general ed requirements
• Bounced off Industry to make sure gen-ed content was appropriate for degree
• Majority of faculty were interested
• Donna helped develop the upper-level courses
• To shape the major, talked to Industry leaders and asked what they wanted graduates to know
• Contracted with an outside instructional design firm to design the courses
• Absolute must to use instructional designers
Competencies fully loaded for different learning styles
• Faculty shape content, designers make it accessible to students
• Need to compare CBE course with traditional course to make sure similar content
• Need to make sure embedded assessment aligns with the institution
This also helps to get buy-in from departments when you ask what they are doing in traditional classes


• Instructional designers presented initial template
Included syllabus, course info, pre-assessment, readings, assignments, events, activities and post-assessments
• Created a stripped down template that new faculty can use that follows same pattern – pre-assessment, content, post-assessment
• Recommend anyone developing CBE courses to have a template to ensure consistency – students appreciate consistency
• Donna reviews each new course to make sure it’s consistent and appropriately rigorous


• The idea with CBE is to save costs
• TAMUC contracted with publishing house to do embedded e-text
• Every competency has embedded e-text
• One course has 16 learning outcomes and within each outcome is reading material
• There is a structured course outline
• Within the outcome there’s also an assignment/activity (like write a paper, go explore internet site, visit an HR department)
• For competency-based courses, student just has to prove they can do the assessment, but activity is there for those students who need the assignments to master the content


• Math is hard for many students, no matter the institution – putting Math online often makes it more difficult for those students
• TAMUC uses
• There are general tutors as well
• Writing lab
• Many of the faculty will tutor
• Adding YouTube lectures “Here’s how to solve this problem”
• Have to define for your students: What are they struggling with?
• If there are specific areas that lots of students are struggling with, then put in a video to explain in greater depth
• Make sure what ever student support is available for general population students is also available for CBE students
• Academic Success Coaches contact students at risk
First term CBE students at TAMUC tend to be most at risk – have to learn the structure of CBE
At risk students get checked on once a week – the students love the personal contact
• Getting instructors involved with early alert system also helpful “What students have not even attempted a pre-test?”
• Might need to check up on at-risk students after hours because they might not be receptive at their workplace


• CBE requires a mind shift so faculty need training – especially new faculty
• If you have the competencies fully loaded, faculty can feel lost “What is my job?”
• TAMUC has a 48 hour rule on emails
• To allow students to accelerate through program, grade tests and give feedback within 24 hours
• Accelerated program requires responsive faculty
• Some students have jobs that require travel or 48 hours/48 hours off
• Donna trains/retrains faculty between each of the terms
• Faculty are expected to email students on first day of each term, welcoming student and making the expectations known – such as “We are self-paced, but not independent study” and then every week after
“What are your plans for this course, and how can I help you get there?” and “Just checking in. How are you with your studies?” or “I’ve noticed you’ve not submitted anything. How can I motivate you?
This is part of the faculty training
Also asked if students responded to email
• Training also covers how to prep the courses – Pathbuilder releases content when a student does an action. Content also blocked until student take pre-assessment
• Sharing lessons learned about student behavior is very helpful for faculty


• At the beginning, just ask who wants to be involved and selected some key people
• Some faculty members so committed they don’t require incentives and are developing new courses because they want to
• Select those faculty members who will become your champions – they will go above and beyond your expectations
• Currently faculty paid per student up to adjunct rate because student population is not large yet and there’s not full time load
• Program even presents possible research avenues for some faculty
• Competition amongst faculty members is also incentive
• Top leaders really championing the program and that filters down
• Some resistance. Main thing is planning it out and being flexible for the surprises “Oh, that did not work, how are we going to fix this?”
• At meetings, always bring up what did not work and ask everyone at meeting how they would fix
• Coming together to solve the problem increases buy-in


• Planning CBE
• Being flexible around challenges that come up
• Knowing who to go to help solve problems
• Get leadership on board who will be your champions
• Be open to whatever happens and how you will fix
• Get others to help you – don’t go it alone