Pioneer in Online Learning Publishes New Report on Competency-Based Education Outcomes

MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Capella University, the first institution to offer federal financial aid for bachelor’s and master’s degrees through a unique direct assessment approach to competency-based learning, released a report documenting new results from FlexPath, the university’s signature direct assessment competency-based education format .

“To make good on the promise of higher education for a growing population of adult and working learners, we need to rethink the historical constraints that lengthen the time to a degree and increase college costs,” said President of Capella University Dr. Richard Senese. “As competency-based education reaches a new phase of maturity, this research demonstrates the potential that the model holds to meet the diverse and divergent needs of today’s students by untethering degree completion from the constraints of seat time.”

The report, “Delivering on the Promise of Competency-Based Education,” reveals that since 2013, more than 20,000 graduates completed their program with FlexPath. The analysis also found that the median learner in FlexPath finished a bachelor’s degree 50% faster and a master’s degree 36% faster than similar learners in equivalent Capella credit-hour programs, borrowing 58% less in federal financial aid for a bachelor’s degree and 39% less for a master’s degree.

LEARN MORE: For more information on how these findings were calculated, view the full report here.

While a growing number of institutions have begun to adopt competency-based education models, only a handful of institutions have been approved by the Department of Education to offer federal financial aid for their direct assessment offerings, which enables institutions to incorporate rigorous, high-frequency Assessments to track and evaluate student progress, while decoupling financial aid from credit-hour or “seat time” requirements.

“As the demographics of higher education continue to shift, colleges and universities face a new imperative to develop dynamic and flexible programs that can help adult learners adapt to the demands of a rapidly changing workforce and society,” said Jillian Klein, SVP of Government and External Affairs at Strategic Education, Inc., parent company of Capella University. “The outcomes captured through this research reflect nearly a decade of collaboration between faculty and institutional leadership, accreditors and policymakers committed to delivering affordable, high-quality and career relevant educational experiences for modern learners.”

FlexPath’s dynamic direct assessment model paired with a subscription-style all-you-can-learn format, allows learners to move at their own pace—moving through a course faster or slower, based on the content, their understanding of it, and the time. they can devote to learning.

The institution’s competency map helps students understand how their educational experiences align with in-demand skills and career paths, while success coaches help ensure that each student has the wrap-around support needed to persist and stay on track to completion.

The report is one in a series of research reports from Capella University detailing advances in innovative delivery models for adult learners, beginning with the 2017 “Competency-Based Education: A Policy Primer,” which highlighted both the potential of competency-based education and the barriers to its expansion. In 2019, the university released “Moving Competency-Based Education Forward,” documenting learner outcomes and observations from the university’s landmark FlexPath direct assessment model’s first five years of implementation.

About Capella University: Capella University ( is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Founded in 1993, the university is dedicated to providing flexible, professionally aligned online degree programs designed to help working adults advance in their careers. As of December 31, 2021, more than 40,000 students were enrolled in Capella’s bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs. Known for its commitment to learner success, academic quality, and innovations in online education, Capella pioneered competency-based direct assessment programs allowing students to learn at their own pace. For more information, call 1.888.CAPELLA (888.227.3552)

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