Competency Based Education

A Better Way to Learn

Competency-based education is a model of education that is different from traditional models. It moves students beyond just passing classes to requiring students to demonstrate competency in a measurable way. Students need to be ready for the real world, and Horizon’s competency-based approach prepares them with the knowledge, skills, and character they need to succeed in life and ministry.

Competency-based education is among the fastest growing educational trends in the US, and a “trend” already well established in Australia, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, New Zealand, and elsewhere. Horizon is the first college in Canada to offer undergraduate competency-based Christian leadership training.

Why adopt competency-based education?

Horizon launched a competency-based model in 2015. Although Horizon has a long history of producing capable, competent leaders, we sought feedback from alumni and practitioners and realized we knew we must do better.

We listened not only to alumni from our college but to alumni and leaders representing theological colleges and seminaries internationally, cross-denominationally, and from different generations. We heard a common refrain: Bible college/seminary helped me grow personally, spiritually, and in my biblical knowledge, introduced me to lifelong friends (maybe a spouse!), but it didn’t adequately prepare me to serve in real-world ministry. We listened and we changed. We retained the positive aspects of a traditional theological college while ensuring our students graduate competent to handle the demands of real-world ministry, ready to offer personal and biblical counsel, but equally prepared to read a spreadsheet and manage a board meeting.

What are Horizon’s competencies?

Horizon students graduate having demonstrated (proven!) their abilities according to six competencies that ministry practitioners have identified as necessary for success in Christian life and ministry. These are:

  • Biblical & Theological Literacy

  • Ministry Development

  • Leadership & Administration

  • Spiritual Maturity

  • Skilled Communication
  • Contextual Awareness

Horizon competency wheel

How did you determine what is a competency?

Competency-based education begins with the end in mind, looking at how students will emerge at the end of their programs. We ask: how is a student prepared to graduate as real-world leaders, whether for the marketplace or professional ministry?

To answer that question, we invited pastors, youth pastors, missionaries, educators, and other leaders and practitioners to inform the real-world knowledge, skills, and characteristics a Horizon student should be able to demonstrate to graduate ready for real-world ministry work. These expectations form Horizon’s six competencies.

The competencies explained

Doesn’t every Bible college or seminary do competency-based education?

No. Although every Christian college and seminary wants to prepare its students for competent Christian life and ministry (we hope!), most don’t adopt a competency-based educational model. Students quickly learn that Horizon’s competency-based model differs from traditional approaches in numerous important ways.

How is Horizon's CBE different

How is Horizon’s competency-based program different?

Although Horizon retains a more familiar course-based approach to competency-based education, students in Horizon’s programs experience important differences from a traditional model, including:

Industry-informed curriculum. Our curriculum is informed by real-world ministry leaders and practitioners to help students become the kinds of graduates these leaders would want to hire.

No grades for assignments. Instead, students receive generous feedback and explanation of how well they’ve met (or not yet met) competency. Professors work with students by providing guidance to help them meet any lacking competencies.

Students must meet competency in all areas to progress. A student who might do poorly in one area and better on another will not simply average their work and pass. Students need to meet the learning outcomes for all assigned areas of a course to advance. We have a solid academic assistance office to help students keep moving on.

Flexible time for assignments. Different from many traditional schools, additional time is built into the schedule for students to produce competent work. Although students receive no grade penalties, there are deadlines and consequences for late submissions.

Students earn professional certifications and psychometric assessments. Recognized, industry-standard psychometric assessments and professional certifications give students a healthy view of self and bulk-up their résumés.

Up to 1500 hours of supervised, real-world workplace experience. Students graduate with full-time 8-month* internship experience and fuller résumés.
*Different programs may require different internship lengths.

Course grades are provided for transcripts. Although assignments are not graded, students do receive a conversion from competency to a letter grade on their transcripts. We do this to aid students transferring to other institutions.

Students create a professional, personalized e-portfolio. Functioning as a real-world transcript, the portfolio showcases their knowledge, skills, character development, psychometric profiles, résumés or CVs, and transferable skills to prospective employers. See Horizon’s Portfolium page.

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