How do you build a college course that is designed to take work experience into account?

You go to the people for whom work experience matters most – the people who hire.

The Competency-Based Education (CBE) Business Management Certificate planning committee met with local business leaders in April to discuss the new web-based certificate curriculum being offered at Collin College this fall. The new certificate program allows participants to earn credit for business skills they use every day.

About 20 businesses in fields as varied as programming, manufacturing, retail sales and health care sent representatives to talk about the experience and skills they look for in potential managers.

The group volunteered a day of their time and worked through the basic program structure the committee had put together and used their own experience as senior managers to drive the conversation. The discussion ranged from the need to understand strategic planning and team building to identifying body language and defining effective leadership.

That kind of input was exactly what the committee was looking for, according to Bill Blitt, dean of Business and Computer Science at the college.

“Traditionally, colleges are what we call course-based. Each course covers certain outcomes and once the student completes all the courses, they get their degree. Competency-based education is actually the reverse,” Blitt explained to the business leaders. “What we want to do is look at the knowledge, the skills, the ability and the competencies that you all need from new employees (and design the curriculum around those ideas). Many of these competencies are duplicated across the various traditional courses; it makes little sense to repeat them once the student has mastered them.”

To earn a traditional business management certificate, a student would be required to take six semester-long courses, something that can take a while for people who are also working full time. The idea of the CBE Business Management Certificate is that if the student demonstrates competence in a skill, then she or he does not need to spend more time and money studying it.

“It doesn’t make sense to go back to square one and say ‘This is Principle No. 1’ and start from the very beginning,” he said, adding that it is possible for the student to test out of one or all of the competencies by demonstrating the appropriate skill, based upon past experience.

The program follows the model of other online universities, which offer similar certificates, but with local Collin College faculty involved in both the planning and implementation phases. Before business leaders were invited to weigh in, the planning committee reviewed the traditional courses and broke them down into competencies it thought would be required, while at the same time meeting all the learning outcomes required by state guidelines for a certificate-level course.

The program is broken down into core concepts like “communication,” “team building,” “leadership,” “critical thinking,” “human resources management” and “organizational skills.”

Students who do not show competency in a particular area can follow an online curriculum with the supervision and assistance of Collin College faculty members like Dr. Cindy Briggs, professor of Management Development.

“We are going to be one-on-one coaches with them to ensure that they really do have the competencies they need to finish,” Dr. Briggs said.

Registration for the new CBE Business Management Certificate is by permission only and a mandatory information session is required to acquaint students with competency-based model, distance education, technology and other resources.

The final information session about the program is from 6:30-8 p.m., Thursday, July 9 at the college’s Preston Ridge Campus, Conference Room Section S. The Preston Ridge Campus is located at 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco. Those unable to attend the information session should contact the program staff at mgmt-cbe@collin.edu.

Learn more about the program at www.collin.edu/academics/programs/businessmanagement.html .