About Competencies

The Competencies tool enables you to assess learning outcomes and determine whether users have really acquired the knowledge, skills or abilities a learning experience is supposed to provide. Competencies track information about the knowledge, skills and abilities the people in your organization acquire as they participate in courses or other learning experiences.

Some examples might include:

The types of competencies you decide to model and track depend on your institution and what you ultimately want to do with the information.

Your institution might use a different vocabulary to describe "competencies", such as: proficiencies, learning outcomes, standards, objectives, or skills. Learning objectives might be known as: indicators, criteria, requirements, or learning outcomes.

Competencies structure

A competency is a structure composed of different elements in a hierarchy:

When a user completes all the required activities in a learning objective, they achieve the objective, and when they achieve all the objectives in a competency, they achieve the competency. In this way they complete the competency from the bottom up by passing each of the required activities at the base of the structure.

A competency must contain at least one of each sub-elements; objective and activity.

Use the competency object to manage the hierarchy.

Learning objectives

Learning objectives represent the things a person needs to learn to acquire a competency—the skills, abilities or knowledge a person must acquire to become competent in a given domain. Learning objectives should be a statement that is directly measurable.

More complex competencies contain multiple learning objectives. A competency such as Media Literacy is so broad in scope that it might contain multiple levels of learning objectives. The highest level objective might include "Awareness of Advertising Techniques," which might be broken down into sub-objectives of its own. You can do this by creating multiple levels of learning objectives, or by creating sub-competencies (one competency nested beneath another).


Note starting with version 9.2 of Learning Environment, you no longer create separate activities in the Competencies tool. Instead you associate learning objectives with actual course activities.

Activities are what you use to evaluate learning objectives. They are the content and assessments in the course, that measure a person’s completion of a learning objective. Some activities can be set as required to achieve the learning objective. You can use multiple activities to evaluate a learning objective. Users must pass all the required activities associated with a learning objective to complete it.

In Learning Environment, activities can be quizzes, surveys, dropbox folders, discussion topics, content topics and modules, and grade items. Or they can exist as a manual assessment activity tied to a rubric. This gives you the opportunity to use existing tools to assess learning objectives and the flexibility to draw on other forms of assessment, such as an in-person demonstration.

Activities are the only elements that are actually graded. To complete an activity, a user’s assessment must meet the minimum required level for that activity. This means competencies have no grades or levels of achievement—they are either complete or they are not. It doesn’t matter if one person achieves the highest levels on all activities, while another meets only the minimum thresholds; in the competency model, both are equal. You can think of competencies as an inventory of skills or knowledge a person has, rather than a measure of how good someone is at something.

Levels of Objective Association

When associating a learning objective to a course item, there are several levels of association you can assign:

Association only (no evaluation method stored).

Use this level to track the alignment of a course item to a learning objective without any evaluation. This level helps indicate the coverage of a learning objective within a course without requiring any formal assessment of the item, no impact to any goal management, or automatic competency evaluation, which might be done in the future.

Association and evaluation.

Use this level to evaluate the item with a numeric grade or a rubric and have a view into user and class achievement, but doesn't use the item’s assessment for goal management, or automatic competency evaluation, which might be done in the future. This level is appropriate for diagnostic and formative assessments.

Association, evaluation and goal management.

Use this level to evaluate the item with a numeric grade or a rubric, gives you a view into user and class achievement, and uses the assessment of the item for automatic competency evaluation. This level is appropriate for summative assessments in courses that track competency and learning objective achievement.

Understanding competencies' place in your course or organization's structure

You can create competencies at the highest org level or inside course offerings, or within other types of org units in between.

If you create a competency as part of a course offering, it is accessible only within that course offering, just like any other tool in Learning Environment. This can be an effective way to ensure users taking a course master all the material in that course: you can create a competency to represent the entire course, and create learning objectives to represent each unit, then associate each of these units with multiple activities (e.g., a test and an essay), requiring users to successfully complete the activities for every unit. They would have to learn all the course material to complete the course competency. In this way, competencies have an advantage over traditional grading mechanisms based on overall averages, which can mask significant gaps in comprehension.

You can also create competencies inside other types of org units, like a department, a semester, or the organization as a whole, which enables you to track users’ achievements beyond individual course offerings. When you create a competency outside of a course offering, you can share it with multiple course offerings and use different activities to evaluate the competency’s learning objectives inside each offering. This enables users to complete the competency in stages over time, working on different learning objectives within different courses, which is useful if the competency is large or complex and acquiring all the knowledge or skills associated with it involve many learning experiences.

Access Competencies

Within an org unit, click the Competencies link in the navigation bar.

Competencies help topics



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