Salt Lake Community College’s biotechnology program received an $819,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further efforts in the area of competency-based education (CBE).
The CBE model allows students to demonstrate competencies at their own pace, moving on to the next course as soon as they are ready. Tuition is paid in an “all you can learn” subscription model, so students can save money if they accelerate their progress. Aligning with and responding to workforce needs is a strategic priority for SLCC, and the College’s School of Applied Technology has already implemented CBE for non-credit workforce education courses. The National Science Foundation grant will allow SLCC to implement CBE on a wider scale to the academic side of its operations, starting with its biotechnology program.
“The Biotechnology program is uniquely positioned to accept this challenge. It has established two innovative internship programs—the InnovaBio® contract research organization and STUDENTfacturED® contract manufacturing organization—that already utilize informal competency-based practices and foster learning through engagement with actual problems and practices in the life science industry,” said Jean Bower, director of SLCC’s Biotechnology program. “Students who have participated in these programs are recognized as particularly adept in the lab by SLCC faculty, transfer institution faculty, and employers.”
The biotechnology program has partnered with Nelson Laboratories, BioFire Diagnostics and ARUP Laboratories, three local biotechnology companies that anticipate creating hundreds of new jobs in the next five years, for development of new curriculum. SLCC’s proposed “Competency-Based, Open Entry, Open Exit Biotechnology Education” format, which will benefit from the grant, will better accommodate the demands of employers and students.
“The Biotechnology program will pioneer conversion of an academic program to a competency-based format at SLCC, with the intent of establishing best practices for other academic departments at the College and throughout the nation,” said Nicole Omer, director of SLCC’s Office of Sponsored Projects. “The newly developed courses and delivery format will better serve non-traditional students, incumbent workers, high school students, and high school instructors seeking professional development.”