CBE is based on demonstrated mastery of skills and knowledge – competencies – in a field, rather than time spent sitting in a classroom. In CBE, students are assessed for what they already know and then given targeted instruction on the competencies they need to master. Once they demonstrate mastery, they move on to the next competency until they earn a degree or certification or both. In CBE, students can learn at their own pace, and many finish much more rapidly than in traditional programs.
Because it is self-paced, CBE can be combined with another innovation in higher education – online education – in powerful ways. I am teaching interpretation in an on-line graduate degree program, and know it is certainly possible to deliver high-quality instruction and performance feedback in that environment. Students and faculty can also interact in ways that are just as strong as traditional programs. Coupling the strengths of online education to the flexibility of CBE could be a winning combination.
Of course, moving to CBE poses new challenges. Perhaps the most significant is the need to define the competencies that must be mastered. Developing high-quality course materials is another challenge (although it is one that I am already working to overcome), as is creating the assessments to determine whether competencies have been mastered. However, with the right efforts, these challenges can be met.
These and other new approaches hold significant promise for interpretation and translation. There is no doubt that the demand for education and training far exceeds its availability. If more flexible approaches were available, I have no doubt that many would take advantage of them. Many interpreters and translators want to improve their skills and knowledge, and would like a college degree to qualify for a promotion or new job. There are a lot of questions about these new approaches, especially how they might work in a highly interactive profession like interpretation, but we all need to pay attention to them to see what promise they hold for our profession.