1. Frith, Karen H.

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The release of The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2021) created renewed conversation about competency-based education. This shift in educational standards can be overwhelming, but technology can aid in teaching students, assessing competencies, and providing evidence of a program's student learning outcomes. The major goal of competency-based education in nursing is to prepare nurses to deliver consistent safe, quality care to patients (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2021).


Many nursing programs are beginning the planning stages for integration of the competencies and subcompetencies identified in The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education into their curricula. A curricular review and a plan for mapping the domains and competencies is likely the first step. However, using competency-based standards in teaching and learning activities requires an even deeper implementation plan. The success of competency-based curricula depends on making multiple assessments in different contexts, with increasing complexity over time and with meaningful feedback for learners. Competency measurements include the use of criterion-referenced approaches and rubrics. The use of technology can assist in capturing the data produced through these competency-based assessments.


Instructional technologies are varied in type and scope. They can be used to teach students, assess competencies in formative or summative ways, and exploit data from technologies as evidence of student learning outcomes (US Department of Education, 2017). Technologies are not specific to any one competency; in fact, the use of technology to measure multiple competences in different domains is a strength. Table 1 presents examples of technology with critical elements to use for competency-based education. Tagging or blueprinting refers to linking questions or assignments to competencies or subcompetencies. When questions or elements in assignments are developed with links to the competencies, the assessments become criterion referenced.

Table 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowTable 1 Methods for Criterion-Referenced Assessments Using Technology

Technologies often produce data as a by-product of the teaching and learning process; therefore, there is a need to develop an overall data repository plan. Exporting data from technologies to a competency database can create a method to assess competencies and/or subcompetencies across the curriculum over multiple cohorts for data-driven program evaluation. Although the development of such a database is complicated, the ability to harness these data will be powerful.


In conclusion, now is the time to for nursing programs to examine their technologies and consider how they can be used in competency-based education. It is also a time for nursing programs to evaluate new technologies that can contribute to the success of their teaching/learning processes and competency-based outcome assessments. Although this transformation of nursing programs will be difficult, the use of technology to teach and measure competencies can release the creativity of faculty and reenergize nursing curricula.




American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2021). The essentials: Core competencies for professional nursing education.[Context Link]


US Department of Education. (2017). Reimagining the role of technology in higher education: 2017 National education technology plan update.[Context Link]