A key characteristic that distinguishes CBE from other educational programs is that students can progress at their own pace. They make progress toward course objectives based on demonstrating the knowledge and skills required at each step (or module) along the way. That is, learning becomes the constant—and is demonstrated through mastery of learning objectives, or competencies—and time becomes the variable. Some students can accelerate their progress as other students might take more time and practice to advance. At some colleges, students can begin or complete their coursework throughout the year, rather than tied to an inflexible semester system.
In most of the community colleges that are developing CBE programs, the CBE courses are based on existing courses that faculty have been offering for years. As with online education, CBE courses represent a new mode of delivery in most of these cases, but not a new curriculum. In these college programs, faculty members adapt the existing courses to a CBE model, based on existing faculty procedures and requirements at the college.
Where the CBE courses represent new curriculum, faculty members are more likely to work in teams to create the new courses based on existing procedures and requirements for new curriculum development at the college. Typically, faculty lead these teams.