Open Competencies (alpha)

Open Competencies gives educators control over education standards. It allows anyone to openly create, share, and revise the standards we want our students to meet.

There are fairly simple solutions to some long-standing problems in education. Here are some of the problems in education that Open Competencies addresses:

Problem: Most education standards are written by an external body, and are not subject to continuous revision.

Solution: Open Competencies makes it possible to develop and maintain your own set of standards, by providing a structure with which to organize the standards you are developing.

Problem: If you like a system that another school is using, it is often very difficult to help your own school adopt that school's system.

Solution: If you like another school's standards on Open Competencies, you can "fork" that school's system. This lets you start working with your own copy of any school's entire system in a minute or two.

Problem: Most schools have one set of "graduation requirements", ignoring the fact that students have many different goals in life.

Solution: Open Competencies allows you to create "Pathways" through a school's competency system. These are sets of standards that a student identifies as relevant and meaningful, which they must meet in order to graduate from high school.

Problem: Many technology-focused educational resources are built more with a profit motive in mind than with a goal of serving all students.

Solution: Open Competencies is a completely open project, including source code and content.


Problem: Most education standards are written by an external body, and are not subject to continuous revision.


Most education standards are written by a group of people who are pulled together for the specific purpose of writing a set of standards. This might be a number of people from around a state education system who are pulled together throughout a school year to develop an individual state's standards, or it might be a group that is sponsored full-time to develop a set of standards.

The main problem with this model is that the sponsoring group almost always retains copyright over the standards that are developed. Using these standards commits you to going wherever this sponsoring body leads.

Open Competencies makes it easier to develop your own set of education standards, by giving you a dedicated tool for creating standards. Right now you can start from scratch, or you can start with a copy of another school's system. Soon you will be able to start from scratch, and bring in any group of standards from any other school to create your own mix of standards that suit your students' needs.

Try it out: To create a new school, you will have to be logged in. Open Competencies is in an invite-only alpha stage of development, but there is a guest account you can use to try things out. You can log in with the username 'guest' and the password 'guest', and you will be able to create your own school.

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Problem: If you like a system that another school is using, it is often very difficult to help your own school adopt that school's system.


There are many obstacles that get in the way of one school adopting another school's successful program. There are financial obstacles; even spending a few hundred dollars on a new system can take a long time to find the money, and get a payment approved and completed. There is the bureaucratic obstacle of helping other people get on board with a new system, probably while viewing a demo version of the product, which they may not have full confidence in. There are technical obstacles, figuring out how to integrate a new system into a school's existing software environment.

This difficulty goes both ways. If your school has a system that works well and you want to share it with another school, it can be difficult or impossible for you as an individual to share your school's system.

Open Competencies makes it easier for schools to share each other's resources. Say you are at an education conference, and you show a teacher from another school the standards that your school uses on Open Competencies. If that teacher wants to use your system they can register an individual account in less than a minute, make a new school, and copy your school's system in one click. They can then go back to their school and begin using their own copy of your standards, and they are free to revise them to meet the specific needs of their students.

Try it out: Open Competencies is currently in alpha, so new accounts are by invitation only. However, you can log in under the username 'guest', with the password 'guest'. Once you do this, you can create a new school and then "fork" an existing school's competencies. This gives you your own copy of that school's competencies, which you can modify as you please.

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Problem: Most schools have one set of "graduation requirements", ignoring the fact that students have many different goals in life.


Most districts and schools publish one set of graduation requirements, which are usually aimed at students who plan to go to a four-year-college. There is usually some flexibility within these requirements, but different career pathways are usually not very well defined for most high school students.

Open Competencies allows you to create different "Pathways" through your competency system. A Pathway is simply a named set of elements within your system. Students could then be set up to follow a certain pathway tailored to their career interest.

This ability to identify different graduation requirements for individual students, based on their post-high school plans, is one of the main features of Open Competencies.

Try it out: You can see a sample pathway that represents minimum high school graduation requirements, and a sample pathway that shows a student what they would need to learn to become a physicist. If you log in with the username 'guest' and password 'guest', you can make your own Pathway for Sample High School.

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Problem: Many technology-focused educational resources are built more with a profit motive in mind than with a goal of serving all students.


There are many good education-related resources available now, but many of them have important financial and proprietary issues. Proprietary resources will never foster widespread adoption of truly innovativate approaches to education. Charging money for educational resources, while appropriate at times, significantly increases the friction involved in adopting those resources. There is a strong need for high-quality, fully open educational resources.

Open Competencies is a fully open project. The code for this site is open source, and licensed under the AGPL. The actual competencies published on Open Competencies will be licensed under an appropriate Creative Commons license as well.

Try it out: If you are a developer, please kick the tires a bit and take a look at the project on github. Please share some feedback if you'd like to see this project fully developed.

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If you'd like to get in touch directly, you can find me on twitter @ehmatthes, or you can email me at ehmatthes at gmail.