Skip to main content

Designing a Competence-Based Learning Course with Digital Tools in Higher Education

  • 944 Accesses

Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC,volume 1367)


The educational community is increasingly recognising the benefits of applying competence-based learning (CBL) in formal and informal training. Both learner-oriented and goals-oriented, competence-based learning encourages flexibility, adaptation and customisation of the learning process to specific learning context and individual preferences. At the same time, various digital environments and ICT tools emerge, successfully supporting the design, implementation and evaluation of CBL educational activities. However, competence-based learning approaches in Higher education (HE) are still underdeveloped, demonstrating the need to share and accumulate more academic experiences.

This article aims to outline how the use of digital tools can promote and facilitate the design and implementation of competence-based courses in the context of higher education. It emphasizes the potential of the learning management systems to track the progress and to be used in the assessment of achievement of different levels of competence development, applied in the 21st Century Skills course design in a digital environment. In particular, we present such a course, developed as part of the Erasmus project Catch21, which will be multiplied in number of universities and HE institutions across EU. The paper focuses on the practical steps for design and implementation of learning activities with digital tools. Finally, the practical recommendations and lessons’ learned for adopting technological tools for the design and implementation of CBL course activities in higher education are identified and explained.


  • Competence development
  • Digital tools
  • Higher education

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD   169.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD   219.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Learn about institutional subscriptions


  1. Sullivan, R.: The competency-based approach to training. JHPIEGO Strategy Paper, September, 1995

    Google Scholar 

  2. Foyster, J.: Getting to Grips with Competency-Based Training and Assessment. TAFE National Centre for Research and Development: Leabrook, Australia. ERIC: ED 317849 (1990)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Delker, P.: Basic Skills Education in Business and Industry: Factors for Success or Failure, Contractor Report, Office of Technology Assessment, United States Congress (1990)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Norton, R.: Competency-based education and training: a humanistic and realistic approach to technical and vocational instruction. In: Regional Workshop on Technical/Vocational Teacher Training in Chiba City, Japan. ERIC: ED 279910 (1987)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Prins, F., Nadolski, J., Berlanga, R.J., Drachsler, A.J., Hummel, H., Koper, R.: Competence description for personal recommendations: the importance of identifying the complexity of learning and performance situations. J. Educ. Technol. Soc. 11, 141–152 (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Twyman, J.S.: Competency-Based Education: Supporting Personalized Learning. Connect: Making Learning Personal. Center on Innovations in Learning, Temple University (2014)

    Google Scholar 

  7. Mulder, M.: Competence-Based Vocational and Professional Education: Bridging the Worlds of Work and Education. Springer, Dordrecht (2017)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Fanshawe, M., Delaney, N., Powell A.: Utilizing instantaneous feedback to promote self-regulated learning in online higher education courses: the case for digital badges. In: Technology-Enhanced Formative Assessment Practices in Higher Education. IGI Global (2020)

    Google Scholar 

  9. Stefanov, K., Nikolova, N., Ilieva, M., Stefanova, E.: Turning university professors into competent learners. iJET 3(S1), 46–52 (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Stefanov, K., Nikolov, R., Boytchev, P., Stefanova, E., Georgiev, A., Koychev, I., Nikolova, N., Grigorov A.: Emerging models and e-infrastructures for teacher education. In: Proceedings of the ITHET 2011. IEEE (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Georgiev, A.: OpenScout Personal Development Planner - PDP, Tutorial (2010). Accessed 22 Nov 2020

  12. Makris, P., Efthymiopoulos, N., Nikolopoulos, V., Pomazanskyi, A., Irmscher, B., Stefanov, K., Pancheva, K., Varvarigos, E.: Digitization era for electric utilities: a novel business model through an inter-disciplinary S/W platform and open research challenges. IEEE Access 6(1), 22452–22463 (2018)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  13. CATCH 21 - 21st Century Skills for changing the approach to university teaching. Accessed 22 Nov 2020

  14. Ananiadou, K., Claro, M.: 21st Century Skills and Competences for New Millennium Learners in OECD Countries. OECD Education Working Papers No. 41. OECD (2019).

  15. Council of the European Union. Council Recommendation of 22 May 2017 on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning and repealing the recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning, Official Journal of the European Union, (2017/C 189/03) (2017)

    Google Scholar 

  16. European Parliament and Council of the European Union. Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2008 on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning, Official Journal of the European Union, (2008/C 111/01) (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  17. Verhoef, P.C., Broekhuizen, T., Bart, Y., Bhattacharya, A., Dong, J.Q., Fabian, N., Haenlein, M.: Digital transformation: a multidisciplinary reflection and research agenda. J. Bus. Res. 122, 889–901 (2019)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references


The research is supported by the “CATCH 21st Century Skills for changing the approach to university teaching” project 2019-1-TR01-KA203-074482, Erasmus+, KA2; the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Research Science Fund project N80-10-18/18.03.2020 “Use of high-tech tools for development of competency models in training” and the National Scientific Program “Information and Communication Technologies in Science, Education and Security”, financed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pencho Mihnev .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this paper

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this paper

Mihnev, P., Antonova, A., Georgiev, A., Stefanov, K., Stefanova, E., Nikolova, N. (2021). Designing a Competence-Based Learning Course with Digital Tools in Higher Education. In: Rocha, Á., Adeli, H., Dzemyda, G., Moreira, F., Ramalho Correia, A.M. (eds) Trends and Applications in Information Systems and Technologies . WorldCIST 2021. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, vol 1367. Springer, Cham.

Download citation