How to Attack a Dinosaur and Survive: A Competency-Based Model

Once Upon a Cave

Since the very first “How to Attack a Dinosaur and Survive” workshop was held in a cave “B” at exactly as high noon, humankind had been trained to believe that learning was restricted to the class(or cave)room. That model however, only worked for the lucky few cave dwellers who signed up for the workshop, had the availability in their schedule, and who actually fit into the confined space.

Caveman Dinosaur

Proper training can literally be the difference between life and death.

Even way back then though, that system didn’t work for all cavemen and cavewomen. What about the learner who couldn’t make it to the cave because they camped a mile away? What about the learner who had a conflict in their hunting/gathering schedule. The point of this (made-up) story is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to an education. There clearly exists a need for mastery of content and concepts that are not structured around seat time and credit hour.

Technology and the Cave Dweller

Technology has played an instrumental role in the shifting of educational models that now include face-to-face, enhanced, flipped, and online learning. That’s just the beginning though. Today, learners access instruction both in and out of formal academic settings. If one doesn’t understand the material or the delivery of that material by their instructor, they simply Google or YouTube a crash course on the subject and master it over the weekend. Mastery can be achieved at any hour of the day, at any location, via multiple learning paths, and at the pace of any individual caveman or cavewoman. Additionally, anyone can sign up for self-paced open course from entities such as the Khan Academy, Coursera, or Udemy (just to name a few).

Moving Towards a Competency-Based Cave

At Green River College we provide an endless amount of trainings and workshops for faculty, staff, and students across the institution. Some of that training is mandatory and some of it is entirely based on learner interest. Traditionally, we provide these workshops in face-to-face settings…and in doing so, limit the amount of people who can attend them. What if we looked at training in different ways? What if we designed training options that delivered meaningful content, ensured defined competencies were met, and included the flexibility for learners to choose their own time and space for mastery? That’s what competency-based learning is all about.

Welcome Page

The landing page of the Personal Safety course.

We’ve only just begun to explore this learning model at Green River. In development currently are competency-based courses on subjects such as Personal Safety Against Violence, Participatory Governance, New Employee Onboarding, Workplace Ethics, and Non-Discrimination. Once launched, these course and others like them will drastically reduce the need to reschedule or duplicate workshops every single quarter.


Each module contains required and supplemental learning materials.

Each course will begin with clearly stated learning objectives, varied instructional materials, and assessments that ensure competency is mastered. Each module within the course requires successful completion of the previous module in order to advance. If a learner wants to complete a course in a single sitting or over the span of multiple weeks, it would be entirely up to them.


Upon completion of this course a digital badge is awarded to learners.

Again, we’ve only just begin to explore competency-based learning at Green River, but look forward to the many opportunities ahead. Beginning fall quarter, you should be hearing and seeing much more of these types of courses in action. Stay tuned!

Further Exploration


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