More colleges and universities are adopting a competency-based learning approach to education, which lets students learn topics at their own pace. This learning method has several limitations. While competency-based education prepares students for their future careers, many of these courses don’t teach essential soft skills like communication and time management. Here’s why you should incorporate soft skills into your classroom-based and online learning programs.
What is Competency-Based Learning?
Competency-based education equips adult learners with the skills and knowledge they need to progress through their course. This learning method usually places a greater emphasis on academic theory instead of practical skills. Students often learn at their own pace — learning providers tailor courses to students’ individual requirements and skill sets.
“Competency-based learning is generally seen as an alternative to more traditional educational approaches in which students may or may not acquire proficiency in a given course or academic subject before they earn course credit, get promoted to the next grade level, or graduate,” says the Glossary of Education Reform . “For example, high school students typically earn academic credit by passing a course, but a passing grade may be an A or it may be a D, suggesting that the awarded credit is based on a spectrum of learning expectations — with some students learning more and others learning less — rather than on the same consistent standards being applied to all students equally.”
Why are Soft Skills So Important?
Many certification programs forgo soft skills for hard skills. Research, however, suggests that successful students should learn a combination of the two. Employers often seek out job applicants who possess soft skills like self-confidence, problem-solving and decision-making. These prospective employees have well-rounded skills and can easily adapt to the demands of a workplace.
One study shows that soft skills outweigh hard skills in entry-level job candidates. Ninety-eight percent of employers said they look for communication skills when they hire staff, while 97 percent seek applicants with a positive attitude . Employers also look for people who can adapt to change, work within a team and adopt a goal oriented approach to work. Another study reveals that communication is the most in-demand soft skill, followed by organization, teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking and social skills .
How Can Schools Incorporate Soft Skills Into Their Courses?
Learning providers should include soft skills in their lesson plans . Continuing education students can learn skills like teamwork and communication through workshops, seminars and virtual e-learning software. This could prove lucrative for learners: “A number of universities and research centers have examined the issue of soft skills vs hard skills,” says the American Society of Administrative Professionals. “They’ve concluded that more than 80 percent of job success comes from well-developed soft skills.” 
Learning providers might also want to teach soft skills in combination with business partnerships and internships. This on-the-job training equips learners with the skills they need for future employment.
Soft skills are just as important as hard skills. However, competency-based courses don’t always reflect this. Learning providers should incorporate soft skills into their programs to prepare students for the working world.