Academic Innovations

Northern Essex is a driver of innovation in higher education in the Merrimack Valley. We were the first public higher education institution in Massachusetts to be approved to offer course-based, competency-based education. Competency-based education (CBE) makes it easier for adults with already well-developed skills to earn a credential.

For information on the CBE courses we offer, visit our public page.

From 2016 – 2020, NECC led a consortium of early childhood education faculty to develop competency-based pathways that would have the potential to decrease time to a degree for early childhood educators. This work was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s (DHE) Higher Education Innovation Fund. Year 4 of the grant also included a component to explore innovations in education and training for allied health careers.

Resources and products that were created through these projects include:

  • Adaptation of 21 existing NECC courses for CBE delivery
  • Numerous workshops on competency-based education, accreditation, co-requisite and accelerated models of developmental education, and open educational resources (OER)
  • Introduction to Accreditation for Competency-Based Postsecondary Education – an online workshop on the basics of accreditation of CBE in higher education
  • Review of EarlyEdu Alliance courses
  • Creation of a set of common ECE program outcomes and common course outcomes for 4 of the 5 MassTransfer Pathway foundational courses. These outcomes were aligned and documented with the assistance of our partner Volta Learning Group.
    Mass community college ECE program and course outcomes report
  • Creation of noncredit, competency-based Child Development Associate (CDA) modules
  • Creating More “Pockets of Good”: Fostering Innovation in Post-Pandemic Healthcare Education An Innovation Playbook – created by our partner Volta Learning Group


For more information, contact Dean of Academic Innovations & Professional Development Marcy Yeager.