The Rural Tech Project supported the use of competency-based education and distance learning to advance technology education in rural communities. Learn more about these four foundational topics.

Competency-based education

Competency-based education (CBE), also called proficiency-based or mastery-based learning, is a system of instruction where a student must demonstrate mastery of a subject or concept to move forward in an educational pathway. In this teaching method, neither age nor seat time is a factor in determining progression.

Learn more: What is Competency-Based Education? (MIT Teaching Systems Lab). A short video overview of CBE and how it can be used in schools.

Go deeper: Levers and Logic Models: A Framework to Guide Research and Design of High-Quality Competency-Based Education Systems (Aurora Institute). Frameworks and design insights related to CBE implementation.

Apply it: The Journey Toward Mastery Learning (Mastery Transcript Consortium). An overview of the Mastery Transcript Consortium model, including steps for how to report student advancement using a mastery system.

Distance learning

Distance learning is a system in which students are educated with minimal, if any, in-person interaction between the content instructors and students. Distance learning can be delivered through a range of different models and is often conducted online.

Learn more: Distance Learning (Adult Career and Continuing Education Services, New York State Education Department). An introduction to distance learning, including a definition and requisites for effective delivery.

Go deeper: Digital Learning Strategies for Rural America: A scan of policy and practice in K–12 education (Evergreen Education Group). An exploration of how online distance learning (called digital learning in this report) can offer new opportunities to educators and learners in rural communities.

Apply it: Distance Learning Solutions (UNESCO). A curated list of platforms and resources, including learning management systems, mobile-friendly solutions, and psychosocial support tools.

Technology education

Technology education is instruction that teaches transferable technological skills students need to pursue a range of career opportunities. These careers include information technology career pathways as well as technology-related roles in other fields (such as Health Informatics).

Learn more: National Center for Women & Information Technology. A summary of why technology education is important and recommendations for how schools can incorporate it.

Go deeper: The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training (Pew Research Center). This report expands on the skills today’s learners will need to be work-ready as technology use increases across industries.

Apply it: Information Technology Career Cluster (Advance CTE). A framework covering the range of pathways and occupations within information technology.

Rural communities

Rural is broadly defined as a non-urban, non-suburban area. An area may be considered rural based on its population density, and/or distance from suburban or urban hubs.

Learn more: Rural Opportunity Map (Center on Rural Innovation). An interactive map to explore the many federal definitions of rural that apply to specific places.

Go deeper: Computer Science Learning: Closing the Gap (Google). A report on the state of rural technology education, including recommendations for rural communities.

Apply it: In These Rural Schools, the Computer Science Teachers Are Volunteers Who Work for Microsoft, Amazon and Google. That’s Opening Doors for Their Students (The 74). Case studies on partnerships between schools and large technology companies.


This website contains information and resources from public and private organizations that may be useful to the reader. Inclusion of this information does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or Luminary Labs of any products or services offered or views expressed. Resources provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation. Resources do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum, or pedagogy.

This website also contains hyperlinks and URLs created and maintained by outside organizations, which are provided for the reader’s convenience. ED and Luminary Labs are not responsible for the accuracy of the information contained therein.

See lessons learned and resources from the Rural Tech Project teams.

See lessons learned and resources from the Rural Tech Project teams.