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Learning Impact Blog

IMS Global CEO Rob AbelRob Abel, Ed.D. | February 2020

Equity, Agency, and Mastery: Shaping the Future of Student Success

"Talk about a dream. Try to make it real." —Bruce Springsteen

Many of you, the leaders in the IMS community, are making digital transformation happen in education every single day. Never mind that education as a sector is still trying to define digital transformation—there is no doubt that it is happening. The work of IMS is playing a big role, and in many instances, at the forefront of those changes. My sincere hope is that we see the "big picture" in terms of leveraging transformation toward strategic goals, rather than transformation happening "to us" by the sheer magnitude of the acceleration of tech in all aspects of life. I'm sure it's a combination of both. But when I ask education leaders the goal of digital transformation, I almost always get the same answer: student success.

Data from many decades of experience tells us that indeed there is a strong correlation to the percent of the population that has completed post-secondary education to personal prosperity. In the U.S., the recently released report on Lumina Foundation's A Stronger Nation provides an impressively detailed accounting by state and metropolitan area. The U.S. increased from 37.9% post-secondary attainment in 2008 to 48.4% in 2018. 

Tuning up the current pathways and pipelines is always a good thing. But, when we apply yesterday's data and metrics to the future, they are often inadequate in terms of helping us create the future we seek. When students graduate, they get something called a transcript. This should provide useful information to all stakeholders in the education system, and most importantly, to the student in terms of their pathway in life. Does the transcript provide this? At the recent IMS Summit on Digital Credentials, we heard directly from leading university registrars that the transcript is largely a "celebratory document"—rather than a useful purveyor of information. If student success is graduation, then it seems to make sense that the information provided on the transcript should be more helpful in capturing the uniqueness of both the student and the educational experience. 

This is a different kind of thinking about the goals of education. It is about education becoming the incubator of talents resulting in workforce diversity, rather than a competition and sorting mechanism. It's about uniqueness versus sameness.

Our goal in IMS is to develop the leadership to make this purposeful transformation, from right down in the technology trenches, to C-level individuals. As a community, we see where this is going, and we address key leverage points in the connective tissue of the educational ecosystem. By defining and enabling what the ecosystem can support, we are laying the groundwork for purposeful transformation. 

Equity, agency, and mastery. Three simple words that, to me, define where the industrial age education needs to go. These are not my words.  These are your words. The members of IMS, I believe, are the leaders in the transformation that is already beginning in some quarters and will continue to gain. Through countless meetings and conversations, you have convinced me that there is no other place to go. This is the dream that we in education are pointing toward.

Please join me as I facilitate the keynote discussion at Learning Impact 2020 in Denver, starting at 3:00 PM on Monday, May 18, 2020. We are featuring our friend Yong Zhao and an all-star panel to discuss: Defining the Next Generation of Student Success: Equity, Agency, and Mastery in a Complex World.

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