Learning Impact Blog
Rob Abel, Ed.D. | February 2019
In a recent annual review of 2018, from a leading technology industry analyst group specializing in education, there was a summary chart of the “Technology Platform Arms Race” focused on the consumer technology sector.
One of the topics that's always on my mind is, “Does IMS have the best possible model for accelerating and sustaining innovation in educational technology?”
It’s a question whose answer needs to evolve in concert with all the larger goals of the education sector, which are far from resolved despite decades of discussion regarding “education reform.” But we also need to evolve a stable foundation for the future regardless of the current mantra.
IMS is an organization of leaders that are willing to work together to create and shape the future. We’ve become really good at “standards” because this is such a fundamentally missing piece to effective collaboration and return on investment for all stakeholders. The challenge to us as education sector stakeholders is whether we can get beyond the normal reactionary focus on the many shiny objects that are the trees.
The “forest” to me is the goal of enabling institutional leaders to enable what I think of as “Achievement with Distinction.” My own personal opinion is that we are clearly at the beginning of a macro trend that will evolve educational systems from emphasizing “sorting/ranking” to emphasizing “talent development.” I don’t know how long this transition will take—probably at least a couple of decades. But I really don’t see any other direction for education to go to address the inequity, personalization and societal needs that are very clear as we sit here today.
From a technological perspective, the IMS Global view is that it is the full range of education sector stakeholders that “owns” the evolution of the forest, i.e. the educational technology ecosystem. However, much of the tech world is instead caught up in a platform arms race in which each platform, with their own ecosystem of partners, are the combatants. In this world, the customer gets to make stark choices about which ecosystem to go with and get locked in to. “Standards” in this world are more about enabling a marketplace with walled gardens and “winner takes all” dynamics.
This is not the kind of arms/ecosystem race that we need in the education sector. Best put by one of IMS’s institutional leaders: “It’s the vendor’s job to fit into our ecosystem and not the other way around.” The obvious corollary from this is that a critical mass of cooperating organizations can set the tone for the forest, shaping both it and the trees.
This is what IMS Global Learning Consortium is all about—creating an effective collaboration and investment vehicle that focuses on enabling and accelerating innovation across a very diverse educational sector. It is “our ecosystem” and we are the ones stepping up to shape it for the educational needs of today and the future. In this ecosystem, we are enabling a marketplace where opportunity is created for products that work well with many other products in order to enable the innovative teaching and learning that educational leaders seek. As we enter 2019 let us all recommit our leadership to this very simple but powerful idea.
To help us achieve this focus, IMS is re-orienting the evaluation criteria for the annual Learning Impact Awards competition to a simpler set lf "forest" shaping criteria, namely impact on personalization, impact on institutional performance and impact on ecosystem development.
Nominations are now open. Finalists will be featured at our annual Learning Impact Leadership Institute May 20-23 in San Diego.
FRAMEWORK FOR EXTENDED TRANSCRIPTS: PILOT IMPLEMENTATION & RESULTS (APRIL 2017)
Authors: Joellen Evernham Shendy, Associate Vice Provost & Registrar, University of Maryland University College, and Insiya Bream, Assistant Vice Provost, Registrar Strategic Operations, University of Maryland University College
At University of Maryland University College (UMUC), a New Learning Model project is underway that focuses on building a student’s competencies over time through project-based learning—providing closer connections between the learning and expectations of employers in the field. In the fall of 2016, five of UMUC's Graduate School programs, including the Master of Business Administration and some Cybersecurity programs, implemented the new learning model. As part of innovating and developing a new learning model, UMUC realized that the documentation and evidence given to students regarding their learning would need to change as well. Telling a student story, via a new learning model, requires retooling in order to share the story effectively. For years institutions have heard from employers and others that the universally issued student transcript does a poor job of conveying what a student knows and can do, and is insufficient in providing evidence that helps an employer and others determine skills, competencies, and potential fit for an organization.
UMUC was one institution among 12 that received grant funding provided by the Lumina Foundation through the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Comprehensive Student Records Project. The project focused on piloting new comprehensive record models that display a student's educational and/or experiential background. These records would be in addition to, and not a replacement for, the original official transcript. The goal of the project was to identify models that could then be adopted by more schools—all helping to share the students' story in new and creative ways that speak to a more holistic view of who the student is and what they know. The launch of UMUC’s new learning model and the start of IMS Global’s Extended Transcript (eT) pilot were aligned and provided a natural segment of students that could give feedback on the first iteration of the Extended Transcript (eT) achievements record standard.
How We Did It
UMUC worked closely with Learning Objects through IMS Global’s CBE and Extended Transcript Workgroup, a part of the IMS Global Digital Credentials and Badges portfolio, to establish the initial data model that will allow institutions to manage and exchange competency and achievement data between systems, and ultimately, publish this data in an extended transcript achievements record store—for consumption by an employer, student, or other educational institution or organization. Through multiple iterations, Learning Objects, IMS Global members and staff, and UMUC’s IT team worked together to pull and display student competency data from the D2L learning management system (LMS). Learning Objects was able to digitally represent the competencies in a user interface (UI) that had a more modern look and feel, allowing the student to see, and interact with, evidence of their mastered learning.
Watch Learning Objects lightning talk from the 2016 Learning Impact Leadership Institute.
An overarching goal of the eT pilot was to solicit student feedback on the concept of an eT achievements record and their initial impressions of the utility of an extended transcript. Through the pilot, we were hoping to discover specifics on the following:
- What did students think of the virtual document itself?
- Did students find the content useful?
- How would students use the information?
- Did they understand the purpose?
- How could a digital document like this help carry them towards their next professional goal?
Over the past five months, UMUC’s eT pilot students were able to access an eT achievements record displaying mastered competencies through an icon link in their D2L classroom. Through a "soft rollout," the link was activated and a week later students were notified via email of the pilot. The email included information on the overall purpose and asked them for their feedback via a survey by a link on the eT itself and in an email. One of the survey questions included whether or not the student would be willing to participate in a focus group in early spring 2017 to provide more detailed feedback on the eT. A “help” icon on the eT itself explained what UMUC hoped to achieve and learn through the pilot. The internal marketing team supplemented the email and eT with a web page that included general pilot information and an FAQ for the wider campus community. Out of approximately 2,000 pilot students that had access to the eT, over 800 students accessed the document.
What do Students Think of the eT Achievements Record?!
UMUC students responded throughout the pilot period to the survey, sharing their thoughts and recommendations. The majority of survey respondents made it clear that they liked the graphical look and feel of the eT. Working with a third-party vendor, Learning Objects, allowed UMUC to help create the design and feel of the eT by utilizing a variety of input from various University stakeholders and by modifying the document until we were satisfied with the appearance and ease of use for students. Leveraging Learning Objects' technology brought a 21st Century user experience for students to the eT achievements record.
Survey results showed that over 70% of respondents found the eT content useful. Students noted that they could use the information on the eT for resume writing to explain or communicate their competencies and achievements in the academic program. Students felt they would share this mostly with future employers, but also with other admissions offices, their current employers, family, and friends. We asked survey respondents if they recommend we open this up to the larger UMUC community and the answer was an overwhelming YES.
UMUC also conducted a focus group to drill down into some of the survey questions to get additional information to help inform the next iteration of the eT. In general, the focus group students were positive about the eT and 84% recommended UMUC implement an eT-type achievement record for all students. They shared additional details about the appearance and content of the eT. Students felt that the eT would give them more confidence when pursuing job opportunities—helping them to articulate with clarity and confidence their competencies. Several students remarked that their own understanding of their achievements was influenced by the content they viewed in the eT record.
The team of academic and technology colleagues working through IMS Global have been integral to the success of this effort.
"We extend hearty congratulations to UMUC for this critical first step connecting their students to employers through digital credentials. The Extended Transcript Achievements Record forms the foundation of an institution’s digital credentials strategy. UMUC and their peer leaders Capella University and the University of Wisconsin-Extension are paving the way to tomorrow’s marketplace of verified credentials."
—Mark Leuba, vice president,product management, IMS Global Learning Consortium
What areas of improvement did the students identify for the next version of the eT? Although most students did not feel the digital document was too lengthy, some felt the length would cause employers to gloss over the information. One idea shared was to allow students to curate and create their own “view” of the achievements record that was specific to a particular employer, organization, or industry. This would allow them to share a portion of, but not the entire, eT and highlight accomplishments most relevant to the students’ goal(s). Focus group participants noted that it would be interesting to see the competencies organized from an industry or sector perspective and to break down the “level” of competence based on position requirements such as entry level, middle, or C-Suite management. There was also a student desire for the opportunity to contribute to the document by way of adding their own supporting content, providing them an option to make adjustments for their unique situation.
Overall, the feedback collected through the survey showed that students understood the eT achievements record and would use it in multiple ways to reach their goals. While the respondents felt understanding their own accomplishments and articulating them were a huge benefit, they did feel most strongly that the connection with employers was critical. One particular comment from the survey highlights why we need to continue to build these bridges, via new ways to evidence learning, between institutions and the workplace:
“The document is a great reminder of what a graduate is capable of doing. Instead of saying I walked away from college with an x.xx GPA, I can say explicitly, this is what I am capable of doing; these efforts gained me these competencies.”
Future State of the Extended Transcript
UMUC successfully closed the pilot at the conclusion of the winter 2017 term. Our next steps are to leverage the work we are doing as an initial contributor to Credential Engine with adding our program competencies to the nationwide registry. This will provide additional linking and connection opportunities. UMUC is also working towards finding better ways to “match” a student's competencies with employer needs by continuing to work with innovative and dedicated colleagues through IMS Global in their digital credentials and badges program. As far as a next version of the extended transcript achievements record, we look forward to incorporating our students feedback and reaching out to the employer and recruiting community to build closer ties and feedback loops, ensuring our students will be armed with 21st Century digital evidence of their learning which presents a more holistic picture of their fit to organizational needs.
For more details on the next phase of the Extended Transcript, see Achievements Records Standard and SkillsCenter Search™