It’s Time to Build a Better Transcript

Higher Ed & Post Sec, Learning


That was my exact, immediate reaction (and subsequent tweet) when I opened the link to this great article — Making Transcripts More Than ‘a Record of Everything the Student Has Forgotten’– by Katherine Mangan in the Chronicle of HigherEd.

Mangan’s article highlights a growing chasm between the information institutions capture about students and the type of information useful to students and future employers. According the article, anecdotal evidence suggests that leading entrepreneurial businesses don’t even look at college transcripts, because the long list of cryptic course titles and credit hours don’t reveal what students actually learned.

The article cites Stanford University’s Thomas Black, registrar and associate vice provost for student affairs who refers to the current transcript as, “A record of everything the student has forgotten,” and asserts, “There’s a clamor, for something more meaningful.”

Mangan lays out some ideas:

“That ‘something’ is a form of extended transcript or digital portfolio that captures more of what students are learning both inside and outside the classroom. There could be links for study abroad and internships, robotics competitions and volunteer activities. An electronic portfolio could include examples of creative writing or artwork, or an engineering prototype a student developed. And at a time when everyone, it seems, is looking for evidence of ‘competencies,’ students could highlight the specific learning outcomes they gained in their courses.”

The article goes on to describe the work of institutions like Stanford and Elon Universities, as well as a Lumina-backed project for creating “more robust student records.” Stanford will open an office in the fall to support students in creating competency-based digital portfolios and has also created a prototype that draws from learning outcomes outlined by faculty members in more than 1,600 courses. See the full article to scroll through an example of the enhanced example from Elon Universities.

Hearing this progress in HigherEd feels really validating for the conversation happening simultaneously in K-12. For the past three years, we’ve been advocating for expanded student records and more robust learner profiles in K-12. Our Data Backpack blog series highlights the limitations of the current system and explores the potential of an expanded student record to better drive a personalized, competency-based education system while protecting student data privacy.

During this national conversation about what it means to be college- and career-ready, we need to continue pushing on legacy parts of the system (like transcripts, seat-time, etc) that are more about accounting than learning. Articles like Mangan’s leave me feeling really optimistic about a competency-based future.

This post is a part of a Student Data Backpack blog series in the upcoming “Getting Smart on Personalization and Privacy” Smart Bundle produced in partnership with the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Digital Learning Now initiative (@DigLearningNow) and the Data Quality Campaign (@EdDataCampaign). Join the conversation on Twitter using #EdData.

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