One community college’s exemplary co-curricular transcript

How can student records most accurately reflect student learning?--That’s the question driving the pilot Comprehensive Student Records (CSR) project funded by a grant from Lumina Foundation and spearheaded by AACRAO and NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education.

The project is focused on developing comprehensive student records that document evidence of student learning and achievement beyond traditional course names, credits, and grades. The current project includes twelve higher education institutions* – two- and four-year, public and private – that are already developing records that display learning outcomes, use competency-based education approaches to education and/or document co-curricular experiences.

AACRAO is publishing a series of institutional profiles about each model record, the campus-wide collaboration required to enact change, and the goals each model is designed to achieve. Each of the institutions involved in the pilot project serves a different student population. The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), featured below, is located in New York City and serves over 26,000 degree-seeking students, many of whom transfer to City University of New York (CUNY) four-year colleges, and 11,000 continuing education students. BMCC is part of The City University of New York.

 

In an effort to encourage students to spend more time on campus, the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) has undertaken a new record-keeping system to acknowledge student participation in learning that takes place outside of the classroom.

“We looked at the typical 15 hour-per-week model, combined with study and sleep time, and found we had over 1000 remaining hours we could use to encourage students to participate in the life of the college,” said Marva Craig, BMCC Vice President for Student Affairs. “That’s how we got started documenting participation beyond the classroom.”

A complementary record

BMCC decided to keep the co-curricular transcript (CCT) in Student Affairs, as a complement to the academic transcript, not an extension of it. The official transcript is validated by the Division of Student Affairs and bears the BMCC seal.

According to the college’s website, “When coupled with the academic transcript, a holistic representation of the student’s total education, both inside and outside of the classroom, will be created.”

Six categories on the CCT

The project began in 2009, with discussion groups including faculty, staff, students and the President’s Cabinet. The pilot program launched in 2010, and has since been honed based on feedback from these groups.

Currently, the CCT centers on the following six categories:

  • Athletics: Participation, honors, or distinctions as a member of a BMCC sponsored intercollegiate athletic team.
  • Clubs and Organizations: On-going participation as a general member or executive board member in a BMCC recognized club or organization.
  • Community Service:  Participation as a volunteer for a BMCC department, a BMCC recognized event, or a BMCC recognized community service placement and project.
  • Honors and Awards: Recipient of an honor, award, or scholarship recognized by BMCC.
  • Leadership Training: Participation in leadership activities recognized by BMCC or the City University of New York (CUNY).
  • Workshops and Seminars: Attendance at a workshop or seminar that is recognized by BMCC.

To be included on the CCT, a faculty or staff member offering the workshop or sponsoring the club, for example, submits an application for consideration. The application consists of details, learning outcomes, how the activity is marketed and to what audience. The co-curricular committee, consisting of personnel from Student Activities, Career Advising, Academic Advising, faculty and students, then reviews the documents to determine whether an activity counts as a co-curricular experience. Nothing that goes on an academic transcript can be included on the CCT.

Any activity deemed co-curricular can then use the CCT icon in marketing, which lets students know that documented participation in the activity will earn them an entry on their CCT. Currently, students must manually submit their own activity—it is not automatically entered—and the submission is reviewed and approved or denied by Student Affairs.

“That’s one of the challenges right now,” said Melissa Aponte, Assistant Director of Student Activities. “Unlike the academic transcript, which is automatically entered for the student, the student has to do that themselves—and sometimes it’s entered wrong and we have to correct it. Our goal with the Lumina Project, in addition to adding competencies, is to have an automatic co-curricular transcript process where students no longer have to enter their own activity.”

Expanding to include competencies

Thanks to funding from the Lumina Project, BMCC is looking at ways to expand the CCT beyond documenting participation, and getting more granular about the skills being developed in these environments.

“For example, if a student is the president of a club, what kind of competencies and skills are they learning? How can we assess that?” Aponte said. “With this project, we now want to include competencies, so when a potential employer or scholarship committee or four-year institution reviews the CCT for transfers, they’re not just seeing involvement but also seeing what they’re learning outside the classroom.”

In order to do that, BMCC’s Information Technology department has been working on building a homegrown system that will include competencies related to the co-curricular activities. This system could eventually replace the vendor system that BMCC has been using thus far, but which does not allow the kind of flexibility they need.

Showcasing student skills: A success story

“Because we’re a community college, it’s similar to the high school experience—students need to showcase that they’re well-rounded,” said Craig. “Instead of using the SAT, they’re using a college transcript. But they need to show that they’re not only great students in the classroom, they’re also active on campus and an excellent member of the community even though they’re from a ‘commuter school.’”

In addition to helping students transfer, the CCT can also support students looking for jobs.

“We can document leadership and internships on the co-curricular transcript,” Craig said. “That’s one of the things that employers look for.”

“And the CCT can be a great way for students to articulate what they’ve accomplished,” Aponte added. “When they go on an interview or apply for scholarships, it’s a good tool for helping them give a holistic view of what they did while they were here—to create a narrative of their college experience.”

For example, Craig recently talked with a student applying to Cornell University. She had an interview and didn’t know what to tell them about herself.

“She has a 4.0 GPA but it doesn’t mean she’ll get in or get a scholarship,” Craig said. “We talked about the co-curricular transcript and how it gave her a ‘cheat sheet’ to talk about her skills and experience—all of these things about herself she didn’t know how to talk about. She called back the next day to say her interview went so well! She got a significant scholarship toward her tuition.”

Click the link below to view an example CCT.

 

* The twelve institutions are as follows:

Borough of Manhattan Community College

Brandman University

Dillard University

Elon University

Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

LaGuardia Community College

Stanford University

University of Central Oklahoma

University of Houston-Downtown

University of Maryland University College

University of South Carolina

University of Wisconsin – Extension and Wisconsin Colleges

 

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