Documenting and validating learning outside the classroom

September 20, 2016
  • Comprehensive Record
  • Comprehensive Learner Record
  • Comprehensive Student Record
A student looks on as an instructor demonstrates how to use a drill press.

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 (listed below)* – 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. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), once a largely commuter campus, has evolved over the last few years into a residential campus, serving straight-out-of-high school students and transfer students from local community colleges—many of whom are from underrepresented groups or first-generation students.  As a large, urban institution, civic engagement and community outreach have been hallmarks of the University.  


IUPUI was an early adopter of assessment for improvement and accountability and has long-standing national reputation for effective assessment of classroom learning. Recently, the University was named as one of three universities nationally recognized in the inaugural class of Sustained Excellence in Assessment designees by the Voluntary System of Accountability of land-grant colleges. The award reflects sustained, integrated, achievement of campus level assessment over an extended period of time. 

IUPUI developed Six Principles of Undergraduate Learning almost 20 years ago. These Principles have guided the development of learning outcomes that are aligned between course, program, and university levels. The Office of Student Affairs later adopted these six principles and added two more (†) to establish Eight Principles of Co-Curricular Learning (PCLs).

  • Core Communication
  • Understanding Society and Culture
  • Critical Thinking
  • Values and Ethics
  • Integration of Knowledge
  • Depth/Breadth/Adaptiveness
  • Intrapersonal development†
  • Interpersonal Development†

IUPUI Student Experience and Achievement Record

To encourage student reflection about their learning and to document and validate their out-of-classroom learning, IUPUI is developing a signature Student Experience and Achievement Record (Achievement Record). The record, developed with the assistance of AACRAO and NAPSA and supported by a Lumina Grant, has employed the framework of the eight PCLs to assess student learning and achievement outside of the classroom —such as leadership opportunities, internships, study abroad, community engagement, service ventures, and research. 

The Achievement Record is being developed in partnership between Student Records and Student Affairs.  The Achievement Record will be available for students who are intensively involved in selected co-curricular learning experiences. Many universities have designed co-curricular transcripts that record student participation in experiences. What makes IUPUI’s Achievement Record unique is that, to be included on the record, the student must engage in thoughtful reflection and demonstrate how her/his learning aligns with the Principles of Co-Curricular Learning and integrates with the student’s classroom learning. Assessment of the learning is based on well-defined rubrics for each experience.  This achievement is then recorded by the Registrar and included on the Achievement Record. 

“Employer feedback has made it clear that students struggle with how to articulate their overall learning,” said Mary Beth Myers, IUPUI Registrar. “While students may realize that their co-curricular experiences are valuable, they can’t always articulate how those broad experiences and the associated learning relate to their classes, major, and degree.  Our goal with the Achievement Record is to capture this learning that occurs outside of the classroom in a way that gives definition and specificity for the students themselves, potential employers, and graduate schools.  By providing this verified student Achievement Record, a tool will be available to help students mentally map and explain their overall learning, ultimately making them more self-aware and more competitive in the labor market.”

The specs: Six Achievement Categories

In early 2016, a Comprehensive Student Record Taskforce was established at IUPUI charged with developing a governance structure for the inclusion of experiences on the record, verification of student learning, an overall business process, and defining a format for the new IUPUI record.  As a result of this activity, it was decided that the Achievement Record would focus on six broad categories of learning:  • Diversity • Research • Internship • Service • Global Engagement • Leadership.  

The taskforce mandated that the following criteria must be documented:   

  1. Students must engage in critical analysis (e.g., guided reflection) linking examination of the experience to learning objectives, professional and personal development, and the Principles of Co-Curricular Learning (PCLs).
  2. Evaluation of reflections, in conversation with the student, should lead to further intellectual discussion and further reflection on personal growth, academic and professional development, PCLs, concepts of civic engagement and responsibility. 
  3. A clear assessment plan must be outlined reflecting both student learning as well as the effectiveness of the actual experience in relation to experiential learning and community outcomes.
  4. The assessment plan must demonstrate student learning in relation to the experience as a whole, the relevant PCLs, and personal growth in relation to civic engagement and responsibility.

In the pilot phase of the project, Fall 2016, approximately 400 students who are currently engaged in learning activities with the Center for Service and Learning, Center for Research and Learning, Career Center- Internships, Study Abroad and a Multi-Cultural Leadership Program will be assessed.  Achievements are reported either in terms of semesters or hours, depending on which makes the most sense for the experience. Once each individual student assessment is complete, the designated assessors who have been working with that particular student will submit a request through a workflow process.  The Registrar will complete the final review and the Achievement Record will be updated. 

Graphic Design

Although the graphic design of the achievement record has not yet been finalized, the two-page document will include the following elements:

  • General information:  Purpose of the record, student information, and the university logo. 
  • Summary of the major achievement categories (Diversity, Internship, etc.) with information about the number of achievement hours or semesters within each category
  • A timeline and title of each achievement
    • [i.e.: 2014 – Sam H Jones Community Service Scholar, Alternative Break Trip Leader (Spring); IU Simon Cancer Research (Fall); 2015 -Habitat for Humanity (Spring); Honors Research (Spring) and so on.]
  • Summary of which Principle of Co-Curricular Learning was addressed by each experience (i.e. Values and Ethics (10), Core Communication (4), etc.)
  • Infographic on the back side of the document will provide additional detail about each experience (i.e. Information Technology Intern, MISO, Carmel, IN, 560 hours, etc.).

“We’re striving to make the record graphically appealing, user-friendly, easy-to-read, and portable” Myers said. “Also, while IUPUI is leading this effort, we are working with our central IU colleagues to develop the record so that it may be adopted and used by any Indiana University campus.”

Marketing plan

“Once we have the graphic design and can share it, we have big plans for communicating it across campus,” Myers said. “IUPUI freshmen are organized into learning communities where they share classes, and those communities will be targeted for messaging about the new record. In addition, each class cohort has a highly-trafficked Facebook group (i.e. “IUPUI 2021”), where information about the Achievement Record will be shared. There are plans for continuous on-campus presentations, such as with the Campus Advising Council and Indianapolis Faculty Council.  We also have a meeting coming up with the IU Communications folks to get a better handle on how to roll this out more broadly to external audiences when the time is right.”

“We’re excited about this project.  It has brought together a broad range of University stakeholders who are genuinely invested in finding innovative new ways to support student success.   With the Achievement Record, we now have a unique way to paint a more complete picture of student learning!”    

* 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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