How can student records most accurately reflect student learning?--That’s the question driving a pilot 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 University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), featured below, is a metropolitan-serving institution, with a high percentage of commuter students.
The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) has developed an innovative “second transcript” that records students’ growth and learning beyond aptitude in their major. It’s called the Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR – pronounced stellar) and it aims to track, document and verify student learning across five of UCO’s Central Six Core Value Tenets.
The first five tenets include:
- Global and Cultural Competencies
- Health and Wellness
- Research, Creative and Scholarly Activities
- Service Learning and Civic Engagement
The sixth Tenet, Discipline Knowledge, is recorded in the traditional academic transcript.
STLR operationalizes an approach to holistic learning that evolved at UCO in the 1990s, when faculty and staff sought to describe and coordinate “Transformational Learning”—the kind of non-academic learning that “develops beyond-disciplinary skills and expands students’ perspectives of their relationships with self, others, community and environment.”
The Steps to STLRization: Planning & team-building
The path to STLR implementation began in February 2012, with the goal of developing an intentional roadmap of the tools, infrastructure, training, funding, and steps necessary to make STLR an integral part of student records.
“We wanted these tenets to be assessed, tracked, and measured institutionally as well as at an individual student outcome level,” said Jeff King, Executive Director of UCO’s Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching & Learning. “And we wanted to do it in a manner that students could share with employers, grad schools, and so on. Employers are demanding something that tells them about preparedness of new hires. The academic transcript is one piece, and STLR has given us a way to present a robust, validated credential that promises competency in these other key areas.”
Planning. The planning process involved solving technological issues, figuring out how to assess student affairs-based activities, getting faculty buy-in for classroom components, organizing faculty and staff training, and, of course, securing funding.
Communication. “The only way to pull it off is with incredible cross-campus collaboration and cabinet-level engagement,” King said. “The process has to be prioritized and there can’t be silos or turfism. Academic affairs, student affairs, information technology—it has to be an institution-wide initiative.” At UCO, multiple vice presidents sponsored the project, and, even now, moving into their third year of STLR, the campus-wide project team continues to meet every other week, and subgroups meet on alternate weeks.
Funding. “We were baby-stepping our way with internal funding, but then were fortunate to land a five-year Title 3 program grant shortly after we began the pilot in Fall 2014,” King said. “That meant we could ramp up the speed of implementation across campus. Then, with the Lumina funding, we’re trying to build a solution that enables employers to identify the best candidates based on transformative learning experiences as well as on curriculum learning.” By Fall 2015, STLR was in place for the entire incoming freshman class.
Assessment. “Students now have a mobile student dashboard on which they can track their own badging achievement in each of our tenets,” King said. “Those data are backed up by faculty and staff assessments of transformational learning-designed experiences, and those assessments are based on AAC&U VALUE rubrics, which we adapted and worked from in order to create rubrics associated with each tenet.” The mobile dashboard allows students to track both their progress in tenets and their classes, including upcoming assignments, test due dates, and messages/alerts from faculty.
The future of STLR: Scalable, adaptable, replicable
“At this stage, our rollout plan has us adding the incoming freshman class every year, and keeping the class before that in place, so that within three years, we’ll be completely STLRized across the campus,” King said.
Although Transformative Learning isn’t a graduation requirement, these learning experiences will happen for students as part of their regular coursework, once the program is fully rolled out.
“Eventually, each course will have at last one assignment associated with one or more tenets,” King said. “So even students who are less involved in student affairs, such as commuter students, will still have 42 or 43 engagements with assignments mindfully and intentionally designed to provide transformational experiences.”
Toward that end, UCO is currently developing Phase II of the student mobile app, which will allow students to see which central tenets are associated with which courses—all the way down to the section level.
“If, for example, a student knows she’s going to take English 1152, it could be that of the ten sections offered, two have faculty who have chosen to associate an assignment to the leadership tenet, four to global cultural competency, and so on,” King said. The tenet and the assignment to which it is associated are left up to the faculty.
“What we are eager to do is give students control of their own pathway through curricular and co-curricular development to get validated credentials that will help them in the future.”
The STLR system is platform-agnostic and designed for scalability and replicability—in fact, starting this fall, Collège La Cité in Ottawa is adapting the system for use on their campus.
Down the road, STLR promises to be an integral part of UCO graduates’ records.
“We have plans for this combined comprehensive student record to become the standard record with which students will graduate,” King said. “What we see as our charge, as one of the institutional members of the Lumina Project, is to have STLR become a part of the normal academic credential.”
For an update on the Lumina project, as well as to dig deeper into the technology behind these solutions, register for the 2016 AACRAO Technology and Transfer Conference, July 10-12 in Anaheim, California.
* The twelve institutions are as follows:
Borough of Manhattan Community College
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
LaGuardia Community College
University of Central Oklahoma
University of Houston-Downtown
University of Maryland University College
University of South Carolina
University of Wisconsin – Extension and Wisconsin Colleges