When higher education administrators speak about Comprehensive Learner Records (CLRs),
they often focus on the potential benefits upon graduation. Specifically, CLRs enable graduating students to better communicate the breadth and depth of their skills, abilities, and knowledge. With CLRs, students are no longer limited to the traditional
transcript showing only course names, dates, and professors. They have an authenticated way to communicate their experiences in internships, research, study abroad, and bootcamps, empowering graduates to present themselves more effectively
to potential employers.
By helping demonstrate learning outcomes and experiences, CLRs also help students and their families feel more confident about the ROI of their education.
But CLRs have another important potential benefit for students that also bears consideration. To wit: If students’ records articulated their learning outcomes, the students would have the ability to become more thoughtful about the endeavor of acquiring
knowledge and skills.
In higher ed today, undergraduates often think of their major requirements as “hoops” they have to jump through. They may not be aware of the thought and care that went into the definition of these requirements, or the way the
requirements help the student build a body of knowledge. This disconnect can lead students to feel a sense of ambivalence toward the courses they take, and in extreme circumstances, might even play a role in causing students to stop out or drop out.
By contrast, if students could understand the learning outcomes of their courses, and have a documentation of the skills, knowledge, and abilities they are developing, they might begin to view their degree plan in a new light. Their required courses would
no longer feel like an arbitrary list; instead, students could view their degree plan as a scaffolding to build toward desired outcomes. As students consider which courses to take and when, they would be able to weigh the potential benefits
and proactively address any gaps in their skills, knowledge, and abilities. They would have agency to map their path forward, as never before.
What does the CLR look like today?
So far there have been two grants, both funded by the Lumina Foundation, which enabled a handful of innovative universities to begin developing a format for a Comprehensive Learner Record. (Learn more about those projects here.) And while there is consensus on the value of this new approach to record-keeping, there is not yet consensus
on the specific design and data that should be included. Some universities have focused on certificating skills and experience developed through research and internships. Others have focused on documenting the knowledge gleaned by studying abroad.
There is also a related exploration of “badges” which can be earned through coursework or even through accelerated bootcamp type programs. This continues to be a fertile topic of debate and innovation.
What is the role of technology in empowering students to plan their degrees?
Because traditional degree planning platforms are primarily focused on degree requirements and course requirements, there is an opportunity for degree planning tools to evolve. It is interesting to explore how tools might provide more granular
metadata, and focus more explicitly on learning outcomes, and how that could make a real difference.