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What Your Next Transcript Might Look Like (and who is working on it)

I’ve already used this space to provide some context for the disruption that’s coming from recent developments in federal financial aid, code academies and the possible disruptions that (could) take place. Others outline the broader skills/bootcamps/credentialing landscape more succinctly, so I won’t focus time in this post on that topic– in summary, because it’s no longer a matter of if, but when these initiatives will begin to really take root; and we’re getting close. Why? Because Foundations, Universities, Think Tanks, and Startups are already sowing ground on the topic.

While the early conceptions of College Credit Recommendation Service facilitated by ACE (established in 1974) have aimed to “connect workplace learning with colleges and universities by helping students gain access to academic credit for formal training taken outside traditional degree programs,” a new  era of assessing, capturing, and translating learning seems to be  underway.

The Lumina Foundation (a University Innovation Alliance (UIA) Partner) have provided grant funding to American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (in the ballpark of ~$1.4M for this particular project, although  it feels like a few hundred million have been spread across the various projects I’ll reference in this post) in supporting a number of innovative Universities specifically on the topic of an alternative transcript (to include both “curricular and co-curricular” student learning outcomes). More broadly, Lumina has a defined strategic priority of grantees focused on “Alternative Credentialing”  that has (at least some) roots back to work in 2008 around Degree Qualifications Profiling, developing out a “set of reference points for what students should know and be able to do upon completion of associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees – in any field of study” (DQP).

Along with involvement in the UIA and alongside the Lumina Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (among a number of others) are working with EDUCAUSE to partner around exploring a set of Next Generation Learning Challenges along 2- and 4-year institutions to explore innovative competency-based learning models.

In short– once we understand and agree upon how we assess, we connect the dots around what data we collect, how it’s captured, and the way it’s displayed.

And some are actually already exploring.  IPASS (Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success) Grants have networks and connections across nearly all of these other groups, reflecting the effect that downwind, the technologies that track and measure progress, and the systems and infrastructure that support learning process that are skill and competency based, will require a different-in-kind approach.

Degreed is working on “Jailbreaking the Degree,” capturing learning across any number of points of interaction– MOOCs, online coursework, Podcasts, and Boot Campus (as a few) noting “there is no single path to expertise.” As an enterprise and “lifelong  learner” solution, it will force the hand of others to take action to continue to remain relevant.

And you might be thinking ‘yes, lot’s of people are talking,’ and ‘what does this have to do with my transcript?’ I’m confident that with Foundations planting seeds, Universities engaging, and ACE continuing to integrate the topic into conversations with Senior Academic Leaders (as recently as last month), we’re only getting started.  Industry continues to reflect that students aren’t entering the job market with the skills needed to be successful, and code academies (among numerous others), are trying to supplement the gaps to ensure that employees have both the opportunities and the preparation to explore new terrains as they appear.

While many Universities have taken a dive head first with establishing badges or other micro-credentials, others are betting on a human-centric design approach, and (alongside partners like Lumina and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), are engaging Design Thinking to explore the  problem, understand the challenges, and prototype solutions in a thoughtful, concerted way.  Very, very cool- higher education taking it’s own reflection, research, and innovative, iterative processing and trying new things- noting just how difficult it may feel.  Kathleen deLaski described it perfectly, noting that many university leaders were frustrated with “how to build the new plane while flying the old one,” but seeing several university leaders I work with in my higher education consulting practice pictured taking part in these activities further solidified my promise in our progress.

So while your transcript today reflects courses you checked off to earn a degree and the relative performance assessment given subjectively by your professor, someday in the (not so) distant future, it may be a living, breathing reflection of the knowledge, skills, and experienced gained throughout your experience along the way (globally across the institution), and assist in connecting the dots to engage a new industry or career (as a t-shaped professional, or otherwise).