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Building 'Evidence of Learning' Structure Will Take Work and Better Software

Two new studies put out by a company that does higher education consulting propose a framework and offer a kind of buying guide for developing an environment that helps students optimize their educational paths to college and career success — including taking into account what has been learned outside of school. The model could form a planning structure to help institutions move away from the Carnegie unit as the primary measurement of student success. The work was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In "Evidence of Learning: The Case for an Integrated Competency Management System for Students, Higher Education and Employers" Tyton Partners offers a five-layer "evidence of learning" model. The idea of the framework is to help schools and students identify gaps and disconnects in their existing solutions. It takes into account five areas where schools need to pay attention:

  • Experience, the process of formal and informal learning, which requires the ability to capture evidence or credentials;
  • Validation, the act of assessing and recognizing experiences for academic credit or qualifications;
  • Assembly, the process of capturing and curating evidence of learning and creating insights based on experiences;
  • Promotion, the act of marketing evidence of learning outcomes and using mechanisms for matching candidates with potential opportunities; and
  • Alignment, the process of getting feedback to enhance and refine performance and capabilities, which can lead to new opportunities.

"The challenge for college and university leaders right now is there are many solutions serving the five segments of the...framework, without any established paths between them," said Adam Newman, co-founder and managing partner at Tyton Partners (previously named Education Growth Advisors). "The chief benefit of institutions' engagement around this issue will be a more transparent and aligned system enabling students' fulfillment of college and career goals."

A problem for colleges and universities, the reports' authors stated, is that the traditional credit hour wasn't originally intended to measure what a student learned; yet, that's what most schools accept toward graduation requirements. Other evidence, such as transcripts and resumes, are "one-dimensional snapshots" of a student's capabilities.

A better approach, according to the reports, would be to gather "a more holistic, dynamic and persistent view of an individual's educational background and experiences." That can be done through a number of software applications and services; however, the reports noted, while plenty of solutions exist, many of them don't integrate "with current institutional and employer processes and services, limiting their potential." These "misalignments" are particularly acute in the areas of learning outcomes, technology and workflow process integration.

The second study, "Evidence of Learning: Understanding the Supplier Ecosystem," examines seven market areas that make up the "ecosystem" for supporting evidence of learning. Those include:

  • Accreditation services, which are tied to evaluation of academic programs and the awarding of credits and financial aid;
  • Alternative education programs, which are often positioned as comparable to traditional coursework but aren't delivered by the same institutions; often these kinds of programs aren't eligible for Title IV funding;
  • Assessment services, which measure students' knowledge, understanding and experience;
  • Learning authentication services, the processes by which courses, experiences and modules are authenticated for delivery of credit and validation of learning;
  • Portfolio platforms, which capture evidence of learning and experience;
  • Student support and success networks, which deliver counseling and coaching services, frequently using analytics on social platforms to hook up students with potential mentors; and
  • Workforce alignment platforms, which offer job descriptions and required competencies and then map those to education pathways.

The same report also provides examples of solutions within each category and questions to consider as a school is evaluating potential software and services to address that given need.

This research, said Chris Curran, another co-founder and managing partner, "provides a jumping off point for anyone interested in taking a closer look at the supplier ecosystem. What is evident is that while individual solutions may have established traction in existing markets, companies and organizations face headwinds in large part because of the immense challenges they face integrating their offerings as well as serving the distinct, but connected, audiences of students, institutions and employers." What's needed he added, is to "take a more systemic understanding of the issues and foresight from companies to find and create strategic partnerships that stitch this distributed landscape together."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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