Articles

The Registrar’s Contribution to Student Success – Competency Based Records

J. James Wager, Consultant & Education Strategist

October 13, 2016

The two long-standing credentials provided by the Registrar’s Office have been the academic transcript and the diploma.  These documents continue to be important documents to the student and others, but times are changing.

Competency-based education (or learning) is a contemporary topic that has taken shape at a growing number of schools across the country.  In contrast to the traditional teaching and learning model where abstract learning is measured by broad-based testing of many topics within a course, competency-based learning focuses on the student’s mastery of more granular, specific objectives.  These objectives are rolled-up to represent learning goals.

The school’s adoption of competency-based education presents new transcript-related challenges for the registrar.  On many campuses, the installed student information system was not designed to support learning goals or objectives and therefore is incapable of providing the support services to track competency data.  This system inadequacy requires the registrar to adopt alternate technologies to produce a competency-based transcript.  The registrar’s task is further complicated due to the absence of agreed-upon national standards and definitions for competency-based learning.

Both policy and practitioner experts have engaged to better address the needs of providing these required national standards.   The Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC) has engaged in the credentialing of competency-based education through the development of a proposed new data standard intended to support credentialing and experiential learning records and to enhance data exchange mobility.   This proposed common credential for certificates and degrees will advance the limitations typically associated with the academic transcript.  While this standard does not propose to replace the traditional transcript, emerging demands in the labor and workforce sectors require new methods to verify a broader range of student credentials. Other organizations such as AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers), NASPA (Student Affairs Administration Officers in Higher Education) and a number of high profile institutions, with funding provided by the Lumina Foundation, are also working together to provide innovation in records management. 

Not all learning takes place in the classroom.  A student e-portfolio presents a collection of academic achievements developed across multiple educational environments over time.  E-portfolio software allows the student to easily organize, archive, and display an electronic collection of content elements (typically referred to as artifacts), that often include media and active links.  These artifacts may be verified by external authorities or self-reported by the student.

E-portfolio software allows students to share their artifacts with friends, colleagues, teachers and prospective employers.  The student may implement controls to restrict access to appropriate artifacts to designated recipients.  E-portfolio software is also being utilized to integrate course assignments with learning outcomes and academic standards.  There is a strong belief on the part of many universities that an academic e-portfolio provides a more vibrant source of information to admission officers, registrars, graduate programs, and employers.

PESC has recently completed the public comment period and is in the early stage of releasing a new standard for the academic e-portfolio. 

As I said earlier in this series, student success is the responsibility of everyone on campus.  In making that claim, it becomes imperative that the possible absence of a specific responsibility center does not inappropriately translate to student success being “nobody’s responsibility.”  The registrar has a critical role to play in assisting students attain their academic goals through the various support services delivered through the Registrar’s Office.  Administrative responsibilities and organizational structures may vary from school-to-school, but the Registrar’s responsibilities include critical functions that directly contribute the student success.

In the next article, I will examine the value of the academic transcript compared to other credentials.

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