Are we any closer to a student record that truly serves the modern learner? If we are, exhibit A might be the Extended Transcript (eT) being developed by the IMS Global Learning Consortium.
This standard lays out an ambitious vision of a next-generation learning record. Web-based and flexible, portable and verifiable, the eT is meant to support a student-centric narrative that combines all facets of the learning experience, from traditional courses and degrees to competencies, credentials, experiential activities, and employer-valued skills.
But a standard is just a blueprint. To assess its validity, a version has to be built and then used, by real live stakeholders.
Toward that end, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) launched an eT pilot in 2016, creating a user interface where graduate students in a variety of competency-based programs could view their overall progress. You can explore an eT from this pilot—as well as other eT examples—in the IMS eT Viewer.
What’s on display in this viewer is impressive, proof that institutions are trying to free themselves from the shackles of their LMS and SIS solutions.
Still, a person looking at these eT samples might be…well, underwhelmed. They’re clean, simple, easy to navigate and understand. But in the words of legendary chanteuse Peggy Lee… Is That All There Is?
To be fair, the goal of the UMUC pilot was not to replace the official transcript but add to it, as well as to gather student feedback, which was decidedly positive. And the eT is arguably more about being universal—it is, after all, from the folks who brought us LTI—than comprehensive.
But the lament from Peggy Lee still lingers. There’s a lot here…and a lot missing.
Let’s consider what you can see, as a student, viewing the UMUC eT:
We’re looking at a program-level view of mastery. It provides taxonomy—a hierarchy of program competencies and sub-competencies—as well as student work (evidence) and key data (properties) such as results and completion dates.
A more granular, complex eT has been contributed by Capella University:
This eT adds several elements to the program taxonomy—competencies are organized by course, and the courses can also include assessments with student work (artifacts).
Not bad at all. So what’s missing? Put simply, a student still doesn’t see the big picture:
– UMUC shows program-level progress, but not the context of courses and assignments
– Capella includes that context, but traps mastery progress within the course
– Neither eT shows a clear path from assessed tasks to targeted competencies, and neither measures progress for a specific competency over time
An intended beneficiary of the eT, besides the learner, is the potential employer. In fact, the whole point of the eT is to provide the student with a fully realized story that leads to a job and a career. So shouldn’t it invoke the “show don’t tell” maxim behind all engaging narratives?
“Tell” is the traditional academic transcript, a one-dimensional scorecard. “Show” is…evidence, artifacts? Certainly. But if employers are to draw their own (favorable) conclusions, don’t they need more context than a competency statement and a file?
At this point, you probably suspect what’s coming. Motivis offers a learning platform that supports a variety of forward-thinking pedagogical models. Do we have a better solution?
Now that you mention it…sure. In our humble opinion, we do.
Here’s how our platform provides a record of student progress:
– Students see mastery progress for competencies that extend across courses and terms
– They see the breakdown and progress of related sub-competencies (above)
– They can drill into a sub-competency’s related courses, terms, and assessments (below)
You could argue Motivis enjoys a key advantage. Starting with a clean sheet of paper, our team designed a platform that avoids the ironclad silos of course, term, and gradebook found in most LMS solutions.
The majority of institutions don’t have this luxury, and they work hard to innovate within their existing technologies. IMS gets this and has created a standard that can be used by all.
But what if the virtue of the extended transcript is also its flaw? The very name describes the problem: through compromise and conciliation, the eT props up an outdated mechanism that really ought to be torn down and redesigned from the ground up.
At Motivis, we readily admit to having a long way to go: we’re still providing a record that is more useful to the institution than to the student or potential employers. We need to better integrate and align what students create with what they achieve.
Hey, we’ll keep working on it. What else can you do?
In that spirit, we applaud the hard work behind the eT viewer, which represents important, pioneering efforts from institutions dedicated to furthering the cause. Let’s also be mindful that the eT is a standard, not a product, and it seeks to accommodate a wide variety of platforms and approaches. And, these eT samples are first-iteration attempts to forge ahead.
Hopefully, the first round of eT only hints at the potential yet to be realized.
Because we all—educators and providers—need to do better.
In developing the extended transcript, IMS seems to have focused on solving data problems. This is understandable—after all, data is the currency that underpins all student transcripts. But should the student-centric record of the future really be defined by how it handles data from systems that a student doesn’t care about?
We need a transcript that tells the full story of each student’s unique learning experience, from choices made to hard-won insights and achievements of every kind. We need a transcript that never prompts its audience to say…is that all there is?