Improving the recognition of learning | Beyond transfer

Higher education interest in micro-certificates, digital badges and other alternative credentials is growing, with approximately 58% of properties plan to offer a digital ID.

In 2015, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers held a track at its Technology and Transfer Summit develop a framework for an “extended” transcript to effectively capture and communicate a wider range of educational experiences and learning artifacts than those currently embodied by the contemporary academic record. AACRAO, in collaboration with Lumina Foundation, NASPA, NILOA, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other higher education organizations, has since helped more than 50 colleges and universities improve, develop, and deploy comprehensive records of learning (CLR) in the United States. This new type of learner record has gained popularity in recent years.

What is a CLR?

A CLR is an official record that meets the needs of today’s student, a lifelong learner who learns and gains knowledge in a variety of settings and institutions en route to a bachelor’s degree and at -of the. This degree reflects what has been learned in an educational program. In this context, the program of study is a program of technical or higher education at the post-secondary level. The US Higher Education Transcript currently remains the official document used to convey courses completed and a degree or certificate awarded. CLR does not replace transcription. Rather, it is an alternate term for recording and attesting to the results of an educational program or activity. Its intention is to provide learners, employers and others with more granular and validated information that can be understood outside of the academy. It may include learning outcomes or skills and other descriptive information derived from college coursework (in a manner similar to a transcript), but it may also include information about extracurricular activities, employment, or other evidence of learning or skills acquired. These learning expressions must work together.

Although sometimes considered cryptic and steeped in higher education jargon, transcription nevertheless remains a highly trusted and often used expression of learning. Behind the transcription are institutional governance structures, policies and practices to ensure the timeliness, quality and accuracy of the recorded data. The audience of the transcript can be confident that subject matter experts have defined the curriculum, assessed learner achievement and validly recorded learner data and that an external and objective party (e.g., an accreditation) reviewed the institution’s processes and practices for doing all of the above. Based on the foregoing, the statements on the transcript are reliable, accepted as true, and presumed to have integrity. Thus, in a manner similar to the transcript, the CLR should incorporate these same characteristics in order to serve as an effective and accepted means of communicating a student’s achievements across multiple learning activities.

The link with the workforce

The United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board (AWPAB), and many other organizations launched important initiatives to develop similar summative learning records, which also included non-academic issuers. This credential was more widely referred to as the Learner and Employment Record (REL). As described by the AWPAB report, the LER is “a system that contains verifiable information about a person’s achievements covering an inclusive range of contexts, whether education or training processes, formal or informal, in the classroom or on the job. workplace. LERs can seamlessly record, verify, transmit and interpret information on learning outcomes between educational institutions, companies and individuals. Therefore, a CLR is the higher education contribution to the LER, providing verified degrees representing the skills and competences acquired by the student during their academic career.

One of the key tenets of OER is the concept of learner self-sovereignty, which allows students to have power over their credentials while maintaining the trust associated with the credential issuer. Self-sovereignty is often exercised through digital wallets that allow the learner to store and share their credentials in a way relevant to the career opportunity they are exploring. Thus, interest in issuing and consuming verified digital learning credentials has found a solid footing.

CLR Challenges

The adoption of CLR and the allocation of resources to develop and implement a broader expression of learner success is an extension of existing transcription concepts and practices, but it also challenges traditional notions of what was a transcript. For many good reasons, including credibility, consistency, and interoperability, higher education has relied on the transcript as the official record of a student’s academic history. The reality is that transcription remains the coin of the kingdom and still serves as a fundamental professional reference for many jobs. The challenge is to retain the important features of academic records while recognizing the opportunity for innovation.

We have identified four challenges that most institutions face when considering innovating with learner records.

  1. In most cases, the CLR is not intended to replace the transcript, so institutions need to explore and reframe the value propositions to the institution by viewing the work primarily as a service to its students. A common argument against adopting CLR is the lack of demand from other higher education institutions and the labor market, but this is rapidly changing as employers and schools innovate.
  2. Another challenge is a perceived (and sometimes actual) increased workload borne by faculty, instructors, and staff to assess, collect, and maintain the learning outcomes that underpin these new types of records. Functional requirements and responsibilities should be addressed openly early in the CLR planning discussion.
  3. Additionally, many institutions use a traditional transactional business model where a student (or beneficiary) must pay a fee for each release of their transcript. These revenues are potentially at risk if learner self-sovereignty (ie communicating the record directly to the student and allowing them to disclose it to whomever they choose) becomes common practice. New innovative business models are being explored and implemented to meet this funding challenge.
  4. Finally, there are usually competing priorities for development resources to ensure CLR conformance to an accepted data standard (e.g., 1EdTech CLR), which means that the crucial principle of information interoperability identification can also be an obstacle. These resources should also be recognized and addressed in the planning discussion.

AACRAO works with partner organizations address each of these challenges at the national level, with individual institutions and with our members. Successfully communicating the value proposition of CLR/LER while addressing financial, operational, and technical barriers is critical to wide adoption of CLR in higher education.

Leveraging Registrars

AACRAO is a long-time champion in advancing the learner’s record. We have collaboratively developed pilot projects, guidelines and best practices that extend the idea of ​​the traditional record. An example of this effort is the 1 CLR Implementation Guide from EdTech (formerly IMS Global). The work now extends beyond interoperable CLR technology, representing a strong commitment to collaborative policy development at all levels, as registrars, our members, know that the application of on faulty policies and processes will not succeed.

“Ultimately, AACRAO strives to ensure that what we create is an ecosystem that is fair, interoperable and provides a complete picture of the entire learning journey that is valuable in the personal and professional lives of the learner.”Melanie GottliebExecutive Director, AACRAO 2022

The primary institutional official responsible for ensuring the integrity of the learner’s record is the Registrar. The registrar serves as the administrative trustee for the faculty and is responsible for and most involved with the artefacts that reflect learning – the most important being the transcript. The Registrar provides administrative, operational and implementation support for new academic initiatives and defines and manages registration processes and practices to ensure the validity of program and learner information. In addition, the Registrar operates academic support systems, at scale, through which the curriculum is taught, recorded, and voiced on behalf of the learner for those outside of the institution. Thus, the registrar must play a vital and necessary role in supporting the expansion of the learner’s record and that their expressions beyond the institution possess integrity and validity and correctly represent the learner’s achievements. Establishing this trust allows these learner educational records to be readily accepted across institutions and in the broader talent market for which the LER holds so much promise.

We readily acknowledge that the development of the domain is uneven – not all institutions (or registrars) are ready for a broader conversation about CLR and LER, but AACRAO is committed to continuing our partnerships to shape the conversation and supporting institutional innovation by working through registrars as a key stakeholder in adopting best practices to meet learner, market and workforce needs.

AACRAO will support the contributions of higher education institutions of sound learning to the overall work of OER by supporting through recommendations academic record practices that protect the integrity and validity of these expressions of learner achievement. , supporting the principles of interoperability and student-centric records, and continuing to seek out partners for collaboration and innovation.


Marc McConahay is a retired Associate Vice Provost and Registrar at Indiana University Bloomington and is currently a consultant to AACRAO. Mike Simmons is a retired assistant vice president of academic affairs at the University of North Texas and currently serves as director of strategic projects for AACRAO.

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