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Aurora Institute

New Metrics and Student Engagement System

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Lead Change and Innovation

It is definitely time for the competency education innovators in K-12 and higher education to be learning from each other.

One of the opportunities for learning from each other is in thinking about information management systems that support student learning and collect what students know and are able to do in some form of a transcript. For example, in skimming the case study on the University of Wisconsin Flexible Option, I found two ideas that can push our thinking forward in K-12.

Metrics on Pace

In the Metrics Framework, the University of Wisconsin identifies three elements of pace:

  • Measuring rate of assessment completion within each subscription period (time) to reach personal educational goals
  • Assessing rate against student’s planned rate
  • Measuring nature of student’s engagement with curriculum

For aggregated student level data, University of Wisconsin is “aggregating average (mean, mode, median) pace through a program. This aggregate should be measured from student matriculation to completion (or other reason student leaves program). Aggregate pace can also be measured yearly. Aggregate pace can also be analyzed by types of students including demographics, professional interests, etc.”

Student Engagement System

University of Wisconsin is flipping the understanding of what it means to have a student information system. They are focusing on creating a student engagement system which they describe as “a traditional student information system (SIS) turned upside down.” They want to create a system that “fundamentally puts the student interaction with the student’s own data at the core, with administrative functions being part and parcel of the student data.” Very interesting. As K-12 thinks more deeply about student agency and lifelong learning skills, it will be important to think about what data students need in order to be supported in their learning.

K-12 is being held back in its ability to fully develop the competency-based systems by the limited number of vendors that can provide the full set of information management systems we need. Some argue that the traditional vendors don’t understand, some say there is enough market demand to make a change (maybe they should read Clayton Christensen’s work on disruptive innovation; sounds like they might be acting like dinosaurs), and others say that it would require redesigning their entire architecture – and they either don’t have the capacity to do it or aren’t willing to redesign it. The new vendors entering the market are really close to producing what districts need, but they are small firms without the full capacity that is needed. Maybe it’s time for us to go talk to the firms developing information management systems for higher education to see if they might be able to meet the needs of K-12.

As I’ve discussed before, my understanding is that at the highest levels, the two sectors understand competency education in very similar ways. It’s the difference of how the two sectors operate – in terms of role in society, markets, and financing policies – that make the difference in the design and implementation choices. In reading the University of Wisconsin case study, I’m starting to think that exploring across the sectors and better understanding those differences may help open the door to accelerate innovation and illuminate the essence of competency education.

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