Earlier this year, the AAC&U released findings that demonstrated the gap that currently exists between students’ perceptions of their skills and abilities and those of employers. AAC&U surveyed both students and employers and realized that what students believed they were learning was quite different from what employers believed. The graph below illustrates the gap between these perceptions for several important skills and competencies including analyzing/solving complex problems.
One reason that this gap may exist is that students do not understand the relationship between the individual courses they take. Most campuses today provide students with Course Management Systems (CMS) so they can view the grades they have achieved on assignments within in each of their courses. Once each course is complete, the CMS no longer displays course information. Therefore, students have no way of visually connecting what they learn across courses.
While individual programs may create curriculum maps that illustrate how courses fit together to provide students opportunities to learn important program outcomes, these are not often shared with students. Similarly, curriculum matrices that illustrate general education skills that can be gained from completing a variety of courses are also not shared with students. Consequently, at most institutions of higher education today, students have no access to information to help them make connections between what they learn from one assignment in one course to courses across their entire degree program or other elective courses they may take at the college or university.
When I think back to my own time as an undergraduate student, it was difficult for me to pinpoint exactly where I learned particular skills or competencies. In fact, as I headed to an internship interview during my senior year, I found myself struggling with questions posed to me about how my coursework prepared me to undertake the work of events’ planning at the American Heart Association.
Things have changed quite a bit since that time. As my daughter prepares to enter college later this year, she will enter a world with much more data. In fact, she may even enroll at a university using Taskstream where she can look at a dashboard at the end of each semester to find out where she is meeting her learning goals and where she still needs development.
The student analytic dashboards in Taskstream can provide students with specific data about their performance on targeted outcomes across assignments and courses. By using these dashboards, students can learn more about how they’ve achieved certain levels of competence on outcomes and take further action to build skills where they recognize they are falling behind.
Once students have evidence of the ways they are gaining competency on particular outcomes, they can share that information when they are seeking internships or jobs. Students can also be agents in their own education by using the dashboard to take proactive steps to close any achievement gaps by enrolling in additional learning opportunities.
As faculty, we can use similar kinds of information to feed back into our curriculum planning to ensure that the courses and learning experiences most needed are available.
Any current user can call Mentoring Services to learn how to enable this feature for students, faculty and administrators. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-311-5656. If you are not yet using Taskstream, please contact email@example.com to learn more about how to get started.
– Trudy Milburn translates campus-wide assessment needs into digital solutions and provides tailored demonstrations and trainings to institutions of higher education in the U.S. and abroad. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts and has been a tenured professor at Baruch College/CUNY and California State University Channel Islands. Her forthcoming edited book, Communicating User Experience: Applying Local Strategies Research to Digital Media Design, will be published this year by Lexington Books. You can learn more about her by viewing her e-portfolio.
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