Technology Research

Best Practices Make Perfect

This past week, Eduventures was in Washington, D.C. to take part in the annual data summit hosted by the P20W Education Standards Council (PESC).  While we arrived in DC too late to see the cherry blossoms at their peak, we arrived at a time when two topics were peaking in the minds of conference attendees: student data privacy and competency-based transcripts. On the same day that a bipartisan bill that aims to hold edtech vendors accountable for the security and sharing of student records was introduced in the Senate, I was asked to participate in a panel on best practices and industry trends in P20W education data systems. It did not take long for the discussion to circle back to how inconsistent interpretations and applications of privacy, as well as a leadership void in pushing student data initiatives forward, are having a chilling effect on the ability of responsible stewards of student information to share data for research purposes. The consensus in the room was that the pending legislation, as well intentioned as it may be, would cause implementers of student data systems and technology vendors to delay, or perhaps even cancel, projects that involve sharing student records for legitimate purposes. Conference attendees also noted that for-profit institutions are facing conflicting legislation and regulatory calls to action from state and federal government and are only months away from gainful employment regulations coming down like a hammer on their businesses. With the recent closing of the remaining Corinthian campuses, institutions are scrambling to find data sources to meet reporting requirements. At the same time, state agencies that are executive agents for student longitudinal data systems (SLDS) are not recruiting for-profits to participate in their systems and, in some cases, are actively blocking them from participating due to a misinterpretation of FERPA or state law. At our webinar on May 21, Eduventures will discuss the topic of tracking and reporting on student outcomes and will present strategies for any institution, particularly for-profits, to navigate the landscape of state and national data systems, resources, and non-profit partners to share data properly and in accordance with established policy. In contrast to the doom and gloom around data privacy, conference attendees were very enthusiastic to discuss innovations in competency-based education (CBE). This culminated in hours of information sharing, debate, and planning for PESC’s role in the CBE landscape. For example, PESC will create a taskforce to identify where data standards are needed.  Specifically, members of the taskforce will look at how existing PESC high school and college transcript XML standards might be extended to support the collection and sharing of discrete skills and learning outcomes that complex CBE programs and supporting technology applications demand. This initiative will also require PESC to collaborate more closely with IMS and their initiatives in data standards and APIs for learning management systems, including LTI and other projects focused solely on tools to facilitate CBE. Eduventures strongly encourages all higher education institutions, including for-profits, to consider membership in PESC to receive the benefit of collaborating with technology vendors, industry associations, and other institutions in the midst of student data system implementation and integration projects. For example, one of the newest members of PESC is Capella University, which will now be able to take part in working groups for the development of ePortfolio data exchange standards, as well as the creation of XML transcripts that include CBE outcomes.  It is not a coincidence that the concept of CBE transcript standardization is getting attention from for-profit institutions, with Kaplan University’s recent announcement to publish personalized competency reports for its 45,000 students. There are few forums of industry leaders dedicated to the development of data standards and the sharing of best practices amongst peers. PESC also counts among its members the leadership of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)Its partners include the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIF), and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).  This collective force behind student data and technology standards will be the home for sharing best practices within the higher education community for many years to come.

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