There is more to a student than just a letter grade. Unfortunately, there is no letter grade to document the experiences and skills a student develops outside the classroom. To address this challenge, the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) developed the Student Transformative Learning Record (STLR) as a way to provide students with new tools to showcase a more detailed and complete picture of their experiential learning activities.
“There is definitely value in the academic transcript, but student learning is more than the marks they receive on assignments. We were not showing the learning taking place outside the classroom in the transcript,” says Sonya Watkins, Associate Vice President of Information Technology for UCO.
UCO created “The Central Six” core value tenets of a student’s transformational learning. These tenets focus on discipline knowledge along with health and wellness, leadership, research, creative and scholarly activities, and service learning and civic engagement. Once the students and faculty embraced “The Central Six” concept, the challenge became clear. “We knew we were providing these kinds of experiences for our students, but we lacked a framework for capturing and assessing them,” says Watkins.
In 2013, UCO established a committee to create a model and structure for assessing “The Central Six.”
UCO had already adopted Brightspace in 2011 and had over 89% of faculty using the platform during the spring 2015 semester. It made sense that Brightspace should be used for the delivery, assessment, and tracking of student transformative learning opportunities. As an added bonus of using the Brightspace platform, STLR was integrated with Brightspace ePortfolio.
The goal was to develop a process that was easy for the faculty and students to adopt. Using the Rubrics tool, UCO built a competency structure specific to STLR. Now they can associate assignments and co-curricular activities with a specific tenet. Faculty also use the Dropbox tool to access the rubric and competency structure and provide students with STLR-related feedback and grading. Students push STLR-related feedback and artifacts to Brightspace ePortfolio, where they can store, share, and reflect on achievements.
Working with D2L’s Customization team, UCO used the robust Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and Application Program Interface (API) integrations in Brightspace to create a custom dashboard where students can track their progress against each of the tenets. UCO also used the Brightspace API to integrate the STLR system and the physical campus card used by students to access events. Now, when a student uses their card to swipe into an event tagged to STLR, their participation is recorded in the dashboard and assigned to the appropriate tenet. Students have the ability to push this information to their ePortfolio. “It was a joint effort. Our in-house technology team created the middleware and D2L created the connector,” explains Watkins.
“I love the concept of transformational learning. I feel that it empowers students and gives them confidence in their learning experience.”
College of Education Professional
As of fall 2015, UCO has 134 courses total (one semester) incorporating transformative learning objectives–serving approximately 3,000 students. Over 100 student-based projects are tagged as STLR opportunities, such as working with faculty or internships. Faculty adoption of STLR has far exceeded UCO staff expectations, with 177 faculty taking part in STLR training to better understand the overall concept of transformative learning.
Although the program is still in its early days, UCO is already observing positive student engagement trends. “We are seeing a significant (greater than 10%) increase in completion rates for STLR courses. We are also experiencing a slight increase in retention rates,” says Watkins.
Since STLR rolled out across the UCO campus, there have been 2,745 student enrollments in curricular and 6,292 student enrollments in co-curricular activities tagged to transformational learning. Students are enthusiastic about the opportunity to showcase the full picture of their capabilities. “STLR has helped students better articulate their overall skillset and define their transformative learning experiences to an employer,” says Watkins.
Information courtesy of UCO