Improving credit mobility infrastructure to support learner success


Emphasis continues to be on the subject of transfer in higher education in the United States. While there are a number of sets of promising practices that are improving from a variety of pilots and systems, I have yet to see a silver bullet. And I honestly don’t expect to see one. Because a single solution is unlikely to solve the myriad of interrelated practices and processes that are embedded in the concept we call transference. To provide better information and a faster time frame for gaining meaningful credentials for this large and diverse population of learners, we need a fresh look at the infrastructure that serves the process. When we talk about infrastructure, we are talking not only about the technology, but also about the policies, practices and resources that are essential to an institution’s ability to effectively support the learner’s journey to graduation. wish.

We know transfer is ubiquitous and complicated.

The points of authority over the transfer infrastructure are necessarily decentralized; administrative and academic processes live in different spheres of knowledge and authority. Rarely does a single department have a full understanding of the impact of its decision-making on other departments and the learner we call the transfer student. And I have already mentioned that the label we apply to these learners is in itself problematic and implies a uniformity in their profile that simply does not exist. Policy, practice and process must consider our entire population of learners.

With nearly 40% of all learners transferring credit from other institutions into their degree programs and the recent increase in interest and emphasis on non-credit learning opportunities, the number of learners who enter the maze of institutional transfer will only increase. Registrars, Counselors, Admissions Officers, Transfer and Articulation Officers, Compliance Officers, Financial Aid Professionals, Continuing Education Professionals, and Faculty all exercise their judgment and authority in the overlaps and domains constitute the walls of the labyrinth, and can thus be integrated into their subsections. that they can’t see all the way. And if we can’t see it from inside the institution, where does that leave the learner?

Over the past two years, we have researched and articulated the many ways in which transference is broken:

  • Institutional policies for linking credit are complicated and inconsistent; policies and practices are not transparent to the learner or facility staff.
  • Information on the applicability of acquired credits is not readily available to potential learners.
  • Practices and tools for recognizing learning from non-traditional sources are not well articulated or implemented in practice.
  • Counseling to “non-traditional” populations is not prioritized, or if there is a focus, it is one-dimensional, addressing a narrowly defined definition of a single subpopulation in the area of ​​transfer.
  • Walkways between facilities are not clearly aligned or well maintained.
  • Most transfer-related processes are performed manually in disconnected silos; available support technology is underutilized.
  • Resources dedicated to learning credit mobility are insufficient and often supported by a business model that creates additional barriers for learners who have traditionally been underserved.

Where to start ?

Faced with this set of challenges, it can be difficult for an institution to know where to start, and there is no shortage of guidance in the higher education community. Each of our professional perspectives offers a valid perspective on the challenge of transference; each of us has a part of the solutions. But there is no single entity that has the complete answer or can solve the entire problem. All the challenges are interconnected in ways that are difficult to separate. To do the transfer right, there is no single entity that has the complete answer or can solve the entire problem. All the challenges are interconnected in ways that are difficult to separate. To do the transfer well, campus professionals need to coordinate and collaborate even more than in the past. And it requires a commitment from the whole institution.

I am increasingly convinced that the necessary transformation will require that the leaders of each of the spaces concerned think differently. To that end, at the recent AACRAO Conference on Transfer and Technology, I had a chat with Emily Kittrell, Deputy Director of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer (NISTS) to share our news toolkits to guide institutions in reviewing their credit transfer and mobility. Infrastructure. We discussed AACRAO’s fall beta test of our new transfer designation, which guides an institution through a set of leading practices in credit transfer policy, practice, articulation, and technology. linked to relevant tools and resources for success. If successful, AACRAO will recognize institutions with a designation of excellence. Emily shared information about the upcoming beta release of their transfer policy and practice audit tool, designed to help institutions discuss their approaches to transfer policy and practice, and create a team of on-campus transfer champions. Both tools can provide a means by which an institution can positively impact the on-campus transfer experience by focusing attention and resources to build and maintain infrastructure. The approaches of AACRAO and NISTS to this work are different and, in many ways, complementary. And neither is complete.

It literally takes over a village.

To truly rethink transfer, we need to rethink who we serve and how we serve them. We need to broaden the conversation beyond what we have narrowly defined as transfer – from one higher education institution to another – and think about the experience of lifelong learners, which is not not linear. To stay relevant, we must consider the many ways that adults move through learning experiences, credited and uncredited, and work to help the learner achieve their academic and professional goals by meeting them where they are, by recognizing where they have been, and illuminating the most efficient path at each step.

We cannot do this alone in our narrow professional spheres. It is the work of the whole community. We will have to engage the rest of our colleagues, both administrative and academic, to resolve the institutional challenges related to the transfer. Financial aid, business office, academic advising, academic affairs, career counseling services – within the institution, all of these colleagues and their associated professional associations have valuable perspective that can help facilitate credit recognition and graduation for our learners. And then we need to partner outside of the institution, both locally and nationally, to connect to the learning experiences happening outside of the institution, to understand the full picture of the learners’ experiences and help them achieve the economic and social mobility that education promises to provide.

We need to approach the problem from multiple angles in order to achieve the desired outcome: an accessible and equitable ecosystem for credit mobility that engenders trust in traditional higher education while supporting and empowering learners in their academic journeys and career development throughout their lives. AACRAO is ready and willing to engage with our colleagues on this important work.

Melanie Gottlieb is the Executive Director of AACRAO


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