Building a Student System of Record for the Future

The higher education landscape is changing, requiring colleges to take a closer look at the way students are learning and preparing for life after the classroom. Liz Dietz explains how Workday and its design partners are rethinking the tried-and-true methods of the past and building something to support the next generation of students.

I’ve been working with colleges and universities for 30-plus years, first at UCLA and Loyola Marymount University, and later at higher education-focused consulting and technology companies. Throughout my career, I’ve noticed a certain consistency in the criteria and business processes related to curriculum development, student enrollment, and records, regardless of the institution size or focus. These tried-and-true methods have served institutions well for years, but the rapid-fire changes across the higher education landscape are requiring colleges to take a closer look at the ways they’re serving students.

The student demographic has changed to include more working adults and lifelong learners than ever before. In addition to needing more flexibility in when, where, and how they complete their course work, they need a way to capture competencies and skills—not just pure coursework and grades—they’ve learned along the way. There’s also a push from students, parents, taxpayers, and the government for transparency and accountability related to their respective investments in higher education. Students assume they’re being adequately prepared for their careers of choice, while employers claim significant gaps exist between course credit and skills required for employment.

And if all that wasn’t challenging enough, institutions are coping with student bodies that expect to use their phones and tablets to access campus resources, register for classes, pay tuition and fees, plan their schedules, manage portfolios, and execute a host of other services that are nearly impossible to do using the legacy systems in place today.

It’s truly exciting to see how open and committed our design partners and colleagues are to developing a system that will directly impact the next generation of students.

Higher education is stepping up to the challenge, but many colleges and universities are constrained by rigid systems that can’t support flexible academic periods and new learning and outcome models—like competencies, hybrid courses, and multimedia portfolios.

For the past 36 months, we’ve been working with more than 40 institutions of all types and sizes to rethink those tried-and-true methods and develop from scratch a student system that can adapt to an institution’s changing needs. Together we’ve built Workday Student to support the next generation of students by linking both competencies and learning outcomes to courses, making it easier for institutions to be able to assess both the hard and soft skills associated with any learning program.

We are also working closely with AACRAO, PESC, the IMS Global Learning Consortium, and other organizations and standards councils to help develop comprehensive student records that accurately reflect the skills learned in and out of the classroom. While the traditional transcript does a great job of housing such academic elements as course names, credits earned, and grades, it falls short of representing a student’s mastery of the skills employers desperately need. The outcome of our efforts will be a redesigned electronic transcript that more accurately represents student learning and can be easily shared with potential employers.

It’s truly exciting to see how open and committed our design partners and colleagues are to developing a system that will directly impact the next generation of students. No one can predict what changes lay ahead for higher education, but we believe that with Workday, this uncertainty will be okay. Adaptability is a key component of all our applications, and we will continue to work with institutions and industry leaders to ensure Workday Student can handle the needs of higher education well into the future.

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