This week the U.S. Department of Education clarified its definition of legitimate uses of financial aid, to include demonstrated learning proficiency and not just accumulated time served in a classroom chair.
The same week — in fact, yesterday — I watched the CSU Board of Trustees haggle with California’s governor over how exactly technology might clear roadblocks to student learning and success. San Jose State University was singled out for its trailblazing partnerships with Coursera and EdX.
These can sound like unrelated events, but to those of us sunburned from years of toil in the fields of learning outcomes assessment, they’re both signs of the same long-awaited cataclysm.
We are leaving behind the credit hour.
Faculty, accreditors, and academic affairs bureaucrats like your correspondent have been preparing for this day since roughly the early 1990s. We’ve been trying to get more rigorous, systematic, and clear about what exactly we mean by student learning. How can we measure and verify it, with more nuance and validity than you get from the average transcript? What are the performance tasks and artifacts that leave condensation trails in the sky for others to read?
Suddenly legislators, students, and communities are looking to us to figure out what to do, and it’s not like we haven’t been telling them this day would come.
You would think, after waiting in the wings for twenty or so years, listening to an overture that we never thought would end, higher ed would feel readier. And yet, now that it’s here, it’s hard not feel a little stage fright.
The music has stopped, a chair creaked, and someone just coughed.
I guess it’s time to go on.