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Credit where due…an internal dialog

by Tod Massa 21. March 2014 20:46

I was back in DC at USED for an IPEDS TRP. (Please note 4:7 ratio of acronyms to words. I like that.) The meeting was about defining institutions for IPEDS. As exciting as that sounds, you will have to wait to read about it once the official TRP report comes out at https://edsurveys.rti.org/ipeds_trp/. The meeting was held in the same room as was used for the PIRS Technical Symposium. I was sitting there, thinking about implications arising from the definition of an institution in IPEDS as it relates to the proposed rating system. This led my ADHD mind down several rabbit holes looking for Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and General Woundwort but I ultimately ended thinking about the phrase “follow the money.”

 

Follow the money?

In higher education, credit is the currency.

Follow the credit?

Follow the credit! Maybe I have been wrong all these years. It’s not the student we should be following; we should be following the credit.

But we do collect the credit…Virginia institutions provide us records on all course registrations.

Sure, but that is all about the student. We should redesign the collections so that everything is focused on each and every credit.

Isn’t that short-sighted? Your friend Amy wrote at length about the credit hour and the idea of moving to competency units.

Yeah, sure, we can do that too – credit or competency unit. The actual record would look very similar, just differences in the descriptors and the competency units would include a definition of the specific competency attempted and achieved.

Fine, you have an answer. How would you do this?

Well, to start with, we forget about students. They become ‘credit acquisition entities’ and we quit worrying about the experiential aspect of postsecondary education. Instead we start with attempted and earned credits/competency units. We associate these with a provider entity that possesses its own history of earned credits/competency units that engaged by a host credentialing entity.

“Host credentialing entity?”

Sure, what else would you call an institution under this model? After all, their sole purpose is to award credentials and organize provider entities for delivery to acquisition entities.

Why would you even think about this?

Why not? Banks track dollars, down to the penny. Everything else is subsidiary to that. Why not apply the same model to education? This also takes us away from the focus on identity and makes it clear we don’t care at all who the student is, only what they represent in the acquisition of credits and credentials. As long as we have a model that allows us to track acquisition between providers and hosts, we haven’t lost anything. In fact, we probably gain more because we will ultimately focus more on competencies and discrete learning experiences instead of seat time.

What about all the dollars?

We can have institutions properly apportion dollars by source for each credit attempt acquired. We can also have them do the same for their expenditures to provide those credit attempts. You know, for the first time, we could meaningfully compare revenues and expenditures across institutions by credit or credential.

You know, if you take the student out of play, a lot of the work you have done on wage outcomes becomes impossible to recreate.

Perhaps. Since I assume the rest of the world does not change. I assume an identity record would exist somewhere to allow matching, but the organizations collecting the data never need to know these identities. If we are able to figure this out, we could report wage outcomes based on credit groups and competency units.

It seems awfully complicated. It makes a national student record system look like a reasonable compromise. It also seems incredibly impersonal and assumes that the whole of credential is no more than the sum of its parts. It also looks like a project manager’s view of higher education. I don’t like it.

This dialog does not necessarily represent the position of the State Council, the Commonwealth, or probably any serious person.

So what do you think, should IPEDS consider a credit-level? I can tell you, they don't like the idea.

That might be a point in its favor.

 

 

 

 

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