As TEL’s CIO Stacy Zemke shared on a recent podcast, the biggest struggle she had when teaching her university capstone course was getting students to make the connection between what they’d been doing for the past four years and what they planned to do when they graduated.
The idea behind the capstone course was to pull together the students’ degree program and have it culminate in a project to showcase the skills they had acquired. “And at the very beginning of the course, I realized very quickly that they did not know what skills they had acquired or what they had been learning. Or why they had been taking all of these courses or when they took them, who taught them, or really anything about their courses,” she said.
The experience with her capstone students prompted Stacy to search for ways to help students make the connections between what they learn during their college courses and how that learning could apply to their professional goals. Her search eventually became the genesis behind TEL’s Student Learning Dashboard and its skills pages designed to help students make sense of their learning connections.
Students typically understand that what they learn in Biology I sets the foundation for Molecular Biology. Helping students to look past the content and see the skills and competencies they have honed, especially across different courses, is often more difficult.
How can a student know what they’ve learned? At TEL, we’ve been thinking about this since we built our first course. Our answer starts with an objective-based syllabus that is tied to specific skills and competencies. This work allows students to see, before they even begin a course, what skills and competencies they will acquire, in addition to the information they will learn.
Progress toward acquiring skills and competencies is reflected via badges on the Student Learning Dashboard. as students work through a course. Students will be able to strengthen these skills, such as problem solving, across a number of courses and earn the different levels of each badge as they move through their courses.
When students have a clear understanding of why the things they’ve learned matter with regard to their professional goals, they can articulate those skills during interviews and on applications. The badges make progress easier to see. The skills pages give students the verbiage to explain it.
Skills pages break down why a specific skill is important. For example, the technology application skill isn’t just about creating a Pivot Table in Microsoft Excel. To earn this badge, students show that they can evaluate various possible technologies in order to choose the one that best helps them reach their goal. As technology continues to change, the ability to look for and choose the best tool for the job is much more important than being able to perform a specific function in a specific platform.
Once that students know why a skill is important, the next step is to help them to apply it to their career goals. To address this need, the skills pages also show students industries as well as specific occupations where that skill is used. On top of that, students are prompted with experience-based questions that relate to that skill, questions similar to what they might see in a job interview. In the technology application example, students are asked to think of a time when they had to use a new application on their computer or smartphone and think through the steps they took to evaluate and learn that new application.
The clear language on the skills pages plus the opportunity for reflection makes it easy for students to be able to explain what they’ve mastered to potential employers.
Making the jump from college to career is stressful enough. With the Student Learning Dashboard, students have the tools and resources they need to visualize the skills they learned and clearly articulate those skills for future employers. Badging and the skills pages are two key elements that make learning visible.
Want to see more about the Student Learning Dashboard? Contact us for a walk-through and more information on our roadmap.