PACRAO Review June 2016 Edition

antique pen 2Volume 6 • Number 1 • June 2016

Download the entire issue: PACRAO Review June 2016


Developing a Conference Session:  19 Nifty Steps to Turn an Idea into an Outrageously Excellent Presentation

-Sue Eveland, University of Oregon

Everyone always says that a good way to begin to get involved with PACRAO is to present a session at a conference. It’s a short-term, low-stakes, low-time contribution that does not involve travel to meetings or homework assignments or a multi-year commitment. You’re only in the spotlight for an hour or so, and then you can step back and pat yourself on the back for contributing something of yourself to your colleagues and to your organization. Sounds easy! So how do you get started? And what’s the point, anyway?


Nontraditional Credit within Higher Education

-Nathan Cicchillo, University of Phoenix

The assessment of nontraditional credit has existed for decades, in one form or another, in higher education.  However, it has only been within the past few years that the topic of nontraditional credit has begun to gain momentum within the industry.  While some institutions may have assessed nontraditional credit for years and have a mature assessment process, other institutions may just now be investigating the potential to help students by using nontraditional credit assessment.  With additional focus placed on the acceleration of degree completion timeframes, and a reduction of educational expenses for students, it is understandable that students and institutions are now investigating nontraditional credit alternatives to meet those needs.  This article was based on the presentation, Perspectives on PLA and Nontraditional Credit, created by Marc Booker, Associate Provost, University of Phoenix.


Developing Professional Excellence in the Registrar’s Office

-Michael Santarosa, University of Utah

Given our role as higher education leaders, the professional development of our staff is often high on our priority list. We want our staff to continue growing and developing their skills and knowledge.  We want them to enjoy work and thrive in their positions.  And given resource-constraints we often need them doing more with less.  Yet, despite these ambitions, many registrars are at a loss when considering how to move forward.  Two of the major obstacles we run into involve determining what we really ought to do to advance our staff’s professional development and finding the time and resources to do it.  At the University of Utah we recently embarked on a year-long journey in the pursuit of professional excellence that may serve as a model for how you might implement something similar on your campuses.


Traits to Emulate:  A Tribute to Tom Watts

-Rebecca Mathern, Oregon State University

Tom Watts worked at Oregon State for more than 15 years and had long served as the Associate Registrar. During that time Tom oversaw many different units within the office but focused on compliance areas such as graduation, athletics eligibility and veteran certifications. Tom also has extensive experience supporting the scheduling team on campus and led the transition to zone scheduling, created a structure to offer group midterms and final exams, and also served as the Interim University Registrar during a transitional period in 2012. His commitment and support to OSU and the profession was second to none.  These comments reflect statements made at a retirement reception for Tom in April 2016.


Developing Training to Better Serve Undocumented Students, Our University’s Most Vulnerable Populations

-Christina Joy Kim, University of California, Irvine

In 2015 the University of California, Irvine admitted the university’s first undocumented student to the School of Medicine. UC Irvine’s decision to expand its admission pool–along with the advent of state laws AB130 and AB131 (California Dream Acts) in 2013 and the introduction of the federal DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) immigration policy in 2012–has expanded higher educational opportunities for undocumented student populations statewide. Unfortunately, expanded opportunities do not necessarily translate into expanded graduation rates. Faced with a presidential campaign hostile to undocumented persons, as well as multiple state governments challenging the legality of DACA, undocumented students at our universities must not only navigate academic hurdles but also overcome emotional and legal obstacles. Student affairs officers have a responsibility to upgrade their service models to accommodate underrepresented communities.  A recommended starting point for upgraded service is the development and implementation of robust undocumented student training programs.

Developing a Conference Session: 19 Nifty Steps to Turn an Idea into an Outrageously Excellent Presentation

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1. Accept the Challenge

Everyone always says that a good way to begin to get involved with PACRAO is to present a session at a conference. It’s a short-term, low-stakes, low-time contribution that does not involve travel to meetings or homework assignments or a multi-year commitment. You’re only in the spotlight for an hour or so, and then you can step back and pat yourself on the back for contributing something of yourself to your colleagues and to your organization. Sounds easy! So how do you get started? And what’s the point, anyway?

2. Be the Program

Our state, regional and national organizations depend on members like us to “be the program” at our conferences. The heart of any conference is the program: the sessions and the plenary speakers. Sessions are what make conferences worth attending. Sure, there is value in networking and reconnecting with our colleagues at conferences – and we always seem to have fun and eat a lot – but in the end, we attend conferences for the value of the program.

None of our associations can afford to pay professionals to come in and present all of our sessions to us. That’s why our associations rely on members to step up and “be the program.” Who better than us to show each other good ways to do things, or tricks about software, or the pitfalls of implementing new laws or policy? Sometimes presenting is a chance to brag about a problem we have successfully solved; sometimes presenting is a chance to share something that worked for us on our campuses or in our offices; sometimes presenting is a chance to share a problem and commiserate with each other about the trouble we are having on our campus. Admit it: we all have plenty of topics. We just need to take a look around!

3. Pick a Topic

So, the first thing you need to do on this journey is to pick a topic. Have you implemented something new in the past year? That could be anything from a implementing a new piece of software or implementing a new faculty policy or just a implementing a new way of doing an old task. This does not have to be earth-shattering. Have you changed how you are handing a process? Have you reorganized something? Have you had an “Ah-ha” moment?

I recently was thinking about the “then and now” of processing transfer credit. At the University of Oregon (UO), we have an extremely efficient process for handing incoming transfer credit which involves lots of technology solutions coupled with daily monitoring and management of all of our tasks. I have presented a session called “Technology Tools to Meet Outrageous Transfer Articulation Service Agreements” at several conferences (OrACRAO, PACRAO, AACRAO and AACRAO Tech). (By the way, anytime you can work the word “outrageous” into a session title, that’s a good thing!) In presenting that session recently in Phoenix, I realized that most people in the room have no idea what it used to be like in the olden days before we had all these technology tools at our disposal. I also found myself getting a lot of detailed questions about how a transcript actually moves along the steps of the processing path from the time the envelope arrives in the building to the time the credit shows on the student’s degree guide. I hit upon the idea of showing the process “then and now.” My idea was to show my audience the painful, error-ridden, frustrating way we used to do things, and contrast that with the speedy and accurate way we do this work today. A perfect topic!

4. Craft a Catchy Title

The next step in the journey is to craft a catchy title. You want something that will summarize the content of the session, yet be catchy, or maybe even clever (or outrageous!). If you can tie into the theme of the conference, go for it. At AACRAO’s 100th conference, I presented “100 Tips and Tricks for a Productive Office.” At OrACRAO 2016, I presented “Cracking the FERPA Code” (with a subtle nod to The Da Vinci Code). Other recent session titles that I have used include: “AACRAOnyms: A Primer of Higher Ed Acronyms for New Professionals” (misspelled by design and presented at AACRAO); “The A, B, C’s of Writing Good Instructions;” “The Registrar’s Toolkit: Nifty Solutions for Everyday Questions and Problems.” (Nifty is a nifty word in a title!)
For my title, I came up with “A Day in the Life of a Transfer Transcript.” I think this sounds catchy and summarizes what the session will be about – what happens to a transcript in a day and in its life. Might it remind you of the Life of Pi? Or the old Beatles’ song?

5. Draft a Description

Once you have your topic and a title, the next step in your journey is write up a 50-word (or fewer) description. No working on the presentation yet. Get your description ready so you can submit your session when the call for sessions comes in your email. Usually, there is a limit to the length of your description because, if your session is selected, this description will be printed in the conference program (and those cost money, so planning people don’t want you to write a novel!). In some cases, you are permitted to have an additional “long session description” that will appear on the association’s website, where real estate is unlimited. Then your shorter version will be used for printed materials. Focus on the short description first. Type it up in a Word document so you can use spell checker and grammar checker (most session proposal sites do not have those features) and so you can use the character and word count feature (ALT T W for those of you who like keyboard shortcuts). This paragraph contains 178 words, in case you wondered. Save your session description as a Word document, so you can re-use it for another conference at a different time.

If you are submitting your session to an association that asks for a long session description, you can expand your short description as much as you’d like, or simply use the same one for both. I often do that.

Here’s my short session description for “A Day in the Life of a Transfer Transcript:”

In the olden days, before the internet and EDI and document imaging workflows, handling transcripts for transfer students was a tedious, repetitive and time consuming process. This session will explore both the old and the new ways of managing transfer of credit, with an emphasis on technologies that speed the process and ensure equitable and accurate transfer credit award for all students. (62 words)

6. Work within PowerPoint

Ok, so now you have a topic, a title and a description. Now you can start working on your presentation. My preference is to just dig right into PowerPoint and write and organize my content as I go.

Select a design template: First I select a design template. At UO, our Enrollment Management division has developed an official template for presentations. I like using it because it is branded to UO, is interesting to look at, and no one else at the conference will be using it (except perhaps other UO colleagues). Some associations, such as AACRAO, offer a session template that you can use if you so choose. That can be helpful in that the template is branded to the conference and it usually includes a slide of helpful announcements that you might want to make at the beginning of your session (turn off cell phones; turn in evaluations; etc.). You can also choose from the many options offered in the PowerPoint collection or create your own.

Build a Title Slide: On the title page, include your session title, the name of the association and year, city and state of the conference, your name and title, and your institution’s name. In some cases, you will know ahead of time when you are scheduled to present during the conference and your session number. AACRAO, PACRAO and OrACRAO all have rubrics for session numbering. Putting your session number on your title slide will help your attendees find your session evaluation later (or maybe even nominate you for the “Best Session” award). Save your work often. Here’s a sample Title Slide from a recent presentation of mine.

Title Slide

Create an Outline Slide: A good first slide after the title slide is one that will help frame the material you are going to cover for your audience. Good speakers know to 1) tell your audience what you are going to tell them; 2) tell them; and then 3) tell them what you told them. For “A Day in the Life of a Transfer Transcript,” my first slide can be pretty simple; I’m going to talk about the olden days in the first part of the session, and the technology-heavy solution we use today in the second part of the session. In other presentations, I have had as many as ten items on this first slide. This slide serves as a roadmap or outline of your presentation, and it tells your audience what you are going to cover.

Be Brief: After that, dive in and start writing your pages. Limit the amount of content on each of your pages. Write bullet points and short phrases to remind you what to talk about during your presentation, but don’t write out your entire spiel. No one wants you to stand at the front of the room and read your slides to them. Add Visuals: When possible, paste in visuals for your audience. Pictures and screen shots break up the content pages and can prompt you about what to say. Use clipart if appropriate. For “A Day in the Life of a Transfer Transcript,” I am planning to recreate the olden days and take pictures of transcripts piled up in various bins and folders. For the second part of the session, I plan to take screen shots of Banner, document imaging, DuckWeb (self-serve), Degree Guides, etc. I plan to do this travelogue style, as if the transcript were on a little journey for a day, and I’m providing the travelogue.

Practice Fair Use: When using photos, clip art and cartoons be sure to practice fair use. There are lots of images and cartoons on the web; many of them are copyrighted and should not be used without permission (and sometimes even payment!). Include Consistent Clipart: One trick I like to use in my presentations is to use a consistent piece of clipart to signify something to the audience. In my “100 Tips and Tricks” presentation, I used a little eyeball graphic (which actually moves back and forth during the presentation) to indicate that the content on that page was available without a password or account via the web. See the example below, which is also an example of a first slide where I tell my audience what we are going to cover.

Practice Fair Use

Incorporate Screen Shots: Here’s a page from later in the presentation (below). It’s an example of using a screen shot of a web page to demonstrate how something works. As you can see, there is no text on this screen. The images are enough to remind me as the speaker about what to talk about on this slide. Plus the eyeball (my consistent clipart) tells the audience that they can visit the web later and look at this tool again.

Incorporate Screen Shots

Add a Trio of Concluding Slides: Once you finish all your content, add three final slides. The first should be a recap of what you just covered. Add another slide for “Questions, Comments, and Discussion.” Finally, add a “Thank You” slide which also contains your contact information and perhaps a reminder to your audience to please submit a session evaluation. Run your spell checker and grammar checker one more time and save your work.

7. Keep Going

Continue adding slides and content and images. Tell your story. Keep saving your work often.

8. Try these PowerPoint Tricks

Duplicate Slides: When you get too much content on a page (your clue is that suddenly the type font shrinks or your content falls outside the text box), use the “New Slide: Duplicate Selected Slides” to quickly copy that slide. Delete the bottom half of the content on the first slide, and delete the top half of the content on the second slide, and now you have two slides with the same title.

Review and Re-sort Slides: Use the “View: Slide Sorter” function to see how your presentation is shaping up, and to reorganize slides and entire sections of slides. Just right mouse click on a slide and drag it/drop it where you want it to be.

Two Slides for Highlighting: Rather than using “Transitions” to add an arrow to highlight content or add a circle around a piece of content, I simply duplicate the slide and then add the arrow or circle to the second slide. Your audience will never know you have two slides, and you won’t have to worry about whether the transition will work or not. Further, if you make handouts for your audience or post a PDF of your presentation later, the two slides will be distinct.

9. Print and Edit

Now, print out your slides (two to a page or three to a page) and do a thorough edit. I would suggest you do this on paper and not on the computer. Doing editing on the computer can get you bogged down and off track because your inclination will be to fix little things as you read. On paper, you can make notes to add content such as another bullet or a screen shot of something. You can edit for parallel structure. You can get a feel for whether the presentation as a whole is solid or disjointed. You can work on the transitions between one section and another. Once you have edited on paper, go back to the PowerPoint and make your edits. And save your work.

10. Practice Your Presentation

Now is the time to practice your presentation. You can do this in front of someone if you like, or not. I would suggest you actually stand while delivering the material, and time yourself so you know how long your presentation will take. You might find yourself wanting to make changes; make quick notes to yourself, but keep forging ahead on your practice run-through. You can go back after the trial run and fix things.
Once you feel confident you have all the content down, and you can deliver the presentation within about 45 minutes or so, you’re all set! Now, all you have to do is wait for that approval from your association.

11. Connect with Conference Planners

If prompted by the association, be sure to confirm your willingness to present and respond to all questions the conference planners may ask about your audio visual equipment needs or other details. Some conferences, such as AACRAO, ask that you upload your presentation prior to the conference.

12. Print Handouts (Or Not)

Most conferences let you decide whether or not to provide printed handouts. If you do print handouts, you’ll have to try to figure out how many to print and whether you really want to lug them across the state or country. I have known friends pay excess weight fees for taking handouts in their checked luggage – paper is heavy! If you do print handouts, I would suggest you use the three-slides-to-a-page version, printed on both sides, and stapled. The text on these handouts will be legible and there will be room for your audience to take notes. Many associations are now posting PDF’s of all presentations on their web sites either before or after the conference. You audience will be able to get to them online if you upload yours.

13. Confirm Arrangements at the Conference

Once at the conference, some associations ask you to check in with them at a particular room prior to your presentation. Reconfirm the day, time and location of your session. Go and look at your session room. This will help you familiarize yourself with how to find the room, especially at big conferences, and give you a chance to see how the room is set up. There might be a podium on the floor or a podium up on a riser or stage. There might be a table and a couple of chairs at the front of the room or not. You can check on the audio/visual equipment, too.

14. Arrive Early for Your Session

When it is time to present, be sure to arrive at your room early. At AACRAO, your presentation will be on a conference system computer; a tech person will come and check on you and make sure your presentation is displaying. At other conferences, you may be using your own laptop and hooking it into a projector provided for you. Get your presentation opened up in presentation mode set to the first screen. When people walk by the room, they can peek in and see your title slide and know that they are in the right place. If you have handouts, you can set them in piles by the doors, or stand by the door and greet people as they come in and hand them a handout.

15. Let Your Facilitator Help You

It is likely that a facilitator will be with you in your session room and will ask you if you want help with your handouts, if you want a 5-minute warning or a 10-minute warning at the end of the session, and if want to be introduced or not. All of this is up to you. Personally, I like the facilitator to help with handouts, to call the crowd to order, deliver any conference messages (do your evaluations, please!) and to give me a 10-minute warning so I know if I am running out of time. But I do like to introduce myself.

16. Introduce Yourself

When I introduce myself, I give my name, title and institution (of course, this is written on the Title Page of my presentation that is showing on the screen behind me). I like to add how long I have been in my position and a little bit about how long I have worked in higher education. Something like this: “My name is Sue Eveland, and I am the University Registrar at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. I have worked at UO for the past 15 years, and have been the Registrar since 2008. Prior to joining UO, I worked at Iowa State University for 17 years.”

17. Provide Technical Context (as Appropriate)

Following that, if the presentation warrants this, I tell the audience what technical solutions are in play at the University of Oregon. Doing so will actually stave off your audience members from interrupting you during your presentation just to ask you these details. Sharing this also helps frame the information for them and helps them understand if what you are presenting will work at their campus or not. You can make a slide for this if it helps you remember everything, or simply have the list written out on a note card. For presentations that have nothing to do with technology, skip this step. An example might be a FERPA presentation.

Here’s how I would cover this piece: “To give you some idea of what systems we use at UO, our student information system is Banner. We use u.achieve for our degree audit system. We are a heavy EDI user. Our document imaging system is Singularity. We use 25Live for our classroom scheduling system and What Do You Think for our course evaluation system. We have College Scheduler. We use TES and the National Student Clearinghouse. Michael Sutter is our diploma printer. We use both Leepfrog’s CAT and CIM products for our catalog and curriculum management software. We are looking into buying CLSS”

18. Answer Questions: In the Midst, at the End, and/or Following the Conference

Finally, before you jump into your presentation, you might announce to the audience your preference about taking questions during the presentation or holding all questions till the end. You will find, if you take questions during a presentation, that your audience will ask questions about things you are about to cover later in your presentation. In that case, I would suggest you say, “I’ll get to that in a bit,” and keep going (don’t answer the question). Answering questions during a presentation can derail you and prevent you from getting through your entire presentation. If you are an inexperienced presenter, I would suggest you ask your audience to hold all questions till the end. At the end of your presentation, you can thank your audience and then open it up for questions. It’s fair to admit that you don’t know the answers to every question that might come up, but offer to check and get back to the person. Afterward, audience members often come up to thank you, ask for your business card, or ask another question. Some will ask you to share something specific (will you send me your cheat sheet about XYZ?). One way to handle this is to give them your business card and ask them to email you with their question after the conference. Another way is to ask them to provide their business card with a note on the back about what they want. I prefer the latter because then I get to know some of the people in my audience.

19. Congratulate Yourself!

And there you have it. Your journey is finished. It is time to unplug your computer, gather up your things, and leave your presentation room to the next presenter. After the conference, don’t forget to update your resume’ and then start thinking about your next “Idea” to “Fabulous Presentation” journey. I’ll see you at PACRAO!!!

 

Sue_Eveland

Sue Eveland, MA has worked in higher education for 32 years, first at Iowa State University for 17 years, and then at the University of Oregon since 2001. She has been UO’s University Registrar since 2008. Sue has served UMACRAO, OrACRAO and PACRAO in many roles over the years, including both elected and appointed positions, on boards and as a conference planner. Sue served as President for OrACRAO in 2006 and for PACRAO in 2013. She was awarded UMACRAO’s Exemplary Service Award in 1997 and OrACRAO’s Herb Chereck Award for Excellence in 2016. She just completed serving as the OrACRAO 2016 Planning Committee Chair and currently serves as PACRAO’s Archivist. Yes, she has a day job, though some wonder when she has time to do it! Sue is married to Big Bucks Bruce, who is retired and has been traveling extensively. Sue hopes to join him soon!

Author’s Comments:  It would not be an exaggeration to say that Sue presents at every state, regional, and national ‘CRAO that she attends, so she has lots of experience when it comes to developing and delivering conference sessions. She also practices a technique called “passing the salt,” which is an expression that means asking a specific colleague to do something specific (Will you edit our conference program? Will you write up a web page about Things to Do Around Town? Will you ask your president to speak at our conference?). This time, turnabout is fair play: VP for Professional Development Julia Pomerenk passed the salt to Sue by asking her to write a PACRAO Review article on the topic of developing and presenting sessions at conferences. For first-time presenters, Sue hopes this article helps you get going; for seasoned presenters, maybe you’ll catch a tip or two for your future endeavors!

Nontraditional Credit within Higher Education

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The assessment of nontraditional credit has existed for decades, in one form or another, in higher education.  However, it has only been within the past few years that the topic of nontraditional credit has begun to gain momentum within the industry.  While some institutions may have assessed nontraditional credit for years and have a mature assessment process, other institutions may just now be investigating the potential to help students by using nontraditional credit assessment.  With additional focus placed on the acceleration of degree completion timeframes, and a reduction of educational expenses for students, it is understandable that students and institutions are now investigating nontraditional credit alternatives to meet those needs.

There is a growing population of working adults within the United States pursuing post-secondary education.  According to P.J. Stokes, “18-22 year-old full-time undergraduate students residing on campus account for only 16% of higher education enrollments, the attention given to this group of students obscures the fact that the vast majority of college and university students are ‘nontraditional’ – largely working adults struggling to balance jobs, families, and education” (Stokes, Undated, para 1). Many of these adult learner students have gained degree-applicable knowledge through their vast experiences, both personal and professional, and students are now looking for opportunities to apply this knowledge towards their degree.   Institutions seeking to implement an assessment process may view the assessment of nontraditional credits as a daunting task, but with an increased demand from students, higher education has a responsibility to create or adopt industry-accepted methods of nontraditional credit assessment.

There are many different forms of nontraditional learning commonly pursued by students which are widely accepted by most institutions.  Therefore, it is helpful to define some terminology for the purpose of this article.

  • Nontraditional/Alternative Credit: Credit obtained from learning outside of the traditional academic classroom
  • Prior Learning Assessment (PLA):   The process and/or mechanisms of assessing prior learning of an individual for potential credit towards an academic degree program (typically through portfolio or artifact evaluations)

Definitions are important when discussing nontraditional credit as individual states or accrediting bodies may have limitations on the application of PLA or nontraditional/alternative credit.  Understanding what these terms represent or how they are used is critical to ensuring all regulations are met regarding the assessment of PLA and nontraditional/alternative credit in one’s state or jurisdiction.

Different Types of Nontraditional Credit

There are three categories of nontraditional credit which one can tie to the general source of the assessment to equate to a credit award:

  • Credit by examination
  • Credit for learning obtained from individual work or life experience
  • Credit for learning obtained through standardized training programs or courses not offered in the traditional academic environment.

Credit by Examination

Credit by examination is the most widely recognized and accepted method of nontraditional credit for several reasons:

  • The requirements and scoring information contained on the examination transcript typically identifies the exam completed, as well as the credit amount earned for the exam.  Therefore, there is little-to-no assessment required at the institution level.
  • These exams typically satisfy and apply towards lower-division general education or elective requirements for a degree program.  (However, there are some credit-by-exam entities that do provide upper-division examinations)
  • Credits are generally easier to accept and apply within institutions because the lower-division content areas of a degree program are commonly less prescriptive than the upper-division and major components of the degree program.

Credit by examination is a common starting point for Institutions seeking to enter the nontraditional credit space.  In most cases the assessment and evaluation process for these activities can typically be bundled into an institution’s existing transfer credit evaluation process with minimal impact on resources.  Prior to accepting the examinations for credit, it is important to investigate if a credit by examination entity proctors exams, to ensure identity verification of the individual completing the examination and to create a sound testing environment.

Some of the most common credit by exam programs are CLEP (College-Level Examination Program), DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests, formerly DANTES, Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support), UExcel (Excelsior College Examination Program), and AP (Advanced Placement Exams).   However, this is not an all-encompassing list, and other examination types are also widely accepted within the industry.

  • CLEP is an exam program offered by the College Board and the exams are assessed by the American Council on Education. CLEP is one of the most prevalent credit-by-exam programs in the industry, offering more than 30 exams primarily covering lower-division general education topics.
  • DSST is an exam program offered by Prometric, and the credits are assessed by the American Council on Education.  DSST is largely associated with military students due to its ties to the Department of Defense.  DSST also offers more than 30 examinations which cover both upper-division and lower-division topics.
  • UExcel exams are offered through Excelsior College, and the exams are assessed by the American Council on Education.  They offer more than 50 exams covering both upper-division and lower-division topics.
  • AP exams are offered by the College Board for students completing Advanced Placement (AP) classes.  (Students may take AP exams without completing AP courses.) The exams are assessed by the American Council on Education. The AP examination typically is the basis for the credit, not for the class itself.  AP offers more than 30 exams.  These exams are commonly completed by students seeking to bypass common general education courses required in the first years of post-secondary education.

Credit for Learning Obtained Through Experience

The second category of nontraditional credit is credit for learning obtained through experience. Within this category, credit can be assessed for learning obtained outside of the classroom via a PLA assessment process.   This learning can encompass both personal and professional experience that equates to college-level learning.  Many different factors go into a PLA assessment such as content, hours spent learning, and the modality of learning (instructor-led learning vs. self-paced learning).  However, the assessment must be made based on the learning gained through the experience and not for the experience alone.  Additionally, students should be aware of their institution’s policies regarding the transferability of nontraditional credit as the assessment method may impact the transferability of PLA credit from one institution to another.

A PLA assessment can be conducted using an internal institutional process, or it can be outsourced to a third party that specializes in PLA assessment. Institutions making use of an internal PLA assessment process to assess experiential learning and institutions seeking to implement a PLA process to assess experiential learning should investigate and comply with any state or accreditation restrictions surrounding the application of this type of credit towards degree requirements.  PLA limitations for experiential learning may vary from state to state, and from accrediting body to accrediting body.  Therefore, it is imperative that any institution assessing and accepting PLA credit know and understand the PLA regulations that impact its process.

Within the industry there are two notable experiential learning assessment processes, portfolio and essay.  Portfolio assessments focus on the assessment of nontraditional learning activities, experiences, and artifacts deemed college-level due to the rigor and content of the activities. Such activities may include industry certificates or licenses, corporate training courses, and transcripts for vocational coursework to name a few.  The assessment is dependent on a student providing a learning artifact or credential earned for the experience, as this will demonstrate the student completed the learning at a satisfactory level worthy of a credential being awarded.  These artifacts or credentials can include industry certificates such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA exam) or Real Estate license and corporate training that encompasses college-relevant topics.

Essays focus on the student demonstrating in written form the learning that occurred through the experience. Two methods are commonly used for assessing experiential essays, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model.   Bloom’s Taxonomy focuses on six cognitive processes for assessing learning (Vanderbilt University, 2016):

  • Remembering
  • Understanding
  • Applying
  • Analyzing
  • Evaluating
  • Creating

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model focuses on the four distinct segments to learning (Evans, Forney, Guido-Dibrito, 1998):

  • Concrete Experience
  • Reflective Observation
  • Abstract Conceptualization
  • Active Experimentation

Both methods are accepted approaches for assessing knowledge demonstrated through the essay format.

For both the portfolio and essay processes, The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) has created ten standards for assessing PLA, and many institutions with internal PLA processes have adopted these standards when assessing PLA.  CAEL also provides services to institutions that wish to outsource their PLA process to a trusted industry entity.  CAEL’s Learning Counts is an online portfolio assessment service that uses faculty members to assess portfolio submissions and provides a credit recommendation for items assessed (CAEL, 2016). Additionally, it is accepted and expected that institutional faculty play a large part in the assessment process.  Faculty involvement lends credibility and consistency to the process.  Faculty and staff involved in the assessment process should be content experts for those topics they are assessing, and they should be well trained and kept abreast of any changes to policies or processes regarding PLA assessment.

Credit for Standardized Training Programs

The third category of nontraditional credit is credit for standardized training programs.  Many organizations have sought to create an academic equivalence for their training programs or industry-recognized assessments.  The most common form of this is military credit where military training for occupations are assessed by the American Council on Education (ACE).  ACE assesses both formal training programs and industry examinations for credit.  ACE recommendations are typically easier to place towards degree requirements as the recommendations from ACE include content and credit information including upper-division vs. lower-division recommendations.  Therefore, the need to conduct an individualized assessment is mitigated for those institutions that are willing to accept the prior credit recommendation from ACE.

ACE has assessed activities for more than 35,000 programs.  These ACE assessments encompass military training, credit-by-exam entities, corporate training, as well as non-institutional educational providers that offer self-paced programs resulting in proctored exams that mirror lower division general education coursework from an institution.  According to the ACE website, “The ACE College and University Network has more than 2,000 institutions that recognize and consider ACE credit recommendations for workplace and military training and occupations and other credit for prior learning options” (American Council on Education, 2016, para 3).

Benefits of Nontraditional Credit

In 2010, CAEL conducted a study encompassing 48 institutions including more than 62,000 students (Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, 2010).  The basis of the research was to investigate the effect nontraditional credit had on students’ performance during their degree program and to answer the following questions:

  • “Do adults who earn PLA credit have better graduation rates, compared with those who do not earn PLA credit?
  • Do they have better persistence?
  • Do they earn their degrees in a shorter period of time” (Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, 2010, p. 2)?

The research concluded there are numerous benefits for students who pursue and apply nontraditional credit, the primary benefits were:

  • Reduces time spent on degree
  • Reduces educational cost
  • Improves persistency rates for institutions (Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, 2010)

Based on a research brief from CAEL’s (2011) research, “the 4,905 students in our sample who earned PLA credits earned an average of 17.6 of those credits, the equivalent of more than five 3-credit courses” (p. 1).   This benefit equates to roughly a semester of time and tuition saved for the student.  Additionally, the research indicated, “adult students who receive PLA credit are two and a half times more likely to persist to graduation—and complete their degrees—than students who do not receive PLA credit” (Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, 2011, p.1). Therefore, students who receive PLA credit are not only able to connect their life experience to their educational pursuit– thus creating a more engaging and fulfilling student experience– but also enhance their chance for success and for persistence as students.

Current Trends

The space of nontraditional credit is one of the most innovative and polarizing areas in higher education.  Among trends and topics, MOOCs, non-institutional education providers, and graduate-level nontraditional credit are three items that are pushing the boundaries of nontraditional credit.

MOOCs

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) allow open access to free or low-cost course content, materials, and lectures via the internet.  Anyone wishing to participate can do so, and those individuals can learn at their own pace.   The primary obstacles with accepting credits from MOOC activities center around student verification and how to source the activity to a credit award since most MOOCs do not have any end assessment tied to the activity.

Non-Institutional Educational Providers

Over the past five years, non-institutional educational providers have gained momentum in the nontraditional credit space.  Organizations such as StraighterLine, SOPHIA Learning, and Study.com have been offering students opportunities to complete primarily lower division general education credit at a significantly reduced price point.  The activities from these non-institutional educational providers are assessed by ACE, which allows the activities to be accepted by academic institutions in the form of transfer credit.   The future of these non-institutional education providers will be determined based on the transfer mobility of the activities and how institutions will choose to use and apply these activities to augment their general education content areas.

Graduate-Level Nontraditional Credit and PLA

Nontraditional credit is still primarily applicable towards undergraduate degree requirements.  However, use towards graduate requirements is increasing.  This increase is due somewhat to the rise of competency programs.  Some state and accrediting bodies have limitations surrounding graduate level nontraditional credit and PLA.  Most graduate programs have more restrictive policies surrounding program residency requirements and transfer policies which limit the ability to apply non-traditional credit at the graduate program level.

Conclusion

This article is intended to provide some additional insight into nontraditional/alternative credit and its uses within higher education.  However, its intent is not to persuade institutions to adopt a PLA process.  Institutions should review their student needs, accreditation guidelines, and state regulations regarding non-traditional credit, and institutions should only implement what makes sense for their specific institution based on the institution’s mission, goals, and objectives.  Whether an institution has a mature process for assessing and applying nontraditional credit or an institution is just beginning to investigate the possibility of entering the nontraditional/alternative credit space, it is important to understand the landscape of this emerging trend in higher education.

 

References

 

Nathan_CicchilloNathan Cicchillo, MBA has worked in higher education for over 13 years, and since 2011 he has served as the Director of Admissions and Evaluation at University of Phoenix.  During that time Nathan has overseen the University’s Prior Learning Assessment department.  In 2014, University of Phoenix received the Southwest Alliance for Excellence, Showcase in Excellence Award,  for the University’s Prior Learning Assessment – Professional Training Portfolio Process. Nathan has earned all of his academic credentials from University of Phoenix, most recently receiving his Master of Business Administration.

 

Author’s Comments:  This article was based on the presentation, Perspectives on PLA and Nontraditional Credit, created by Marc Booker, Associate Provost, University of Phoenix.  I am grateful for Marc who provided his expertise and knowledge that greatly assisted with the creation of this article.

 

 

Developing Professional Excellence in the Registrar’s Office

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Given our role as higher education leaders, the professional development of our staff is often high on our priority list. We want our staff to continue growing and developing their skills and knowledge.  We want them to enjoy work and thrive in their positions.  And given resource-constraints we often need them doing more with less.  Yet, despite these ambitions, many registrars are at a loss when considering how to move forward.  Two of the major obstacles we run into involve determining what we really ought to do to advance our staff’s professional development and finding the time and resources to do it.  At the University of Utah we recently embarked on a year-long journey in the pursuit of professional excellence that may serve as a model for how you might implement something similar on your campuses.

For context, the Registrar’s Office at the University of Utah consists of 35 staff members.  Of this number 11 are salaried and considered “professional staff” and 24 are in full-time hourly, clerical positions.  One of the challenges we realized was that many of our professional staff, though hard working and knowledgeable about their areas, seemed to lack a broader vision for how their worked fit within the contexts of enrollment management or student affairs.  Some appeared dissatisfied with their work while others were too comfortable with the status quo.  Others performed as if they were still in clerical positions, albeit rewarded for their dedication with better income.  In response to this situation, our University Registrar, Tim Ebner, and I set out to develop a program that would address these challenges and hopefully inspire our professional-level staff to embrace all that being a leader and professional entails.

To help inform and guide efforts we drew upon three different theoretical sources.  First, we considered the idea that adult, professional learning should be approached differently than with traditional aged college students.  According to Knowles (1976, 1990), andragogy (adult learning) involves beginning with the that adults are self-directed learners pursuing knowledge from their intrinsic motivation to better themselves and understanding the role of teacher as facilitator of learning rather than transmitter of knowledge.  Knowles further suggested that work-related relevance critical for adults.  This prompted us to involve the professional staff in the program design to ensure ownership and commitment.  Next, we followed a basic cycle of learning at work suggested by Taylor and Furnham (2005) which entailed seven components:  (a) analyze needs, (b) select participants, (c) write learning objectives, (d) design content, (e) facilitate, (f) evaluate, and (g) modify as needed.  And finally, we agreed with Van Velsor and McCauley’s (2004) assertion that leader development includes a process of assessment, challenge and support as well as a variety of developmental experiences.

Together with the professional staff we committed to 17 different learning outcomes in the areas of knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be strengthened over the course of 14 different meetings throughout the academic year.  Some of the knowledge outcomes involved gaining an introductory understanding of basic student development theories and better understanding self and others.  We expected that participants would advance their skills related to modeling and communicating professional excellence as well as establishing or strengthening mentor relationships both on and off campus.  Some of the attitudes we sought to deepen were valuing continuous improvement; seamless navigation; and the removal of barriers to student success and taking responsibility for maintaining trust, respect, authenticity and fairness.

The only costs incurred besides the investment of time and relationships, involved purchasing the short film series by Marcus Buckingham entitled, Trombone Player Wanted as well as access codes for the StrengthsFinder assessment.  The six motivational clips in the film series lasted about 10-15 minutes each and provided an excellent opening for conversations about what it means to embrace our strengths and thrive at work.  In one of our sessions, an Academic Advisor and our Associate Director of Career Services debriefed the StrengthsFinder and led the staff in exercises to help embed the StrengthsFinder methodology in our everyday conversations.  In other sessions we interviewed a Registrar from one of our benchmark institutions by teleconference, our Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, and the Director of a Student Affairs graduate program.  In these interviews we learned about the professional journeys of these colleagues and they offered practical advice for our participants to embrace their own journeys.  In other sessions we invited colleagues from various Student Affairs divisions at the University to introduce our group to student development theories and explore how they might be utilized to better inform our work with students and others.

Three meetings remain before the conclusion of this program.  However, mid-point feedback from participants indicated they are all satisfied with the sessions and believe this is a good use of work time.  All of the responders stated they were learning more about themselves and how to develop as professionals.  At the conclusion of the program we will conduct a more thorough assessment but even now we are quite pleased with the success of the initiative and have noted a marked shift in the teamwork and enthusiasm with which our professional staff operate.

 

References:

  • Buckingham, M.  (Producer). (2006).  Trombone Player Wanted.  [DVD]. Available from www.tromboneplayerwanted.com
  • Knowles, M. S. (1976). Separating the Amateurs from the Pros in Training. Training & Development Journal, 30(9), 16. Retrieved from:  http://www.astd.org/TD/
  • Knowles, M. S. (1990). The Adult Learner:  A Neglected Species. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Co.
  • Taylor, J., & Furnham, A. (2005). Learning at Work:  Excellent Practice from Best Theory. New York, NY: Palgrave McMillan.
  • Van Velsor, E., & McCauley, C. D. (2004). Our View of Leadership Development. In C. D. McCauley & E. Van Velsor (Eds.), The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development (pp. 1-22). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

Michael_SantarosaMichael Santarosa, Ed.D. has worked in higher education for approximately 20 years at institutions in California, Alaska, Indiana, and Utah.  Since 2012 he has served as the Associate Registrar at the University of Utah overseeing student service operations, professional development, and assessment projects.   On August 1, he will transition to serve as the Registrar at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

Author’s Comments:  A version of this article appeared in AACRAO’s Connect Field Notes on March 23, 2016.

Traits to Emulate: A Tribute to Tom Watts

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Serving in Many Capacities

Tom Watts has worked his way through the Office of the Registrar at Oregon State University, doing practically every task in the office, save for technical programming.  Tom has been a mainstay in the office for 15 years.  And that, my friends, is why I’m absolutely distraught about losing Tom.

Working with a Timeline

During my first week working with Tom, he informed me that he had three years, seven months and 18 days before retirement.  Clearly, he wasn’t counting. So, his retirement is not a huge surprise to me; it is still a huge disappointment to lose such a fabulous colleague who has been consistently friendly, hardworking, discreet, and loyal to the office, his colleagues, and to me. Tom has taught me to be more patient, thoughtful and introspective about the work we do.

Being Available

Tom was always available.  I could count on one hand the number of times Tom went out for lunch while at OSU. He was always there for staff. No matter the time of day, I knew I could count on Tom to be at his desk and ready to serve students and staff. I don’t know how we will replace that level of service.

Solving Problems

Tom was always solving problems.  We had a small hiccup back in December 2013. It fell in the form of 14 inches of snow, right at the end of the term.  Final exams had to be re-scheduled.  Our core response team came together to brainstorm next steps. After 20 minutes, Tom left the room.  We were all tense and stressed, but why did Tom get up to leave?  Somewhat irritated, I checked on Tom.  To my surprise (and slight embarrassment), he looked up from his work (with some annoyance) to let me know that he was rescheduling group exams.  Good call, Tom.  You were solving that particular problem while the rest of us were talking about solving problems.

Thriving in the Gray Area

Tom thrived in the gray area.  He understood the complexity of our work and how the rules aren’t always as they seem. There is always more to a story, and the details that can change results for students. Tom knew how to handle situations that could impact one student or one thousand students.

Flying Below the Radar

Our office often talks about flying under the university radar, except when there is a problem.  Tom is part of the team that makes sure that the complicated, multi-step work of scheduling, final exams, graduation and many nightly job operations run dependably well, in the background.  Tom solved problems for people that they didn’t even know they had.

Providing Praise-worthy Service

Tom was nominated for many awards at OSU over the past several years.  Not only did our office nominate Tom for service awards at OSU, so did faculty across the campus. His name, face and stature are synonymous with the office. I have not met one person on campus who can’t say, “Oh, Tom, yeah, I know Tom.” Tom has two names around campus:  Saint Tom and the Gentle Giant. Tom has earned his nicknames and the reputation that the names embody through his every-day contributions.

Adding Humor

Tom added humor to our office.  After a particularly difficult interaction with a student or parent, he would send “therapy emails” that found the humor in the situation, for himself and for others.  Following a knotted discussion about post-baccalaureates and undergraduates and exceptions, Tom mused:  “Is a post-bac an undergraduate? Are dreams made of atoms? Are shadows? Is yoga a religion, or a philosophy, and if so, why am I not more flexible?”  Responding to where on the web to place information about having apostilles verified by notaries, Tom opined:   “Don’t you guys read the Bible? Jesus had 12 apostilles, and one turned out very badly. Probably did not have a notary.”

 

Rebecca_MathernRebecca Mathern, Master of Liberal Studies is the University Registrar at Oregon State University. She has been there since 2012 and previously worked as the Registrar at Portland Community College. She is actively involved in PACRAO as the 2016 program committee chair and presents regularly at AACRAO. Hailing from the great state of Minnesota, she is happily enjoying the fact that she doesn’t have to shovel the rain. In her non-existent spare time, she is entertained by her two young children.

 

Tom_WattsTom Watts worked at Oregon State for more than 15 years and had long served as the Associate Registrar. During that time Tom oversaw many different units within the office but focused on compliance areas such as graduation, athletics eligibility and veteran certifications. Tom also has extensive experience supporting the scheduling team on campus and led the transition to zone scheduling, created a structure to offer group midterms and final exams, and also served as the Interim University Registrar during a transitional period in 2012. His commitment and support to OSU and the profession was second to none.

 

Author’s Comments:  These comments reflect statements made at a retirement reception for Tom in April 2016. Tom is now retired and starting a new career of grandparenting as he and his spouse have recently relocated to an even rainier location in Washington.