A key issue for one of our potential disruptors, StraighterLine, has been creating credibility among four-year institutions so that its students can transfer their credits easily when they are ready to enter a bachelor's program. Although their courses have been blessed by The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service, with current, input-focused approaches to accreditation, StraighterLine is unlikely to be able to achieve the stamp of approval of accreditation for its courses. Recently, in a very interesting move, StraighterLine has begun an effort to shift the focus away from input-focused accreditation towards student outcomes.
Beginning in the Fall of 2012, StraighterLine students will be able to purchase a set of core skills and information literacy tests:
Starting in the Fall of 2012, students will be able to purchase an individualized version of ETS’s iSkills™ assessment, the ETS® Proficiency Profile and CAE’s Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). The iSkills assessment measures a student’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a digital environment. The ETS Proficiency Profile assesses critical thinking, reading, writing, and mathematics skills in a single test. Through the use of authentic, performance-based qualitative and quantitative measures, the CLA assesses a student’s ability to think critically and write well, including their capacity to problem solve, reason analytically, and write in a persuasive manner that exhibits proper and accepted mechanics.
These assessments will provide a neutral evaluation of some of the student's accomplishments and capabilities at the end of their StraighterLine experience - something they can show prospective employers and admissions officers as they move on in the educational system.
Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, authors of Academically Adrift, have just published (with additional colleagues) a new study, Documenting Uncertain Times: Post-graduate Transitions of the Academically Adrift Cohort , that shows some interesting correlations with outcomes on the CLA. The report looks at a number of educational variables, including CLA at graduation, and relates them to a number of variables in the post-graduate lives of the cohort studied in Academically adrift. Among the results is the following:
Graduates who scored in the bottom quintile of the CLA were three times more likely to be unemployed than those who scored in the top quintile on the CLA (9.6 percent compared to 3.1 percent), twice as likely to be living at home (35 percent compared to 18 percent) and significantly more likely to have amassed credit card debt (51 percent compared to 37 percent).
The conclusion of Arum, as quoted in InsideHigherEducation, is that:
It documents that these skills and competencies that are measured by the CLA matter for many important early-adult life-course outcomes. They matter for successful adult transitions.
The report also shows that demonstrated growth in score over the college experience correlates well with a number of desirable early-adult life-course outcomes.
This new report helps to demonstrate the importance of the CLA, which should make it of significant value to StraighterLine students as they move on. However, the report does indicate that tests that StraighterLine will be offering might well have even more weight if they were given both at the beginning and the end of the StraighterLine experience since improvement is an important variable. Data on growth of the scores would also be very valuable to StraighterLine as it works to continuously improve its offerings.
It will be interesting to see if other higher education institutions - both non-profit and for-profit - follow the lead of StraighterLine in offering these tests to their students.