Guidance for Business and Higher Education Partnerships

We just published a new resource – Guidance for Business and Higher Education Partnerships – which features key ideas from the 2017 CAEL Conference with CAEL’s Business Champions.

The major takeaway from this session?

There are many mutual opportunities between businesses and higher education to work together in a more responsive manner to address the “war on talent;” a partnership model is critical to success for all involved – organizations, higher educational institutions and programs, and students.

Students & Accreditation

In July 2017, The QA Commons sponsored two of its Student Quality Assurance Advisory Delegation (SQAAD) members – Ahmad Shawwal and Erick Montenegro – to attend the Postsecondary National Policy Institute’s Higher Education Accreditation Boot Camp for Perspective Policymakers.  Here are their thoughts:


Building Trust & Other Connecting Credentials Reports Released

Connecting Credentials just released five workgroup reports with important new insights on achieving a well-functioning, learner-centered credentialing ecosystem. Ralph Wolff and Melanie Booth from The QA Commons served as co-chairs with Nate Anderson from Jobs for the Future for the group that worked on Building Trust in the Quality of Credentials. This report outlines three conditions in which trust in quality credentials can be promoted: quality, evidence, and transparency.  From the report:
To build greater trust, we need improvements across the three domains of trust—quality, evidence and transparency. We need quality assurance processes to become more transparent and aligned with workforce needs and to promote adherence to, and continuous improvement of, these standards. We need more complete and comprehensive data collection and research/evaluation efforts to produce evidence of credential outcomes and value. We need increased transparency and much greater investment in guidance to help users make informed choices about a credential’s value for their purposes. To make informed choices, consumers, especially “first-generation learners,” need help and context to understand what data are important, what the data mean, and how to rely on evidence and data to make decisions.

The Building Trust report identifies some promising approaches in the field to address this issue, and concludes with a set of recommendations for action.

The five reports are:

  • Aligning Supply and Demand Signals – This workgroup describes the opportunity presented by the convergence of technology changes and increasing focus on competencies to transform hiring and job searches.
  • Improving Learner Mobility – This group recommended actions to strengthen the meaning and role for shorter-term credentials (certificates, certifications, badges, and more) in education and employment.
  • Making All Learning Counts a Reality – This group created a two-part model to help understand what learning doesn’t count for either educational credit or employment, and made recommendations centered on opportunities to ensure work-based learning is recognized for both purposes.

Each report contains an overview of the issue on which the workgroup focused, examples of promising practices, and recommended actions. This set of reports offers an important supplement to the recommended actions published a year ago in From National Dialogue to Collective Action: Building Learning-Based Credentialing Systems.


Slides From IUPUI Assessment Institute

Peter Ewell and Melanie Booth from The QA Commons presented about the EEQ Certification project at the IUPUI Assessment Institute on October 23, 2017.  Here are the slides:

In attending the conference, we also learned about a lot of programs and institutions doing good work in the areas we are exploring: engaging students in assessment; assuring high quality experiential learning opportunities for students to apply their learning to work-based contexts; documenting and assessing student learning with ePortfolios; etc. We’re eager to soon share some new resources as a result on our Resource webpage, so check back soon!

EEQ Pilot Research Questions


Learning is Here | by cogdogblog

The Quality Assurance Commons is working with 27 programs from 14 higher educational institutions to co-design and pilot a new approach to program-level quality assurance that focuses on developing students’ Essential Employability Qualities (EEQs). These EEQs include:

  1. People skills such as collaboration, teamwork and cross-cultural competence;
  2. Problem-solving abilities such as inquiry, critical thinking and creativity; and
  3. Professional strengths such as communication, work ethic and technological agility.

We have several research questions guiding this work, which we are addressing together during the pilot process, including:

  • Do the draft criteria reflect the needs of students and employers and support program effectiveness?
  • What are the most relevant and useful indicators of success for each criterion?
  • What data are publically available, relevant, and useful in identifying program performance and outcomes vis-à-vis the criteria?
  • What is the best way to validate and evaluate data provided by an institution or program?
  • What are the best ways to connect program outcomes with institutional support services, such as career services, student advising, etc.?
  • In what ways will the quality assurance process provide value to institutions and programs while not creating additional reporting burdens?
  • How can EEQ Certification communicate program quality and performance successfully to students, employers, community members, and other external stakeholders as well as to the institution and/or program being reviewed?
  • How might the certification approach best be aligned with other quality assurance processes, such as program reviews and regional, national, and programmatic accreditation?

We are also exploring the delicate but essential balance between developing a rigorous process so that a certification can be meaningful to employers and students with the reality of programs’ capacity.

What other questions should we try to address as we work with our partner programs to develop this approach? Let us know in the comments below!

News About The EEQ Pilot

Two pieces have recently been published about the EEQ Pilot  project- see them here:

Next-Generation Quality Assurance for Tomorrow’s Talent – by Debra Humphreys, Lumina Foundation

Group Attempts New Twist on Accreditation – by Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed


EEQ Draft Criteria Pilot Feedback

The EEQ Pilot officially launched on September 14-15, 2017. One of the items we requested feedback on from our 27 pilot programs (and guest attendees) was the draft Criteria for Certification. Table groups used an initial self-assessment and review of the draft criteria to discuss and compile an initial set of guidance. Here are the themes that emerged from this feedback, and The QA Commons’ responses.


EEQ Pilot liaisons and guests discussing the draft criteria.


Theme 1 Rigor – The group’s feedback indicated concerns about what was reasonable to ask programs to do and be responsible for. We recognize that what we are asking for in the criteria may in fact depend on program or institutional changes that may not be feasible at this time. (Example: Moving from a transcript to a more compressive student record system or ePortfolio.) We also believe that if this process and a resulting certification are to “change the conversation” and some of higher ed’s practices in support of students, and if a certification is to have value and meaning to employers and students, the criteria and review process need to be rigorous. We will continue to partner with our pilot programs to identify how we can best balance rigor and reality. (The next step to test this will be to analyze the findings from the Inventories of Practice & Evidence that pilot programs will submit later this fall.)

Theme 2 Requirements – Some of the criteria (the EEQs specifically) likely would require curricular or co-curricular re-designs that might conflict with, or add to, other existing program or institutional requirements for students. We understand this may be the case and we want to work with our pilot programs to explore ways we can prevent programs from “just adding more.” We do not want programs to just “add more” in order to be certifiable; we believe there are other ways that employability development can be accomplished, which may very well require some changes in practice.

Theme 3 Equity – As the participants noted, many of the criteria call for “all students” and “ensuring each student…” and this is by design. Along the same lines as rigor, we think that all students should in fact graduate with all of the EEQs (just as there are other graduation requirements that programs and institutions have). We also don’t want to establish criteria that inadvertently put some students at a disadvantage. During the pilot, we will rely on the assistance of the pilot programs to make sure we have not done so.

Theme 4 The EEQs (Graduate Profile) – The QA Commons team is still reflecting on the initial feedback  provided to us on the EEQ Graduate Profile.  For example, we still need to explore disciplinary perspectives and “levels” of learning, and we also need to work through employers’ feedback that we’re in the process of collecting. These qualities will eventually be refined, revised, and improved; for the purposes of completing the Inventory this fall, pilots will use the list as is — a general list of graduate attributes — with everyone’s acknowledgment that this is only Version 1 and we likely have several more to go.

Theme 5 Resources – The great feedback our pilots shared with us pointed us to the need to develop and disseminate resources to support some of these criteria, such as how to best engage with and collect meaningful data from alumni; models or good practices for employer partnerships; guidance for student engagement; and even example program designs. We hope to partner with many of the pilot programs — and others — to help develop these resources. For now, we have a very initial list of resources on our website – HERE. Please feel free to send any additional resources to add.

The QA Commons’ team would like to express our gratitude to our 27 pilot programs for their great ideas and critical perspectives on this project.