Some students who graduate from Northern Arizona University will receive not only a regular transcript, indicating which classes they passed and the grades they earned, but another transcript indicating actual ability.

According to an article at Inside Higher Ed:

Students who enroll in a new competency-based program at Northern Arizona University will earn a second transcript, which will describe their proficiency in the online bachelor degree’s required concepts. The university will also teach students how to share their “competency report” transcripts with potential employers.

This represents one of the first attempts to show what students have actually learned and can do as a result of their courses. (There are, according to the article, two other universities attempting to use transcripts to show competency.) People looking at some NAU graduates will be able to tell not only that a graduate earned a B+ in microeconomics, but that he has “full mastery” of the skill of “composing… academic essays in various rhetorical styles.”

According to the article:

Tuition for the competency-based option is $2,500 for a six-month subscription. Students can move as fast as they want through the course material and lessons, as long as they prove competency in each learning outcome.

This new project comes from a widespread understanding the current system, which rewards credit for hours spent in the classroom and tests passed, may not be such an effective way to measure learning. This is, in theory, a better measure because it shows what students learned and can do. NAU hopes that eventually this sort of transcript will become common.

“We think employers eventually will like that transcript better,” said Alison Brown, associate vice president of Northern Arizona’s extended campuses.

Perhaps. There are currently no employers demanding that colleges provide competency demonstrations, and little indication that employers are looking at these sort of transcripts when they’re available.

Check out a sample of the competency transcript here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer