General Assembly Releases Framework for Reporting Student Outcomes

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When students quit their jobs and put thousands of dollars on the line to attend a coding bootcamp, they want to know their investment will pay off. General Assembly is getting closer to making that promise. Today the New York-based company, which offers in-person and online classes for in-demand skills in fields including web development and user experience, released a public framework for measuring how its students perform in courses and in the job market.

Accelerated learning programs tout high job-placement rates and enviable salaries for their graduates, but there’s little consensus over how they report outcomes figures, leading some to wonder if they’re all they’re cracked up to be. “Measuring What Matters” is an open-source framework that General Assembly developed for itself and other programs to use to calculate graduation and job-placement rates.

“We have a duty to give students a return on their investment in education,” says Liz Simon, vice president for legal and external affairs at General Assembly.

The value of a college degree comes under more scrutiny as alternative credential providers offer new models of learning. New York-based General Assembly, which started as a co-working space in Manhattan in 2011 and morphed into a coding bootcamp, now offers full-time, part-time and one-off classes in career-related fields including web design and user experience. It’s among a growing number of non-accredited institutions that are seeking to fill the “skills gap” between the workforce today and the talent that companies need.

“Especially from the non-accredited perspective of GA, looking at quality assurance is hugely important,” Simons says. “We get nervous when we see wild claims.”

Over the past year and a half, GA has researched methods of measuring and reporting student outcomes. It worked with two accounting firms and borrowed principles that they use to help companies report non-financial metrics like social impact and environmental sustainability.

The resulting "Measuring What Matters" framework is a tool that will help GA report graduation and placement data specific to full-time accelerated learning programs, also known as bootcamps. The methodology is useful for “groups who are interested in promoting accountability and transparency in new models of higher ed,” Simons says.

The framework explains the kinds of data that GA is collecting to form its reports on outcomes, such as how many students withdraw from the program, how many put their job search on hold, and how many fail to obtain a work visa.

In building the framework, GA realized it didn’t have all the data it wanted to report on its own student outcomes, according to Simons. For instance the company doesn’t have enough information to accurately report information on salaries for graduates. “[The framework] is a starting point for us. It’s not full landscape of things we want to be able to report on for our students,” Simon says, adding that GA made the methodology public so that others in its industry can make more accurate claims about how their students fare. “We hope that others will look at it as a model to report on their own outcomes.”

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