An official way to track student co-curricular activities

Several years in the development phase, last month Iowa State launched its co-curricular transcript (CCT) website, designed to capture student achievements and activities that don't make it onto a traditional academic transcript.

Students who create a co-curricular transcript may customize multiple versions for specific audiences; output options are a PDF file or web link. They'll use them to apply for anything from scholarships to internships to jobs, said student activities director George Micalone. A key proponent of the CCT, Micalone is spending considerable time this fall introducing the concept and its functionality to campus audiences.

The Student Activities Center website contains FAQs for students and verifiers.

He said he anticipates the CCT system will take a year or two "to come to full fruition." Students, he noted, will buy in and put time into it "as they gear up for the next opportunity."

The registrar and provost offices and residence department also helped shape the CCT during its development.

"We make a big deal about experiential learning, co-curricular learning, student organization experiences as part of the overall experience at Iowa State," said associate provost for academic programs David Holger. "This is a chance to track all of those for our students."

Holger also pointed to an outcomes metric in Iowa State's new strategic plan: the number of undergraduate students who participate in at least two enriching educational activities. For example, he said he suspects there are more undergraduates involved in research than the university has been able to track centrally. The CCT system provides a way to do that, he said.

Iowa State's CCT, developed by a web development team in IT Services, features 10 submission categories:

  • Campus employment
  • Campus involvement
  • Community service
  • Honors and awards
  • Leadership experience
  • Publications
  • Recreational activities
  • Research
  • Seminars and workshops
  • Study abroad and internships

Departments, offices play a key role

Iowa State units that offer or oversee student involvement in any of these categories will be asked to verify students' participation. They can do this by responding to a student's request for verification, but the more efficient option, Micalone said, is for units to create an account within the CCT system, appoint at least one faculty or staff verifier and proactively group-load its activities -- such as student researchers, department-affiliated club officers or service learning participants -- into the system.

Verified entries confirm to transcript readers that an activity is closely connected to the university.

"For example, for the members of a screening committee, verification gives them the assurance that the entry is important and legitimate," Micalone said.

The CCT has sections for both verified and student-entered entries; those entered by students require action by the relevant department if they are to move into the "verified" section. Micalone said student entries are encouraged, too.

Micalone said the CCT system was built with an eye on convenience for verifiers. Once a department is set up in the system, any number of people in that unit can serve as verifiers. Verifiers choose how frequently they'll respond to pending requests. Options include daily or weekly summaries emailed to them, or simply logging into the system regularly to respond to accumulated requests.

Departments that would like a short CCT introduction from Micalone can email or call him at 294-8370 to request one.

Should my department be involved?

Micalone said all kinds of departments could contribute to students' CCTs. Examples would be units that:

  • Host a student organization
  • Employ students
  • Place students on research teams
  • Award scholarships
  • Send students to conferences
  • Involve students in their publications
  • Engage in service learning
  • Sponsor study-abroad programs
  • Select college ambassadors
  • Offer student leadership opportunities

A feature of Iowa State's CCT still under development is the option for units to tabulate data for their own use, for example in an annual summary or accreditation self-report.

"We believe that students involved early on at Iowa State are more likely to be successful here and graduate," Holger noted. "This system should be able to provide the data that shows us how accurate that is.

"At the same time, is there such a thing as students who are 'too involved?' We should see evidence for that, too," he said.