Pearson audit to ‘challenge’ universities on learning outcomes

Firm will detail effectiveness of its courses by auditing products

Education publishing company Pearson is to introduce an “efficacy framework” that will detail the effectiveness of its courses and learning materials in the same depth as its financial accounts.

Sir Michael Barber, chief education adviser to Pearson and a former aide of Tony Blair during his time as prime minister, said that by auditing its products and publishing the results, the company was “challenging schools and universities” to be more transparent about the learning outcomes of their courses.

“There’s a global trend towards focusing on outcomes,” he told Times Higher Education, pointing towards the publication of university rankings, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s “Pisa” ranking of school pupils’ performance, and US president Barack Obama’s recent call for a more outcomes-based assessment of higher education institutions as examples.

“Universities need to be much clearer about the learning outcomes that students should be able to expect [from their studies],” he said. “We are throwing down a gauntlet to people and saying let’s focus on outcomes, because that’s what’s important for our customers, and for learners.”

Pearson’s higher education offerings include Pearson College in London, which offers degree validated by Royal Holloway, University of London (among others), and a large range of online courses.

By 2018, the firm will publish audited learning outcomes measures and targets for all of its products alongside its financial accounts. These reports will recommend how products can improve learner outcomes by using data analytics and digital technology.

“When we publish our annual report five years from now, we will, in a rigorous and externally audited way, be able to report on the progress we have made in improving learner outcomes,” said chief executive John Fallon.

“To achieve this, we will need to collectively agree on the learner outcomes that we will track, measure and strive to achieve.”

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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