ASU+GSV Day 3: Driving social impact through better data access and accountability

Guild is proud to be a Sponsor Partner of the 2022 ASU+GSV Summit. In honor of the summit’s spirit of shared learning, Guild has launched this three-day blog series in which we share key learnings and daily takeaways from ASU+GSV.

U.S. Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal (left) and Guild CEO and Co-Founder Rachel Romer Carlson (right) discuss the importance of adult learners and creating economic mobility. Photo credit: Stephen Cardinale


On the final day of the 2022 ASU+GSV Summit, Guild leaders engaged in nuanced conversations that included a critical component of enabling social impact at scale: desiloing data. 

It’s no secret that the data that can help us measure economic mobility is spread across a number of entities that have unique insight and touchpoints along the careers and learning journeys of working adult learners. From economic background and student debt to career-aligned skills and long-term advancement, the information critical to measuring —and therefore improving— economic mobility is acutely disaggregated. In a future that requires living links between learning and work, we can no longer operate in a fragmented system of data collection and information sharing.

Rachel Romer Carlson, CEO and Co-Founder of Guild, took the stage with James Kvaal, Under Secretary of Education and the U.S. Department of Education’s leader on postsecondary education, to discuss ways to expand access to education and enhance career mobility for working adult learners. One of the key challenges discussed was how to create access to outcomes and mobility data that will enable social mobility leaders to measure economic mobility. 

A national labor shortage has benefitted workers in the form of higher pay and greater agency in choosing an employer. In turn, employers —especially those with urgent shortages in essential roles— are seeking to differentiate. “They’re realizing the difference they can offer to workers are skills, and workers don’t ask for skills. They ask for career advancement,” Romer Carlson explained, citing a new report that shows 83% of workers served by Guild say career advancement is their primary reason for pursuing an education.

Meeting that demand for career advancement involves thoughtful investment in helping employees acquire new skills and competencies. Employers can improve talent attraction, strengthen retention, articulate career mobility pathways, and address skills gaps through offering debt-free access to education and intentional, collaborative partnerships with working adult learner-serving higher education institutions. 

Within a fast-moving economy, aligning programs and curricula to workforce demands can be challenging for institutions. In response to a question from Romer Carlson about how the Biden administration and the Department of Education think about how higher education can achieve this alignment, Under Secretary Kvaal pointed toward the importance of leveraging data to assess value: “And we in particular, have very good data on people who have received financial aid and we can talk about completion rates, we can talk about program level outcomes, we can talk about different student groups, and more and more we have good employment outcome data too. And so I think that’s a really important tool not only for students, but also for colleges and for employers and trying to assess the value.” 

Romer Carlson pointed out that this is a key area where major employers can also make a huge difference. “…the striking thing that we find in our work with employers on one side and university partners on the other is that, at some level, the average CEO now has more insight into the skills we need five years from now than then a university president has access to and that’s a problem. We need to get that data available to everybody. 

Romer Carlson also shared how Guild uses data for evaluation purposes as a social mobility company. “We’re doing our best in our own datasets today to constantly evaluate programs for quality outcomes,” she said. “We know that Chipotle employees [using the company’s education and skilling program] are being promoted at 7.5x the rate of their peers who aren’t in the program. But we don’t know about those students who leave Chipotle, we don’t have access to the IRS data in an aggregated sense to measure it…We would love a dataset that lets us help measure the economic mobility of every American learner so we can hold programs accountable.

To watch the full conversation, click here.

Guild Vice President Lisa McIntyre-Hite (left) moderates a panel discussion with healthcare experts focused on increasing education access to working adults. Photo credit: Stephen Cardinale


Higher education leaders are also striving for greater program accountability.

When it comes to the role of data collection and information sharing in enabling mobility, higher education can both better align with working adult learners’ needs and have an outsize impact on some of the most urgent challenges our society faces. A powerful example of that is the role higher education stands to addressing the ongoing labor crisis in the healthcare industry, where massive talent shortages, particularly in nursing, portend to dire social and public health consequences, and pathways from frontline to more advanced roles are unclear or non-existent. 

In a panel moderated by Dr. Lisa McIntyre-Hite, panelists discussed the possibilities for Competency-Based Education (CBE) —a system of teaching and learning that prioritizes actual student learning and the application of that learning rather than time spent in a classroom—to reduce the time it takes to upskill and educate healthcare workers, and unlock mobility for workers across fields within the industry. A major challenge, however, has been the siloed nature of healthcare education, and the time-as-mastery approach of most programs. 

Chief Learning Officer of Ascent Learning, Patty Knecht explained, “We [as a healthcare ecosystem] have not done an excellent job of creating seamless pathways in the industry. We tried, we have different entities trying to come together. CBE matters, we need to agree on them and say nationally this is what it is and move forward… Where do we have local or national norm tests for a pathway area that ensure that yes, learning did occur and achievement did happen? That sets people up for success.”

In order for CBE to work, competencies must be assessed and standardized across learning institutions in partnership with employers. Jennifer Graebe, Director of Continuing Professional Development and Joint Accreditation at the American Nurses Credentialing Center discussed the importance of evidence-based assessment: “Assessment is critical to CBE… when we look at the gamut of learners to assess competency at the level of need identified, [assessment] must be evidence-based. You don’t want to use a test to test practice. If you’re assessing skill, use skill life settings so learners apply knowledge in situ.” 

Furthermore, in order for working adult learners to be able to articulate competencies and learning into a career path, they cannot be obstructed by issues with transcripts and institution-specific policies regarding student data. Too often transcripts and other student data are incompatible across institutions and transparency is lacking, Natalie Jones, System Executive Director of Workforce Development at Wellstar Health System explained, “How can we get transcripts to evaluate the number of hours they have in a certain area? We look closely at how competency is measured and how we can efficiently build on competency. Automation is a huge focus for our HC system.” Edtech can be instrumental in this process of facilitating standardized processes for data collection and sharing between institutions at scale.

This discussion of CBE, measuring competency, and developing a common currency for awarding credit is an example of data as process, where student data informs a learning record that can be used to facilitate career mobility. But data collection must extend beyond reporting what working adult learners do during their learning journey to help us understand if they are indeed achieving their career goals and social mobility more broadly. This data is the true litmus test for the efficacy of learning programs and must inform the way we iterate and evolve our approaches to better meet their needs.

Data and information sharing based on better transparency, fidelity to working adult learner outcomes, and proper data collection is essential to designing a higher education system that includes and supports the success of all learners. Improved practices around data collection and sharing stand to facilitate working adult learner social mobility throughout their careers and learning journeys.