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JISC is helping to support the technical innovation and interoperability aspects of the piloting of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). HEAR is intended to provide a single comprehensive record of a learner’s achievement at a higher education institution. It will be an electronic document, which will adhere to a common structure and be verified by the academic registrar or equivalent officer. Institutions may also choose to issue a paper document.

Higher Education achievement report (HEAR)

JISC is helping to support the technical innovation and interoperability aspects of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). The HEAR is intended to provide a single comprehensive record of a learner’s achievement at a higher education institution. It will be an electronic document, which will adhere to a common structure and be verified by the academic registrar or equivalent officer. Institutions may also choose to issue a paper document.

Over 90 institutions are currently implementing the HEAR. General implementation information and support are provided by Higher Education Academy and the Centre for Recording Achievement. More general implementation information is available. This JISC webpage gives the technical information required to implement the HEAR.   

The HEAR contains information identifying the holder of the qualification, and information on the institution and the national higher education system. It includes information on the qualification, its level, and details of each of the modules or units studied, the form of assessment (timed examination, essay, project, dissertation), marks awarded, and their relative weighting towards the final summary mark or grade. It also includes information on activities carried out by the student which do not carry credit towards their award, but which can be verified by the institution. This includes prizes, volunteering, widening participation activities, additional study (eg languages).

Most of the information required for the HEAR will be in existing institutional, faculty and departmental records, though it may not be collated into a single location. Institutions will need to ensure that they can store and access historical information, such as achievement on programmes and modules that have been revised or are no longer running. Information on additional and non-credit-bearing activities may not currently be collected or verified, so new processes will need to be put in place if this information is to be included.

Many institutions will wish to integrate electronic systems and human-centred processes to allow all the relevant information to be collated into one or more central systems, usually the Student Records System. These systems will therefore need to contain the necessary data fields and be able to output appropriate information.

HEAR readiness self-assessment framework

JISC has funded the development of a HEAR readiness self-assessment framework, which aims to help institutions to understand and plan for the changes to strategies, policies, systems and processes which will support the production of the HEAR.  

See the framework

Technical specification

The HEAR starter pack contains guidance to inform institutional implementation and can be requested  from HEAR website 

A technical specification (v1.0.3)  for the HEAR XML data output format has been produced and conforms to the CEN European Learner Mobility Achievement Information (EuroLMAI) standard. It contains all the data required for the Diploma Supplement. The specification was developed in conjunction with UK student records systems vendors and other interested parties to support interoperability of achievement information between systems. The EuroLMAI conformant XML data specification for the output of HEAR data uses XCRI-CAP as the course description component promoting interoperability.

Once an electronic HEAR has been produced, they will need to be stored in such a way that they can be accessed securely by individual learners and on request distributed to and verified for third parties such as employers, recruitment agencies or other education institutions. Several models for the distribution architecture and access management have been proposed for institutions and vendors to consider. Different models are likely to work for different institutions, but there is clearly potential for some shared services in this area.

Fuller technical information about the content of the HEAR XML data specification.

The HEAR Technical Standards document  outlines the relationship between the HEAR and other similar standards in the education sector including Euro LMAI and XCRI-CAP.

A mapping document has been produced to assist in implementation of the HEAR technical specification.   This mapping document aligns the technical specification with the HEAR guidance document  (HEAR page)  to show how each aspect of the guidance is implemented through the XML Schema. Example XML has been provided to illustrate each data item in the document and a complete example XML file has also been produced.  

An overall summary spreadsheet is available which provides a clear overview of the structure of the HEAR XML Schema with the basic technical information. The second worksheet in this file provides a mapping to the Euro LMAI standard as a comparison between the two standards.

To join discussion groups around HEAR implementations, go to JISCMAIL  groups JISCMail mailing lists:

  • HEAR-TRIAL-GROUP and HEAR-EXTENSION-LIST@JISCMAIL.AC.UK These lists are used to make announcements to members of the HEAR trial and implementation institutions. Please contact HEA HEAR team at www.hear.ac.uk  if you would like to join these lists. 
  • HEAR-TECHNICAL This was the private list for discussing technical details.
  • HEAR-SITS-USERS This list was set up to share issues, ask questions, etc. about the HEAR with the SITS system.
  • HEAR-SPEC This list is for collaboration on a common technical specification.

Technical pilot: Electronic transcript and recruitment services

A technical pilot in 2009 was completed by Swansea University to demonstrate how the electronic HE transcript element of the HEAR can be produced from an existing student record system using web services. Electronic transcripts were issued for all current and graduated Swansea students. In addition, on request by the student, the structured electronic transcript can be uploaded into a recruitment engine which enables employers to target students who fit their desired employment profile. The transcript data is presented as verified by the institution, and is supplemented by unverified student-provided information. Although only one approach, this is a demonstration of how the verified transcript could start helping employers use richer information on students’ academic achievements during recruitment. 

Download the report

The JISC DARE project was funded to deliver a system for the secure on-line delivery of degree certificates, transcripts, Higher Education Achievement Reports and other student data and documents via Digitary as a Shared Service. The proposed service is suitable for deployment as Software as a Service on a hosted cloud platform. Led by Liverpool John Moores University, Project DARE brings together a diverse consortium of Universities with a variety of student record systems. HESA, the Centre for Recording Achievement and the University of London Computing Centre all supported this project. In addition eighteen other Universities have indicated an interest in evaluating the resulting service for implementation.

The Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) is intended as the first port of call for any individuals or organisations seeking degree verification. It can be used to check that a UK higher education provider existed and was approved by the UK government at a given date. It provides contact details to direct the user to the appropriate records office for their query. It is particularly useful for employers and postgraduate course providers wanting to verify degree results, and for graduates to request transcripts and replacement certificates such as the HEAR.

JISC infoNet, a JISC Advance service, offers a host of online resources in support of the implementation and management of the HEAR and related initiatives, including:

The ways in which the HEAR might be linked to the Learner Record Services ‘Personal Learning Record’ and to HESA data collection was explored by University of Manchester. In a pilot project the University added the ULN to the electronic HEAR, which was produced through the Digitary system that is used by the University. Access for the HEAR through the PLR would be provided by including Document Shares for their HEARs in the students’ PLRs. Document Shares are used in Digitary to allow students and graduates to control access to their secure electronic documents as issued by the institution through Digitary.

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