Planning, assessment, and improvement are a shared responsibility, and the process involves every unit and sub unit reporting annually on goals, assessing those goals, and making improvements based on findings. The College recognizes the vital importance of academic assessment through a comprehensive institutional effectiveness plan. Understanding the connections between CCGA’s strategic plan (Coastal Vision 2021), core curriculum outcomes assessment (institutional level) and academic program review – annual, comprehensive and accrediting agency – is necessary to have a complete picture of this institutional effectiveness process.
The College’s institutional effectiveness framework is foundational to the College’s process for identifying and assessing student learning outcomes and embraces a continuous improvement approach – from the development of baccalaureate degree programs to the hiring of new faculty, to the establishment of new procedures for assessment and strategic planning. This framework allows for a continuous planning process and a feedback loop relating to achievement of the desired outcomes of its educational programs and its academic and educational support services.
CCGA has developed a five-year implementation and planning cycle to demonstrate and ensure that the institution is committed to integrated strategic planning. Through this process, the College develops a set of strategic goals, including measurable outcomes, which provide opportunity for continued institutional improvement and success. The strategic goals are aligned with the University System of Georgia's (USG) Strategic Plan.
During the annual planning retreat each summer, the President’s Cabinet and other key faculty and administrative staff members meet to review the institution’s mission and vision statements, to discuss the current and future planning environment, including potential opportunities and threats, and to develop institutional priorities, including expected outcomes, for the next academic year. Some strategic planning items are carried over from the previous year, while new items may be added to the upcoming year based on retreat discussion. The outcome of the planning process is a finished plan that is shared with the institution’s internal and external constituencies.
The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) monitors the strategic planning process to ensure alignment with the College’s mission and vision, as well as with the USG’s Strategic Plan. Additionally, the OIE assists in hosting quarterly strategic planning meetings and reporting out action strategy achievements as part of the annual evaluation process. Further, the OIE serves as a conduit between the institutional strategic planning and unit level planning processes to ensure that recommended action strategies are developed in tandem to eliminate redundancy and encourage collaboration.
Outcomes of educational, academic programs at CCGA are assessed through five (5) major processes:
Distance EducationPractices for assessing student learning outcomes in distance education programs are the same as for on-campus programs. Since distance learning courses are part of the total course offerings within each School, department, and curriculum, the College ensures that they are taught with the same attention to high quality as all other courses. Program faculty use the same learning outcomes regardless of educational delivery, although the methods of data collection might differ somewhat due to the mode of instruction. In accordance with a USG Board of Regents mandate, all CCGA’s online programs and instruction take place through the BrightSpace by D2L learning management system. All CCGA online programs’ curricula and length, student learning outcomes and assessment measures have stayed identical to their on-campus counterparts.
The CAA works alongside the OIE and provides departmental guidance concerning assessment, reviews academic assessment plans, and makes recommendations for improving student learning. Additionally, the CAA offers recommendations to the Faculty Senate on ways to coordinate and promote assessment of the general education and program learning outcomes to ensure that these activities are used to improve the quality of instruction, to provide feedback to faculty on ways to improve student learning, and to meet the requirements of the USG and SACSCOC. In turn, the Faculty Senate provides input to the Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs regarding the development of assessment policies and overseeing assessment efforts campus-wide, ensuring that the value of assessment becomes an integral part of the College’s academic culture.
The OIE provides central coordination and support for the process, maintaining the cycle of reviews, orienting unit leaders to the process, recruiting and charging review teams, facilitating the steps in the process, providing survey support as needed, arranging follow-up meetings, and maintaining the documents associated with the reviews.
All academic programs at CCGA undergo annual academic program reviews with the primary goal to improve students’ learning. Faculty responsible for each academic program within each School are required to define and articulate clear, measurable student learning outcomes for program completion; identify methods and criteria for measuring attainment of those outcomes; gather evidence on a regular basis to analyze the extent to which students are achieving these outcomes across the program; and, use the results of these assessments to make improvements to the program. Each program is required to develop an assessment plan that details how the student learning outcomes process will be (or is being) implemented, and reviewing and update that plan periodically. The OIE collects and maintains these plans centrally (Institutional Effectiveness Intranet) and offers consultation, technical services (e.g., conducting surveys and focus groups, guidance in creating rubrics), information on peer institution assessment strategies, and other resources to support faculty across campus in carrying out meaningful assessments.
School Deans and Department Chairs evaluate assessment results to identify ways to improve the educational environment and enhance student success. Implementing the outcomes assessment process requires a plan that explains what will be measured, how it will be measured, when the assessment will occur, who is responsible for assessment activities, and how the assessment information will be used. All academic programs also use curriculum maps showing the relationship between the program learning outcomes and course content that helps shape and focus assessment for the academic degree programs. Similarly, every course identifies and publishes in the course syllabus those student learning outcomes that support the program-level outcomes
The OIE Assessment Specialist provides ongoing training for all assessment related activities. Workshops are conducted periodically on assessment writing, grading rubric development and sharing best practices in academic assessment. The Assessment Specialist also conducts specific workshops on particular assessment topics as requested by departments. The OIE utilizes a rubric to score and provide feedback on the quality of each program review report. This rubric provides specific criteria that must be included in each report. This assessment rubric guides the Assessment Specialist to provide consistent scoring and facilitate feedback, but also serves as a self-assessment tool to guide programs when developing evaluation reports.
In comparing program and course levels, the program level student learning outcomes describe what a student will be able to accomplish at the point of graduation from the program, while the course-level student learning outcomes describe what the student is expected to achieve at the completion of a particular course. Typically, all courses follow a master course syllabus template that contains the entire standard course-related information, as well as the course-level student learning outcomes. Those courses using an assessment rubric are supported with instructor-specific guidelines to allow evaluation of student outcome. Rubrics are linked to the course-level student learning outcomes, which in turn are associated with the program level student learning outcomes, and then mapped to the institutional student learning outcomes.
It is important to note that, throughout the student learning assessment process, no data sets are used to directly evaluate the performance of a faculty member. This approach establishes transparency and reassures faculty that student learning outcome data will be used solely to improve the assessment process.
Over the past five years, CCGA has completed at least one and in many cases multiple course-level assessments for nearly every course in the curriculum inventory. Faculty members have kept pace with assessment requirements by revisiting previously completed assessments within the established five-year time frame. To improve tracking and reporting of course-level assessment, the OIE is developing an improved system that will use a database to store and make available initial and subsequent course-level assessments. This system is being discussed with a roll out in Spring Semester 2020.
In addition to annual assessment of student learning outcomes by program, CCGA has established a Comprehensive Program Review (CPR) process to meet the expectations of the USG for student learning outcomes assessment. Similarly, the College’s academic program review policies and practices must meet System expectations and requirements for periodic Comprehensive Program Review of all academic programs.
Each academic program is required to engage in Comprehensive Program Review at least once every seven years. Programs that do not measure well against the review characteristics (as determined by the School Dean, Department Chair, or Provost) are subject to review at least every three years.
The results of the CPR, as well as the annual data on student learning outcomes, are used in the departmental planning process. Comprehensive Program Reviews provide information on the long-term history and long-term plans of the program, while student learning outcome data allow programs to make more immediate and specific adjustments.
The process of institutionalizing continuous and systematic feedback is and will always be evolving. However, a key element of this process is the identification by program faculty of how to best align their program(s) purpose and goals with the institution’s mission. These will serve as the foundation for assessing progress and for interpreting data collected on student outcomes, through Comprehensive Program Review, and from additional sources to make decisions for classroom and program improvements. It is also aligned with a college-wide process for institutional effectiveness that ensures intentional and transparent budgeting and decision-making in a continual effort to enhance student learning.
Of the twenty-one career associate and baccalaureate degree program offerings at CCGA, six are accredited by professional organizations. These accrediting agencies set expectations for the curriculum, students, faculty, administration, research, professional practice, facilities, and other resources. Also, a review of the standards of the professional associations that accredit CCGA’s programs revealed that all require outcomes-based program evaluation and student learning outcomes assessment procedures to ensure that graduates are attaining expected competencies for practice.
Standards typically include the requirement that a program demonstrates not only that assessment occurs, but also that the results are being used to improve the program.