Central missions of the university are teaching and learning. Certainly, within the cycle of teaching and learning, assessment plays a central role. Teachers measure the effects of their pedagogy on student learning; then they use this assessment to improve their pedagogy and, consequently, student learning. As the cycles of teaching, learning, and assessment continue, teaching and learning are examined and improved. Technology is often an essential element of this cycle: it is one tool used to enhance teaching and learning. As such, it should be assessed as well as serve as a means of assessment.
More specifically when the terms assessment and technology are used together within a university environment, a variety of concerns arise.
How student learning is affected by technology. Given SCSU's central missions of teaching and learning, technology must support teaching and classroom goals and must help to facilitate student learning. To determine if technology is enabling student learning, SCSU needs to look at how technology is being used within disciplines to enhance student learning of content, as well as what students are learning about technology that they can apply to field-specific situations. In other words, this view of assessing the impacts of technology on student learning assumes that
Assessment of student learning is the responsibility of faculty, but it needs to be supported by the institution. In other words, reassigned time for faculty in departments and colleges that are assessing the academic outcomes of technology use is essential. In addition, coordinating and sharing assessment efforts across campus provide a clearer picture of the effects of technology on the university's central mission — teaching and learning — so a system for facilitating such coordination is needed. Unless resources are allocated to assessment at both the programmatic and university-wide level, it is unlikely that meaningful assessment of the effects of technology on student learning will occur.
Using technology to assess student learning. Technology can assist in assessment of student learning within and across programs and departments at SCSU as well as support testing within classes.
SCSU should explore technology that would help us to assess student learning within departments and programs and across the institution. For instance, SCSU might take advantage of MnSCU’s efolio initiative (http://www.efoliomn.com/), which provides for all Minnesota citizens templates and a modest amount of storage (3 MB per site) for e-portfolios. This initiative is intended to provide Minnesota citizens with a "Web-based portfolio management system that enables students, professionals, educators and others to organize, manage and display career and educational information to advance educational and career objectives" (http://www.avenet.net/). However, the minimal storage allotted through this initiative would need to be addressed — as would storage requirements for any long-term or widespread use of e-portfolios or other electronic student work within campus departments or programs.
SCSU could also explore other technology structures or applications that support the collection and management of large data sets that are closely integrated with ISRS; such technology might help us to track individual student progress within institutions or to complete large-scale program assessments. SCSU has recent experience with an assessment pilot program that tied student IDs to ISRS relational data sets and provided some experience in dealing with security and access issues; the results of this pilot project may be useful in further explorations of technological support of assessment.
In addition to assisting with programmatic and individual assessment of student learning, technology is increasingly needed to support testing on campus. For instance, with a growing number of large classes on campus, concern is building about efficient means for distributing test scores to large classes without contravening the Buckley Amendment. In addition, CIS-AdC currently scans over 2000 test sets per semester. Also computer-based testing for PPST, GRE, GMAT, and TOEFL is now offered on a limited basis through an office in Atwood Memorial Center, and placement testing for the Division of General Studies program is temporarily occurring in the training center for CIS-AdC. Development of a permanent testing center that provides the technology and staff support for all of this testing online would be an efficient use of technology and should be explored. If a permanent testing center existed, scanning equipment from CIS-AdC could be moved into this center. Online testing software might also be explored as possible supports for large classrooms in particular but also for any classes using objective tests.
Assessment of student technology competencies the university has agreed are essential in its graduates. Since workplaces our students will enter upon graduation are becoming increasingly rich and complex technologically, the university should have a campus-wide discussion of the technology literacy we would like our graduates to have. The following technology competencies (based upon March 1998’s "Technology Plan for St. Cloud State University") might be a starting place for such a conversation:
Departments and programs should determine which of these competencies are relevant
to their students, which additional discipline-specific technology competencies
are needed before graduation, and how these competencies might be taught and assessed
within courses, programs, and departments. Discussions within departments and colleges
as well as campus-wide conversations should result in an agreed-upon set of competency
goals for the university as a whole as well as discipline-specific competencies
for particular fields.
In the next five years, we should
TPR will be the committee to complete assessment goals for this plan.
Resources for assessment would need to be determined and allocated, including the costs of faculty time for assessment as well as technology support for assessment. Primarily, the overall cost of assessment would include reassigned time for faculty coordinating assessment efforts university-wide or in the colleges or departments. Technology support would include technology systems or applications used in assessment as well as technology support for those systems.
Revised: May 2003