5.4.4 Assessment

Background

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.

  • First and most significantly is assessment of how student learning is affected by technology. Technology is not neutral; and, as an institution of higher learning, SCSU needs to ensure that technology applications used in the classroom are not negatively affecting classrooms or student learning.
  • Second is using technology to assess student learning. Technology applications such as e-portfolios and other technology structures that support assessment can enable faculty to track individual student learning within SCSU and MnSCU as well as document the overall learning outcomes within academic programs.
  • Third is assessment of student technology competencies the university has agreed are essential in its graduates. Given the technology-rich workplaces students will enter upon graduation, ensuring baseline technology competencies for our graduates will enhance their employability.

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

  • students will have access to the technologies, the instruction, and the support necessary to develop technological competencies that will enhance learning in their academic programs.
  • assessment of the effects of technology on student learning, on the classroom environment, and on teaching is best done within the departments and colleges since experts in specific fields are best qualified to establish and use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are meaningful within their disciplines

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:

  • Students use e-mail and the Internet to communicate and locate information.
  • Students access curricular information made available by the faculty or the university.
  • Students create documents, including graphics, on a computer using appropriate software applications.
  • Student search library databases and use technology to support written and oral presentations in their fields.
  • Students use spreadsheets, databases, and graphics as they are used in their disciplines.
  • Students create a computer-based multimedia project.
  • Students understand basic computer operations.

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.

Goals

In the next five years, we should

  • determine current efforts of measuring the effects of technology on teaching and student learning outcomes
  • make recommendations about means of encouraging departmental and programmatic assessments and university-wide coordination of such efforts
  • allocate resources to support assessment of the effects of technology on teaching and learning
  • facilitate departmental, programmatic, and university-wide assessment of the effects of technology on student learning and classroom environments
  • investigate technology applications currently available for tracking individual students’ learning or for collecting and managing large data sets for full-scale program assessments
  • investigate testing software and make recommendations regarding its acquisition and use at SCSU
  • explore the possibility of a permanent testing center on campus that could provide the technology and staff support for online testing
  • encourage university-wide conversation about technology competencies desired in SCSU graduates as well as conversations in colleges and departments about discipline-specific technology competencies

Specific Actions and Timeline

TPR will be the committee to complete assessment goals for this plan.

  • The committee will follow the standard timeline (see 5.0) for carrying out and reporting on specific actions.
  • The committee will evaluate the current status of assessment of technology on teaching and learning at SCSU, make recommendations on how to proceed with assessment, and plan how to accomplish the other goals stated in this section of the Technology Master Plan.
  • The committee will consult with appropriate individuals and work groups to assure that the committee has all necessary information for informed decision making.
  • The committee will implement plans for accomplishing the other goals stated in this section of the plan.
  • During the 2007/2008 academic year, the committee will produce a final report on assessment of the effects of technology on student learning and classrooms, and a planning document for the next five-year plan. These will be submitted to TLTR and the Faculty Senate by February 1, 2008, for review.

Resources

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.

Evaluation

  • Has the committee determined current efforts of measuring the effects of technology on teaching and learning in general and, more specifically on student learning outcomes?
  • Has the committee made recommendations concerning departmental and programmatic assessments and university-wide coordination of technology assessment?
  • Has the university allocated resources to support assessment of the effects of technology on teaching and learning, including assessment that is closely integrated with ISRS?
  • Has the committee encouraged departmental, programmatic, and university-wide assessment of the effects of technology on student learning and classroom environments?
  • Has the committee investigated technology applications for supporting assessment of student learning and of programs?
  • Has the committee researched testing software and made recommendations regarding its acquisition and use at SCSU?
  • Has the committee explored the possibility of a permanent testing center on campus that could provide the technology and staff support for online testing?
  • Has the committee encouraged university-wide conversation as well as conversations in colleges and departments about technology competencies?
  • Has the committee completed a final report?
  • Has the committee developed recommendations for the next technology planning cycle?

Revised: May 2003