At eLumen, we have observed that outcomes assessment is the latest extra work shifted onto faculty by those on the business side of the institution. The institute’s business endeavor holds the institutional data, and the external challenge of accountability for educational results is being aimed directly at them. However, the information systems were never designed to, and indeed cannot, answer the questions they are being asked. As a result, the administration looks to the faculty to save them the continued embarrassment of not knowing what their systems systematically disregard at the end of every academic term—what the faculty members know about how students actually performed in courses.
Now, however, faculty can move progressively toward reestablishing their collective authority by:
- Defining each academic degree not as a set of courses and credits—although the business office will continue in this manner—but as a clearly defined set of expected learning outcomes for graduates, both for the institution as a whole regardless of major, and for each program/major, as well.
- Defining each outcome-for-graduates as one or more patterns of calibrated outcomes at the course level and activity level.
- Regularly evaluating student work relative to these calibrated outcomes.
- Tracking each student’s progress to an academic degree as a progressive set of demonstrated learning outcomes.
In most institutions, faculty have already taken the first step. By design, eLumen enables faculty to perform the other three steps easily and effectively. This would fundamentally solve the challenge of outcomes assessment by:
- Enabling faculty to set and maintain academic and professional standards across the curriculum.
- Focusing each student on his or her own demonstrated outcomes and making each one accountable for their own results.
- Reducing the time spent on both “grading” and on assessment.
- Creating academically meaningful information on student achievement at all levels of the institution.
Faculty collectively choosing to do this cannot be stopped, because fitting solutions are not available for the business side of the institution. Yes, the implementation process will take a while. For starters, eLumen lets each college or department begin where they are now, with whatever outcomes method currently in use. However, on its own time, each group of faculty can put into place the parameters for this deeply academic way for the institution to have data on actual student educational results.