Grand Rapids, Mich., United States
Having celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016, Davenport University is a non-profit, student-centric institution focused on preparing learners to succeed in 21st century careers. With campuses online and across the state of Michigan, Davenport is moving towards an increasingly immersive learning experience and applying new technologies to improve not only teaching and learning, but also assessment and accreditation processes. For the past two years, the institution has been using Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data, which provided them with an easy-to-use, scalable solution to effectively collect and analyze assessment data.
“As an institution, we were struggling to aggregate data across all sections and modalities. At the time of implementation, we had faculty transposing assessment data from the gradebook in Blackboard Learn to a Google Spreadsheet, or Chairs were joined to old courses to mine assessment data. We knew there had to be a better way, and once we were introduced to Blackboard Outcomes Assessment, coupled with the power of EAC Visual Data to collect and analyze data, I was sold,” says Dr. Jeff Wiggerman, director of Instructional Technologies & Delivery Systems at Davenport University.
As the leader of a team of instructional designers for the Global Campus — the university’s online campus —, Wiggerman is constantly looking for strategies for innovation and improvement of course delivery, allowing him to get involved in a large spectrum of projects across the IT and academic departments.
“What I saw immediately was a way to solve an academic challenge. We hadn’t been able to provide a solution that was scalable, but Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data provided this solution,” Wiggerman explains.
Seamlessly integrated into Blackboard Learn, Blackboard Outcomes Assessment streamlines the collection of student work, takes the hassle out of workflow management, and automates institutional reporting. By making assessment easier and faster, institutions can move beyond compliance reporting, and use the available data to continually improve program quality and see students succeed at higher rates.1
EAC Visual Data is a software that also integrates into Blackboard Learn, simplifying the process of collecting, analyzing, and reporting student learning outcomes data for faculty, deans, department chairs, and assessment professionals.2
“I would without a doubt recommend this solution to other institutions,” says Wiggerman. “Anytime we can scale something as important as data gathering for assessment and accreditation throughout a learning management system, not only does it save all parties involved valuable time, but also promotes better decision making.”
Davenport University is accredited by a number of college-specific institutions. One example is the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), which is responsible for accreditation of all associates, bachelors and graduate business degrees for the Donald W. Maine College of Business.
IACBE conducts a site visit every seven years, and every two years the university submits their assessment plan for each degree and program. “Our assessment plan is unique because it is multi-tiered and includes both degree and program level outcomes. The degree outcomes ensure that all outcomes throughout the degree are consistent, and program level outcomes are assessing the focus of a specific program,” Wiggerman explains.
According to the director, degree and program outcomes are aligned with the results the institution is assessing for IACBE, so every year the university gathers and reports data on student performance.
“Based upon the aggregated data across all sections using EAC Visual Data, we look at curriculum changes to close the loop, find trends, and make the appropriate changes proactively. Based upon program revisions, we will make the appropriate changes in the course masters and outcomes module to ensure we can run an aggregate report to review how the changes have impacted student performance, and where programs might also need to be reviewed,” says Wiggerman.
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Implementing Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data
The implementation of Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data for all 500 online courses offered through the university’s Global Campus followed a process designed to ensure quality and prepare for the next accreditation cycle.
Wiggerman explains that an instructional designer works with a subject matter expert for every course that is developed and delivered online. “This is our foundation to ensure everything we need in a course gets into place,” he says. The process begins with mapping the course using Quality Matters standards to ensure there is alignment throughout, and to identify which assignments are assessing IACBE outcomes.
“Once we have this information, I build the Module Outcomes for the program or degree, so we can align the appropriate content areas of a Blackboard rubric and assignment to that goal(s) for collection,” says Wiggerman. “Once the course is built with all these pieces in place, the department communicates with their faculty about the collection, and faculty must use the Blackboard rubric to grade the assessment in order for us to aggregate data across all courses. After the course is completed, the Associate Dean for the college runs the report after every semester in EAC Visual Data to prepare for the accreditation cycle.”
Integration with Blackboard Learn
In Wiggerman’s experience, the main benefit of using an assessment solution that pulls data directly from the digital learning environment is that it has forced the university to think about the alignment of each assignment to assessment. “We now look at what we are actually measuring and why, which ultimately influences the criteria of our rubrics for authentic assessments,” Wiggerman explains.
According to the director, before the institution started using Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data, they had areas in their rubrics that were measuring important parts of the assignment, but were still left up to interpretation by faculty.
“Creating this alignment in Blackboard Learn with the rubrics has helped our faculty understand what we are measuring and allowed them to make a connection to our academic goals. Faculty are now able to see the assessment tool not just as a scoring rubric, but as a grading rubric once we integrated specific measurable outcomes into the grading rubric itself,” affirms Wiggerman.
This allowed the university to look at how well our students are measuring against IACBE outcomes by pooling together the exceeds expectations and meets expectations to see what percentage of students are meeting their 85% threshold, collectively and individually. In turn, it also allows the institution to look at students who did not meet expectations and start drilling into the data to look at their degree path, instructors, and overall program.
“For instance, we had found that our graduate healthcare students were not doing as well as we had predicted when they reached their strategy capstone, so by using EAC Visual Data and Blackboard Outcomes Assessment we were able to close the gap to add an outcome in their program that prepares them to be more successful in their capstone. That is the benefit and power of having tools like these,” Wiggerman explains.
“We offer over 500 courses online, and our uniqueness is our ability to be nimble to pilot ideas without a fear to fail. If we do fail, we look at what we have learned to apply to the next project. With academics keeping curriculum current to teach content and skills that are in demand, it creates an environment where we’re able to keep searching for what’s next and be leaders in the digital space.”
Dr. Jeff Wiggerman, Director of Instructional Technologies & Delivery Systems
The use of Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data resulted in a cultural change in the way the university traditionally thought about and conducted assessment using Blackboard Learn, according to the director.
“The support of experts at Blackboard and EAC helped us tremendously in solidifying new processes, establishing ownership, implementation, and ultimately, the success of these tools. What I’ve found is the existence of the tool has created conversation of assessment and accreditation with different colleges I wouldn’t have been involved in. Now I find myself talking to Chairs and Associate Department Chairs across the university about how these solutions can impact their assessment and accreditation for their college. There’s a buzz surrounding the power of Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC to aggregate data to support decision making.”
Davenport’s Top 5 Best Practices for Assessment
Jeff Wiggerman, director of Instructional Technologies & Delivery Systems, shares some of the institution’s best practices when it comes to working with Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data.
1. Before starting a project, develop a cross-functional team that can pull together and integrate the current rubrics and assessments used by academics to be absolutely clear about the outcomes that need to be measured.
2. Be systematic with pulling data after every semester in order to identify any outliers that can be addressed quickly before it’s too late.
3. Create a culture where the university is able to have conversations formally and informally around results, process and ownership. This has proven to be beneficial for assessment practices.
4. Embed measurable outcomes within the rubric for direct assessments. This has helped with grading criteria and grade inflation.
5. Create a cross-functional committee focused on Outcomes and EAC to fully embed these solutions into the culture of assessment and accreditation throughout the institution.
Jeff Wiggerman, Director of Instructional Technologies & Delivery Systems at Davenport University
1 Blackboard. (n.d.). Outcomes Assessment. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://www.blackboard.com/education-analytics/outcomes-assessment.html.
2 EAC. (n.d.). EAC Visual Data. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://www.edassess.net.
AFP Steve Jessmore