As institutional leaders face the challenges of shrinking enrollments, pandemic related shifts and the demand of learners to clearly identify a return on their investments, collaboration across institutions and communities of practice beyond individual campuses become more critical than ever before.
This fall assessment leaders and accreditation liaisons gathered at the Assessment Institute at Indianapolis. The conference is the oldest assessment conference in the country and offers the opportunity for peer to peer learning and sharing of best practices across more than 100 different sessions.
If you missed this year’s event or are just taking a breath from all of the meetings to reflect on the key takeaways, there are three main predictions one can make from the conversations, session themes and research findings shared at this year’s event. These predictions are also finding their way into articles, blogs and other conference themes throughout the fall and into 2023.
3 Predictions for Assessment Leaders in 2023
The Role of Integrated Planning
Although not a new term or function but certainly one that has been transformed is integrated planning. Stemming from its parent Institutional Effectiveness, integrated planning according to the Society for College and University Planning, "is a sustainable approach to planning that builds relationships, aligns the organization, and emphasizes preparedness for change. Integrated planning is both an overarching model of alignment—the connective tissue amongst disparate institutional planning efforts— and a process of planning within each of the institution’s component planning efforts.” Integrated planning in action is not only saving a “seat” at the table for stakeholders to contribute their knowledge and evidence but rather welcoming them as invaluable members of the planning team. Expect that in the next 12-24 months, more institutions will recognize that bringing together their change agents to provide insight, knowledge, and experience - thus giving them a voice in the future of their organization - will initiate a renewed culture and growth mindset that brings meaning and purpose back into assessment and improvement. UMGC and University of Southern Mississippi shared the approaches and processes they've adopted to push their institutions toward deeper integrated planning. And many more will be modeling them and renewing their integrated planning processes.
Transformation from Data Collection to Action
Institutions are finding ways to collect and manage a lot of information. Data collections have skyrocketed during the pandemic, particularly because faculty and staff were forced home as campuses closed. But now, institutions are left asking:
- What to do with all that data?
- Who needs access to data?
- How do we get access?
- Where even is the data?
According to the Industrial Internet of Things, “The phrase data rich and information poor (DRIP) was first used in the 1983 best-selling business book, In Search of Excellence, to describe organizations rich in data, but lacking the processes to produce meaningful information and create a competitive advantage.” The use of data to drive action, to inform improvement cannot be underestimated. But how? What mechanisms do you need to have in place to be sure that the data you are collecting is used for more than just fulfilling your self study or external reporting requirements?
Users need to have one place to go to access their data. And when they go there, they need to know what to look for to support their day to day decision-making, resource-allocation requests and the design of new courses, micro-credentials and partnerships. Assessment leaders are the natural choice to serve as stewards of the data. In 2023, we will start to see assessment practitioners truly transform into champions for:
- Seamless integration of technology platforms for producing and sharing data among stakeholders,
- Empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions from their role at the institution.
- Allocating time and budget to building an accessible infrastructure to put data into action.
Assessment & The Comprehensive Learner Record
Over the last 30 years, assessment of student learning has evolved as a core function of higher education—providing essential data for faculty and administrators to foster decisions for improvement. An elusive outcome of this work has been how to make these data visible in a meaningful way to a broader array of stakeholders including students.
In contrast, digital microcredentials are a more recent higher education innovation. The initial use case documents learning for students, employers and others—beyond the information contained in the transcript—enabling learners to earn while they learn in courses, co-curricular, and extracurricular experiences.
These efforts have led to the development of badges and Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) - a dynamic record of achievement which is both verifiable and portable. The greatest challenge is how to identify what skills students have gained to warrant the awarding of a credential thereby exposing the missing link— the connection between assessment and microcredentials.
As modern assessment leaders, we must foster processes that enable students to see the fruits of their labor. We need to work with faculty to align their assessments with skills and outcomes that are meaningful for learners seeking careers that will enable financial and personal success. And we need to invest in technologies that have longevity and interoperability to enable learners to take their learning with them and add to their achievement records throughout their lifetime.
We don’t have to wait to act on these predictions until 2023, in fact there are a number of ways we can be proactive now. Connect with us and other leaders across the country who will be at conferences and presenting sessions over the next few months. And get ahead of what’s to come.