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May 25, 2023 | Digital transformation, Curriculum mapping

How to Digitally Transform Assessment in Higher Ed

We’ve established what Digital Transformation (Dx) is for higher education and why it’s important. But embracing digital transformation at your institution and actually implementing the plan to transform your institutional ed tech are two different things. The “why” is likely clear but “how” you can use digital transformation to transform assessment processes and ultimately provide much needed evidence for institutional effectiveness at your institution is a more difficult strategy to tackle. Let’s unpack it a bit more. 

Why should you implement a Digital Transformation strategy?

Implementing a Digital Transformation strategy at your institution ensures that you are staying current, both philosophically and operationally.  From declining enrollment and budget strains to changing accreditation standards and a demand from students for a clear ROI on their degree, the higher education landscape has certainly evolved. With this in mind, institutions need new tools, processes, and a major shift in how they approach institutional effectiveness (IE) reporting. Assessment practitioners are in the perfect position to ignite the process. They are natural chariots for digital transformation and can be utilized for a number of projects that include LMS shifts, assessment platform integrations, leadership of self-studies and  reports. They are likely providing the much needed glue that keeps the teams across campus together.


Digital Transformation (DX) is one way for leaders to start steering their institution in the right direction. Dx focuses on using technologies to create new— or modify existing— processes, and student and faculty experiences to help institutions meet these changing needs.

How Digital Transformation supports assessment

If you are currently an assessment practitioner or work very closely with one at your institution, you know the stress placed upon that individual. Likely, they are: leading a programmatic accreditation in healthcare, education, business or engineering; supporting faculty in capturing data to help a program or institution tell their success story; running reports to determine gaps in curriculum and assessment; leading committees to approve rubrics, assessment processes, technology use, and much more.


Digital transformation needs people and people need digital transformation to function. Leadership is a key component of digital transformation as gurus of change have written in countless articles and books over the years. According to the Institute for Digital Transformation: “In this digital age, organizations need a new breed of leaders, transformational leaders, those who can champion all stakeholders through the tidal wave of transformation that’s happening all over.” Your assessment practitioners can be the stakeholders who lead change and, as John Kotter says, “Form a Powerful Coalition” and push the process forward. 

But what does this really look like in practice and how do you implement it?

5 ways to implement Digital Transformation at your institution

Graphic showing the 5 phases of the Digital Transformation (DX) cycle for assessment in higher education.


Digital Transformation isn’t a one and done process. It’s a continuous cycle, and each step has different considerations that should be kept top of mind as this flows from the purpose of digital transformation to the actual implementation of Digital Transformation across assessment and continuous improvement processes at your institution:

1. Perform a Data Governance Check to determine the current state of your data

What you need to know:

  • Where are your key data living (LMS, SIS, Sharepoint, a combination of systems)?
  • Who owns this data?
  • Do the data reflect your current curriculum maps, assessment plans, programs, microcredential offerings, etc.?
  • What formats are your data in and are they exportable?

What you need to do:

  • Identify where your key data is located, it’s format, who manages it, and how it reflects your current assessment initiatives
  • Conduct a pulse check with your stakeholders to see if they’re happy with the current set up or just getting by
  • Ask the question, what data do you need to drive your decision making?

2. Identify your key stakeholders to help mobilize change

What you need to know:

  • Who is your “guiding coalition” for assessment and institutional effectiveness?
  • How can this team be assembled to lead this process of data collection and data actions?

What you need to do:

  • Determine a rating for your current culture for assessment (growing and positive or forced and unhappy) and what steps can be taken to improve it
  • Locate your assessment champions and/or programs who can take the lead and be your champions for improvement

3. Link your Curriculum Maps to Outcomes & Assessments so you can measure success and identify gaps

What you need to know:

  • Can you seamlessly roll data up from course level topics to program learning outcomes to institutional outcomes, competency frameworks and accreditation standards? 
  • Where is your direct assessment data? Do you have a good use of your LMS on campus? 
  • Can stakeholders use direct assessment data to ensure academic outcomes are being achieved?
  • Can stakeholders document which outcomes and skills individual students have achieved according to your proficiency scales and/or earned through badges and skills-based transcripts?

What you need to do:

  • Ensure you have curriculum maps and that they are updated
  • Make alignments of course level outcomes to institutional outcomes, competencies and accreditation standards to help tell your stories of achievement across the curriculum
  • Gather insights into how students perform in courses, how the course is performing in relation to outcomes, and who manages those outcomes
  • Do a pulse check for where your assessment data is located, how it’s being accessed, and how it’s currently being used to document student learning outcomes by stakeholders

4. Evaluate Existing Processes to identify additional areas for improvement

What you need to know:

  • How are you collecting data from your academic and nonacademic units? 
  • Do you have a good way to automate your data collection from LMS through forms and workflow solutions or is this a manual process?  
  • Are data easily accessible and visible to key stakeholders for review, decision-making, and improvements? Or is the gathering data process scattered and inconsistent? 

What you need to do:

  • Identify areas to optimize, streamline, automate your data collection process
  • Identify technology partners who can provide you with the right tools to streamline and increase transparency

5. Populate Reports for Internal and External Review through Backward Design

What you need to know:

  • What self studies are coming up? Is your self study process unmanageable, arduous, or time consuming? 
  • Do your stakeholders contribute to preparation of reports for external stakeholders? Is it easy for them to access and add to these reports? 
  • What re-accreditation efforts are you focusing on and what are coming up in the future? What areas for improvement (AFIs) are you currently working on from past accreditation reviews? What is the status of these?
  • Is your self study process a meaningful one beyond accreditation?

What you need to do:

  • Ensure your stakeholders can access relevant reports and data
  • Identify where your stakeholders can contribute to reports and provide guidelines on how to do so
  • Conduct an audit of AFIs from past accreditation reviews to ensure that they are addressed and incorporated into future reports
  • Develop or improve on your review process for program prioritization and/or curriculum revision 
  • Prioritize your re-accreditation efforts based on timeline, urgency, and AFIs
  • Make data accessible beyond accreditation for more meaningful decision making day to day

These foundational steps are the critical building blocks for determining where to focus your digital transformation efforts. They support the continuous improvement of both assessment and institutional effectiveness so you can achieve your institution’s strategic vision.

Start your Digital Transformation journey

Digital Transformation is critical to modernizing assessment in higher education. Leaders that embrace Digital Transformation now will be better positioned to focus their assessment efforts on improvement by designing efficient, inclusive processes and ultimately, presenting evidence of institutional effectiveness - crucial in an age of evolving accreditation standards and demand from students for a clear ROI on their degrees. 


HelioCampus Assessment & Credentialing effectively supports your existing processes, while simultaneously providing opportunities to digitize, transform, and expand to other areas including curriculum mapping, integrating with your LMS, designing planning workflows and credentialing initiatives on campus. Schedule a demo today to learn more.

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