Since launching Blackboard Outcomes Assessment in 2011, we have learned a lot about what it takes to develop, implement, and sustain an effective assessment and accreditation program in higher education. Institutions and vendors alike wish that technology alone was capable of solving the logistical nightmare that colleges and universities face when trying to collect evidence of – and report on – student performance as part of improvement initiatives in fulfillment of accreditation requirements. While it is true that technology can ease the burden of facilitating assessment practices, technology alone is not sufficient.
An assessment product is just a tool. And like any tool, it is only as effective as the people who wield it, and the policies and practices guiding its use.
As a result of Blackboard’s extensive work in the field of student performance assessment, and numerous conversations with our clients, we are changing our approach to supporting institutional and program assessment and accreditation efforts. We are more than a technology company; we are an education company. And as an education company, we are committed to providing our clients with what they need to build successful and sustainable assessment processes. It starts with working with an institution to find an assessment approach that aligns with its organizational culture and academic objectives; then developing appropriate assessment practices to guide its assessment efforts; and then finding the right tools to bring efficiencies to its process and practices, so the institution can go beyond mere compliance to systematic curricular innovation in support of student success.
To provide our clients with a more tailored and holistic assessment and accreditation solution, we have made two important changes.
Our assessment tools can help institutions achieve their assessment objectives. This is particularly the case for institutions that have thoughtfully and strategically aligned their assignments and courses with curricular objectives and institutional outcomes. Not all institutions are at this stage, however. It takes time, hard work, and requires significant coordination between academic units, instructional technology, and offices of Institutional Effectiveness. When technology is added to this process too early, it can complicate or stifle the efforts of an institution toward reaching its assessment vision.
Over the last several years, we have worked closely with clients, reviewing and changing our approach and services. We have seen that a six-month technology-focused engagement is just not enough. The success of any assessment and accreditation effort is 20% about technology and 80% about people and process. In revising the emphasis and practices in our consulting services for assessment, we have seen the tremendous value our services have brought to bear on client success. The institutions that have been most successful are those with which we have formed long-term relationships, focused on supporting assessment practices and strategies for sustainability first, and technology second.
As a result, we are shifting how we think about outcomes assessment. Instead of delivering a product called “Blackboard Outcomes Assessment,” we are providing an “Assessment and Accreditation Solution.” We believe that Outcomes Assessment is among the strongest technology solutions available today, and we remain committed to continual product innovation. But the greatest value we can provide to institutions is in the form of expert consulting, through which we work with institutional stakeholders to understand their assessment practices, culture, and challenges. By collaborating in the development of workflows that are tailored to the institution’s specific structure and vision, we can ensure that the data collected and reported through Outcomes Assessment are accurate and actionable.
Expanding Our Solution – Primary Assessment
Blackboard’s Outcomes Assessment is a juried assessment technology solution. What this means is that it facilitates outside-the-course collection of student work submitted as Blackboard Learn assignments aligned to institutional and program learning outcomes. Once collected, student work can be sampled and distributed to a committee of reviewers to evaluate student performance using rubrics for granular reporting on student learning. Fully integrated with Blackboard Learn, Blackboard Outcomes streamlines this particular approach to assessing student performance and evaluating curricular effectiveness with workflow tools to help manage the entire process.
As we spoke with current clients and examined our assessment services and product offerings, we found institutions and programs often needed multiple ways to evaluate student performance. The juried approach is not ‘one-size-fits all.’ We watched as assessment methodologies were evolving within the assessment and accreditation community, and we wanted to provide more options to help institutions scale technology adoption using the right technology to complement their size, resources, and chosen assessment approach.
What we observed was a significant need for a technology integrated with Blackboard Learn that could leverage the course instructor’s use of in-course rubrics (either used for grading or just for assessment), and could facilitate the use of in-course tests as a means for collecting and reporting on student learning performance. This inside-the-course ‘primary assessment’ methodology was previously not available in Blackboard Outcomes Assessment.
As part of our new approach to delivering a tailored assessment solution to institutions, we have partnered with EAC Visual Data to provide institutions with the option to facilitate their assessment of student performance on learning outcomes by leveraging instructor-scored course rubrics and exams. Seamlessly integrated into Blackboard Learn, EAC Visual Data facilitates reporting on institutional, program, and course learning outcomes through alignments of learning outcomes to rubric rows and individual test questions. While streamlining the process of collecting, reporting, and analyzing course rubric data aligned with learning outcomes across course sections, programs, and the institution, EAC Visual Data also provides statistically robust test item analysis to help educators improve the reliability of their exam questions and answers for student learning.
Our new holistic approach to assessment and accreditation provides institutions with options tailored to their assessment needs. Seamlessly integrated into Blackboard Learn, our solution increases adoption and participation by leveraging existing practices on the parts of instructors and students.
Blackboard’s Assessment and Accreditation Solution is a direct result of our experience working with and listening to our clients. By partnering with colleges and universities to develop high impact practices, our goal is to streamline the assessment and accreditation process so that institutions can establish and sustain effective ongoing assessment strategies to continually improve educational quality and student success.
Want to learn more about how Blackboard’s Assessment and Accreditation Solution can help streamline your accreditation and promote continual curricular improvement? Reach us directly or visit us online.