Assessment is a student-centered, data-informed, and continuous process of learning and improvement at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Recognizing the diversity of disciplines supported by the university and the diversity of the community of learners we serve, UNO is committed to an inclusive and holistic process of assessment that meets the unique needs of individual programs.
Each academic degree program on campus develops an individualized assessment plan based on its student learning goals, aligned with campus-wide domains for end-of-program outcome assessments. The assessment practices of academic departments are relatively evenly divided across the three domains: exams, projects, and performances. The exam domain consists of national standardized tests, comprehensive exams, oral defenses, content area exams, and certification and competency exams. The product domain covers capstone projects, theses, student portfolios, software/programs, and other research and creative works. The performance domain includes oral presentations, recitals and creative performances, lab exercises, service learning, field experiences, and internships.
The UNO Assessment Committee (http://www.unomaha.edu/assessment/) systematically reviews and evaluates program assessment plans and outcome data collected on a regular biennial rotation. It assists programs in identifying the most appropriate assessment techniques for their learning objectives and helps facilitate best assessment practices to ensure that each program is obtaining meaningful data for improving its educational strategies.
The UNO Academic Planning Council oversees a process to ensure consistent program reviews take place for each program on a seven-year (or less) cycle. The program review includes both internal and external analysis of current assessment plans and results.
The Office of Institutional Effectiveness collects and analyzes university-wide data, including results of national surveys and exams, and provides leadership and support for the campus’ continuous planning, assessment, and evaluation efforts. Every three years, UNO administers the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to first-year and senior students and surveys its alumni through the ACT Alumni Survey. UNO has administered the CLA in 2007 and 2010 and will implement the CLA+ by 2014-2015 in order to obtain information about student learning outcomes in critical thinking and writing.
UNO relies on both direct and indirect indicators of student learning outcomes in order to paint a complete picture of factors that influence student success. Individual departments conduct exit interviews and survey their students and graduates. In addition, the UCLA/Higher Education Research Institute CIRP Freshman Survey (before and after the first years) is administered annually campus-wide. These instruments provide a context for interpreting other kinds of direct learning assessments, and allow access to information about how students believe their degree programs have prepared them to launch their careers.
The University General Education Committee implemented a new set of general education and distribution requirements in fall 2012. Each general education course now satisfies a common set of Learning Outcomes (SLOs) specific to its requirement area (Fundamental Academic Skills including English and Writing, Mathematics, and Public Speaking, Distribution Requirements including Natural and Physical Sciences, Humanities/Fine Arts, and Social Sciences, and Diversity including Diversity in the U.S. and Global Diversity). In order to qualify as providing general education credit, a new or updated syllabus for each course must pass reviews by the Educational Policy Committees at both the College and University-wide levels, as well as by the General Education Committee. Each general education course’s content and instructional methods must be approved as satisfying the common SLO requirements for that area. Once the complete list of revised general education courses is in place, these common SLOs will guide an assessment initiative across the general education curriculum.
Student learning assessment is an ongoing priority related to UNO’s strategic goals. Assessment results are linked to UNO’s Strategic Plan and employed to inform administrative decision making at the university, college, and department levels. Toward that end, two campus-wide Strategic Planning Forums scheduled for spring 2014 will be dedicated to discussion of assessment. Each unit will be asked to reflect on the efficacy of its assessment strategy, and best practices in each of the three major domains of Exams, Products, and Performances will be explored in order to help groups working to update their assessment plans.