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Corban University: Establishing A Unified Campus Wide Assessment Plan

by Dr. Janine Allen, Dean of Education and Counseling; Chelsea Kuepper, Education Data Reporting and Assessment Manager; Brian Schmidt, Chief Information Officer & Dr. Pam Teschner, Director of Assessment, Corban University

Brief Overview:

Corban University is an independent Christian university with campuses in Salem, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington. The campuses are known for their Northwest beauty and hilltop locations that enhance the student learning experience. Additionally, Corban has expanded its presence internationally through a partnership with Universitas Pelita Harapan in Karawaci, Indonesia. Through this partnership, Corban University awards undergraduate education degrees to Indonesian students. Corban also maintains a study abroad program in Regensburg, Germany for students from Corban and other Christian higher education institutions.

The university has more than 50 majors in a variety of programs of study, including the arts, sciences, ministry, and professional fields. Along with traditional and adult degree completion programs at the undergraduate level, Corban offers a graduate teacher licensure program and graduate degrees in education, business, ministry, and counseling. Our academic programs are Christ-centered and are designed to equip students with a sound biblical worldview on all issues of life.

In 2011-12, Corban‘s student body of 1,280 included 830 students in the traditional undergraduate program at the Salem campus, 175 in the Adult Degree Program, and 275 graduate students. There were an additional 600 students through the partnership with Universitas Pelita Harapan.

The Problem: Assessment Planning Perceived As An Overwhelming Task

Corban has made a number of attempts at assessment planning for years but struggled with putting structures and details on paper. The university supported the concept of assessment but had difficulty completing even the planning stage. So, naturally, skepticism was pervasive.

A new approach was taken that began at the end: develop student learning outcomes, then progress up to departmental outcomes, then university objectives, and then finally the overall mission. Seminars were held with key department leaders to hammer out assessment plan details. Working together in this way began to build confidence. The process broke down the overwhelming task of “assessment” into small achievable steps. By beginning at the student outcomes level, the complex process of assessment planning suddenly seemed doable. Building on this new-found confidence, an assessment plan began to emerge that connected student learning outcomes (SLOs) and key assessments with university themes and objectives. Benchmarks were established, indicating the achievement of our mission and our key assessments. This has moved the university closer to the goal of data-driven decision making.

In addition, with the Oregon Department of Education shifting from a culture of compliance to a culture of continuous improvement, the Corban Education Program needed to adopt an online assessment system that would track student data, align department and state standards with student assessments, and streamline the analysis process for program improvements.

The Solution: A Centralized Online System, Director of Assessment, and Assessment Committee

A significant step towards accomplishing the goal of data-driven decision making was the adoption of Tk20 as a centralized comprehensive assessment and reporting system, the hiring of the Director of Assessment, and the formation of an Assessment Committee. Tk20 has enabled the university to begin collecting data in a centralized system and to measure SLOs, institutional effectiveness, and program quality. Initially, Corban adopted the HigherEd component of Tk20. After about a year, CampusWide was implemented. The Director of Assessment and the Assessment Committee has helped to keep the assessment momentum rolling and provide overall coordination.

The roll-out of Tk20 has been planned in three stages over three academic years:

  • Planning – This includes identifying and documenting university themes, objectives, indicators of achievement, and benchmarks for each objective. Each academic department has identified SLOs and key assessments for each outcome. These departmental outcomes have been aligned to the university themes and objectives, creating a campus-wide assessment map within Tk20. Each academic department is developing capstone courses and projects for each degree program.
  • Implementation – Assessment Tools have been developed, including surveys, course evaluations, and a variety of rubrics to assess learning outcomes and university objectives. The university has shifted all course evaluations to Tk20 and utilized comprehensive and aggregate reports with comparative averages for faculty, deans, chairs, and university administration.
  • Reporting – The university is utilizing the reports within Tk20 and has worked with Tk20 to develop customized reports. Through the implementation of assessments within Tk20 and the addition of external assessment data, Corban is creating an environment of data-driven decision making. The adoption of Tk20 has added strength to the education program at Corban. Utilizing the field experience component of the system, university supervisors and mentor teachers can easily access and complete evaluations. Our student teachers also upload their work samples for quick evaluation. The courses and assignment elements of Tk20 allow the department to track key assessment data using specific and measurable rubrics developed by Corban faculty. The advising process is closely monitored using transition points, in order to meet program goals and performance-based expectations consistent with the licensure process in Oregon.

The Results: Great Strides in Establishing A Robust, University-Wide Assessment Plan

Corban has been working diligently to create a unified assessment plan campus wide, including academic and nonacademic departments. The next step in the process is to create systems and processes that allow schools and departments to use assessment data to make informed decisions for program improvement and growth. In the 2011-2012 school year, the education department collected numerous data pieces through Tk20 that have been invaluable in analyzing the program and writing program reports for the state of Oregon. The data has shown areas of strength and areas for development, which has motivated the education department towards building a culture of continuous improvement.

As Tk20 is more broadly utilized across the university, assessment data will enable informed curricular decisions in a more systematic and comprehensive manner. The development of specific assessment tools, including rubrics and surveys, within Tk20 will continue. All assessment data, whether internal or external in origin, will be integrated with Tk20 for comprehensive analysis and reporting.

While great strides have been made in establishing a robust, university-wide assessment plan, a fully developed assessment process where the data loop is closed still needs to be completed. Creating a culture of continuous improvement and providing the methods and tools for making data-driven decisions is still a work-in-progress.