Seton Hall Embraces Assessment with Technology: A Case Study

As higher education institutions face mounting pressures to better measure and document student learning, many are seeking solutions and processes that will help them rise to the challenge.    

Seton Hall University, a private Catholic university located just outside New York City, recently deployed the Blackboard Outcomes System, a comprehensive institutional assessment solution, in partnership with the Blackboard Services Team.

Selecting and deploying an online platform for outcomes assessment was supported by Seton Hall's Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) Center, headed by Paul Fisher.

Fisher explains that the process began in early 2002, when faculty members at the College of Education and Human Services (CEHS) began looking for a portfolio solution to satisfy new reporting standards from their accrediting body, NCATE. The TLT Center launched several different attempts to get a portfolio program off the ground - working with two different vendors and even building their own portfolio tool. "We faced a variety of obstacles early on," says Fisher. "Third-party tools required faculty to use two different systems for posting assignments and completed work; the homegrown tool required a lot of internal support - particularly related to upgrades to our Blackboard environment." Together the CEHS and the TLT Center determined it would be in the university's best interest to find a commercial product that could provide the existing functionality CEHS wanted, and would be flexible enough to evolve as Seton Hall's needs changed.
 
In early 2005, Fisher was approached by Blackboard to join its product development partner program to help in the research and planning stages for a comprehensive assessment platform.
 
"This was a no-brainer for Seton Hall," says Fisher. "We had wide adoption of Blackboard solutions, we were searching for an assessment platform, and here was an avenue for us to provide direct input on a broad new solution that would meet many assessment needs across the institution, including in the College of Education. We jumped at it."

About two years later, Seton Hall began piloting the platform on its campus, and was soon deploying it for three targeted initiatives to achieve mission-critical learning goals in CEHS, for general education outcomes, and first-year writing.
 
"In the coming year, we expect that the Blackboard Outcomes System will be used across campus," says Fisher, "to make data collection, reporting, and learning outcomes activities more efficient; so faculty and administrators can focus on improvement, not paperwork."

Seton Hall University Outcomes in Action

The university points to three primary examples of its use of the Blackboard Outcomes System:

College of Education - The university's first goal was to meet the portfolio and assessment needs of CEHS, which Fisher describes as "our leader in the use of technology for assessment and accreditation reporting." The Blackboard Outcomes System will help to capture and store electronic evaluations of students' fieldwork, saving time over the old paper process. Shared, easy-to-create rubrics help ensure consistent scoring; curriculum planning tools help faculty to contribute to the college's broader mission and meet accreditation standards.  The Outcomes Portfolio helps foster greater student engagement in their learning and facilitates richer feedback from instructors and peers.

"Universal Proficiencies" - Seton Hall is also using Blackboard's flexible platform to collect and evaluate student work using rubrics to measure and improve on student achievement of Seton Hall's "Universal Proficiencies." These intended outcomes of the Seton Hall experience include oral communication, reading and writing, critical thinking, numerical literacy, and information fluency.

First year writing - Strong writing skills are a fundamental goal at Seton Hall. The university is using the Blackboard Outcomes System to assess and increase the effectiveness of its First-Year Writing Program. Outcomes portfolios will help students reflect on their growth as writers.

The Blackboard Outcomes System has emerged at Seton Hall as a comprehensive assessment solution to support continuous improvement processes in academic and administrative units and provide multiple instruments to measure institutional effectiveness, including surveys, course evaluations, evaluation of student work, and portfolios.

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