Student Success

Excelsior College Developing Student Skills Assessment Tool

Funded by $1.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education, Excelsior College is developing the Diagnostic Assessment and Achievement of College Skills (DAACS), an open source assessment tool for targeting resources and services to students based on their academic and non-academic skills. The grant is part of the ED Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education's First in the World program, an initiative "designed to support the development, replication, and dissemination of innovative solutions and evidence for what works in addressing persistent and widespread challenges in postsecondary education for students who are at risk for not persisting in and completing postsecondary programs."

"DAACS will evaluate the skills of incoming students to inform them and the institution of their readiness for college-level work," said DAACS project director Jason Bryer in a press release. "With these data, DAACS will substantially increase the efficacy of our predictive models, allowing Excelsior — and eventually all institutions — to more accurately identify at-risk students and provide targeted outreach."

In place of high-stakes placement exams, DAACS will provide students with formative feedback on each of their assessed weaknesses, information for relearning content and recommendations for specific support services. The assessments will span both academic (e.g., reading, writing and math) and non-academic (e.g., self-regulation, grit, math anxiety and text anxiety) skills, providing a more complete picture of students' abilities and enabling targeted interventions based on students' individual needs. The data from DAACS will inform academic advising and predictive analytics at Excelsior.

Excelsior is developing DAACS in partnership with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and the University at Albany. In addition, both Excelsior and Western Governors University will pilot the completed tool to study its effectiveness. After a two-year period of development and piloting, DAACS will freely available for use by any institution.

"Because of its focus on generating actionable feedback and its direct link to effective support services and resources, DAACS has the potential to empower and enable students to become more purposeful and strategic learners," said Timothy Cleary, associate professor at the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. "This project is particularly exciting because it can positively influence the ways in which students — as well as faculty — respond to the inevitable challenges and struggles that so many students experience during college."

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at rkelly@1105media.com.

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