This chapter uses a case study to exemplify one approach to assessment of three instructional delivery formats: (a) online, (b) distance, satellite campuses, and (c) traditional onground format. Student competencies on learning outcomes in a basic interpersonal communication college course were analyzed on a core assessment project—a course assignment portfolio—using a department-approved assessment rubric. Scoring of 95 assessments suggested that significantly more students reached competency levels in the traditional format than in the distance and online formats. A high percentage of students in all three formats failed synthesis, conceptual, values, and critical literacy competencies. This assessment effort provides an example of how faculty can employ assessment as part of a continuous improvement cycle.
Perhaps an emphasis on test and accountability in kindergarten through graduate education has created an ethic of assessment in the United States. Much of the impetus for higher education assessment began during the 1980’s, when some state legislatures began mandated assessment with the intention of linking funding to program success. Effective assessment of programs is still crucial today (Stephen, 2008), given that this trend has continued with all six regional higher education accrediting agencies requiring systematic assessment. The state universities mandated to conduct assessment twenty years ago blazed the way, so that today there is a large body of literature to which faculty can turn.
By 1990, 82 percent of U.S. colleges and universities had systematic assessment procedures in place. Typically, these assessment procedures focused most on the program or institution rather than on the student. Further, for the field of communication studies, such systematic assessment has been used for the basic course to graduate courses (Aitken, 1994; Canary, & MacGregor, 2008; Makay, 1997; McBath, 1979; Morreale, Hugenberg, & Worley, 2006; Rubin, 1984; Wardrope, 1999). When the focus changed to measuring student competencies, however, the overall purpose typically became the improvement of quality in courses, teaching, and programs (Hay, 1992).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Flagship Campus: The original campus of the university, where face-to-face courses are taught in a 16 week format.
Competency Components: Demonstrated course-related mastery of analysis, application, components, concepts, critical literacy, evaluation, synthesis, terminology, values, and whole core assessment.
Evaluation: In Bloom’s taxonomy, higher order thinking where a student can look for multiple correct answers and determine value.
Traditional Format: Instructional delivery format, which is onground, face-to-face, at the flagship campus.
Analysis: In Bloom’s taxonomy, higher order thinking where a student can categorize, compare, and contrast ideas or concepts.
Synthesis: In Bloom’s taxonomy, higher order thinking where a student puts together multiple ideas.
Core Assessment: An assignment designed to measure 75% of core learning outcomes.
Program Coordinators: Faculty on the flagship campus responsible for supervising the course.
Critical Literacy: In Bloom’s taxonomy, higher order thinking that demonstrates an analytical and evaluative approach to problem solving that goes beyond learning exercises.
Components: Student thinking that demonstrates use of key ideas or fundamental theories from course content.
Distance Format: Instructional delivery format, which is at a distance location at a satellite center, onship, or at a military installation.
Concepts: Lower order thinking where a student can appropriately define basic ideas from the content.
Assessment: The process of analyzing student learning before, during, and after instruction. In this case, assessment is the analysis of student competency levels through measurement of the core assessment for the course.
Application: In Bloom’s taxonomy, higher order thinking where a student can take principles learned and effectively apply them to real world contexts, particularly from the student’s own life experiences.
Core Learning Outcomes: Student learning objectives for a course.
Values: Student thinking that demonstrates an understanding of communication principles that appreciate principles such as freedom, democracy, ethics, honesty, and character.
Online format: Instructional delivery format, which uses course environment software via the Internet.
Terminology: Lower order thinking where a student correctly recalls or uses jargon from the field.
Rubric: A table of components to be measured by the core assessment, as related to the core learning outcomes.
Whole: Student thinking that demonstrates a holistic approach to course learning.