Improving Learning Outcomes with California Baptist University
California Baptist University (CBU) was founded in 1950 by the California Southern Baptist Convention. In fall 2018, CBU had 10,486 students enrolled in 10 colleges and professional schools on its main campus and a division of Online and Professional Studies (OPS). CBU strives to help students understand and engage with their purpose by providing a Christ-centered educational experience that integrates academics with spiritual and social development opportunities.
In 2016, California Baptist University employed a manual system for assessing learning outcomes across its courses, using curriculum data captured in its learning management system (LMS) and a limited-functionality reporting tool. The institution did not have a standardized, automated way to aggregate data from its LMS and report on outcomes—including at the course, program, and university levels. Each individual school and college gathered data in its own unique way, making it impossible to produce an integrated university-wide assessment process. This fragmented approach proved insufficient for the university to meet its larger assessment goals. CBU needed a process supported by the right technology to assist in gathering, processing and analyzing outcomes data.
CBU also wanted an assessment system that could provide specific data on student performance rather than just average scores based on final assignments.
“Average scores provide one piece of information, but we really want to know if we are assessing learning outcomes correctly according to what the curriculum is designed to provide for each degree program,” said Kathryn Norwood, Dean of Assessment and Accreditation.
“For example, if there are ten learning outcomes in an accounting degree, we want to ensure that students achieve them by the time they’d earned their degrees. If we find out they aren’t, we can begin asking questions to determine what went wrong. We need the data to help us ask the right questions and address the right fixes, so we can do better.”
After conducting extensive research on learning outcomes and assessment software solutions, CBU chose Taskstream by Watermark in the spring of 2016. The institution chose to launch the program in OPS before rolling it out to the remaining 10 professional schools and colleges in the university.
Dr. Elizabeth Morris, lead decision maker in the research process, moved to a new position as Associate Provost for Educational Effectiveness on the main campus soon after Taskstream was selected. CBU hired Dr. Norwood to carry out deployment of the product for OPS, which currently enrolls about 5,000 students in its eight-week-long courses. The total OPS enrollment includes 3,000 exclusively online students and 2,000 students who are taking online courses as well as on-campus courses.
In the run-up to launching Taskstream, CBU prepared a presentation to introduce the new assessment process to faculty, help them understand and learn how to use it, and how to introduce it to their students during course orientation. Professors also learned to grade lessons in Taskstream instead of in the LMS.
“The main difference for our professors who were already using the LMS is that the process looks different now,” stated Morris. “The professors who weren’t using the LMS had to learn the technology from scratch. We wanted everyone using the new process so we could get the results we were after.”
With Taskstream, CBU’s student learning data is much clearer and more helpful in assessing how each student is doing in his or her degree program compared to the former method of aggregating mean scores.
“It’s doing exactly what we hoped it would do — and more than we hoped,” Morris said. “Not only do we have easy access to reports, but we also have new capabilities. For example, we can go back in time and query every time that a learning outcome was attached to an assignment. Our LMS does not offer views of historical data. With Taskstream, we can now get a clear picture in areas such as performance levels. Plus, we can make adjustments to courses in real-time. We no longer have to wait until the end of the course to see what’s working and what isn’t.”
Norwood said the new system received its best compliment during the switchover when a CBU professor remarked, “I can’t even remember what life was like before we had Taskstream!”’
“He loves all of the data we’re collecting and using,” Norwood explained. “And he’s not the only one who does. With vast access to new insights, the faculty using the new system view assessment data in a completely different light now. They appreciate it so much more.”
Knowing the capabilities of Taskstream has inspired CBU to dig deeper into the data options, Norwood continued. “It allows us to see with a magnifying glass how individual students are doing, how a course is performing for students, and how assignments are impacting performance levels,” she said.
While CBU first launched Taskstream in the Online and Professional Studies division, it has plans to expand the system into all 10 of the university’s colleges and professional schools. In the spring of 2019, Taskstream is being implemented in the School of Education and College of Health Science.
“We’re already getting requests from others asking if they can be next,” said Norwood. “Word has gotten out about the benefits of Taskstream!”
Other expansion plans include diving deeper and wider into Taskstream’s data analysis capabilities, such as aggregating data by standards and outcomes, and disaggregating performance data by demographics.
“The ability to access performance data across courses and programs, at the university levels and also by student populations provides us opportunities to gain valuable new insight for improving curriculums to better serve our students,” said Norwood. “We appreciate all of Taskstream’s capabilities and plan to take full advantage of them to improve the success of our education programs.”