Transitioning from a Paper-Based System to Streamline Outcomes Assessment & Accreditation
Texas Wesleyan had been relying on a paper-based system to manage their assessment and accreditation needs. This process was cumbersome: they had problems keeping track of all the various documents and versioning, had difficulty incorporating feedback, and were devoting a significant amount of time to a highly manual process. Those responsible for entering information, typically the deans and department chairs, were also the only ones with access. As a result, this limited the involvement across campus and made it difficult to engage the community.
While they were able to complete their assessment requirements, Texas Wesleyan wanted to improve and implement a system that would streamline the process while retaining the components of the paper-based system that were successful. Texas Wesleyan sought to use the same terminology and required information with which faculty were already comfortable, but streamline the process and create a solid and meaningful connection between assessment plans, outcomes, and improvement plans.
The University also wanted to set timelines that matched those from its paper-based system while being able to managing deadlines and deliverables more easily. Furthermore, they needed a system that was intuitive and efficient: they couldn’t spend too much time retraining faculty and staff and needed to limit the burden placed on IT and other departments. They also needed to be able to visualize progress and results to demonstrate to faculty that the assessment loop was a vital component of the work being done at Texas Wesleyan.
Texas Wesleyan selected Taskstream by Watermark to move from a paper-based system to a centralized, electronic system to promote transparent and streamlined assessment processes. After narrowing down the field to two solutions, Texas Wesleyan chose Taskstream by Watermark because of the intuitive assessment planning area, the ability to define outcomes at all levels and clearly link them to findings and improvements, the robust curriculum mapping tool, and the ability to align outcomes with strategic goals. Most crucial was the available support to all users. With Taskstream by Watermark, Texas Wesleyan is able to:
- Maintain the previous processes and vocabulary that worked well
- Utilize a web-based, hosted solution that enables all users to access one central repository for all assessment and accreditation information
- Support nuanced feedback and review processes
- Enable leadership to verify participation in the assessment and accreditation process
- Evidence the work being done by faculty, enabling them to embrace assessment to drive improvement
- Access unlimited and comprehensive user training and ongoing support and assistance
- Solidify the connection between various components of the assessment cycle, and provide data and reports that truly helps “close the loop”
Implementing the system was easy and relatively quick. Texas Wesleyan collaborated with Taskstream by Watermark every step of the way, who provided guidance through the process and helped Texas Wesleyan at key transition points. Taskstream by Watermark provided initial training on the system and offers customer service to all users seven days a week for ongoing support.
The use of Taskstream by Watermark as a centralized system for collecting program data has had an immense impact on Texas Wesleyan’s SACSCOC reaffirmation preparation process. Using Taskstream by Watermark, Texas Wesleyan was able to set up an Academic Program workspace, an Administrative Department workspace, and a Strategic Planning workspace. With these structures in place, they are able to track and assess standing requirements for programs, map to goals, house annual assessment plans, findings, and status reports, and foster discussion among the faculty involved. The reports and data can also be linked to customized forms for budget prioritization.
For strategic planning, they are able to establish long-term goals for programs and schools, map them to university strategic goals, and report on annual outcomes measures, progress toward their goals, and budget and technology priorities. For each of the workspaces, involved faculty can review pertinent information and data and provide feedback.
Furthermore, faculty also became more engaged in the assessment process. There was greater acceptance of assessment in general, and more faculty participated at deeper and more meaningful levels. To help drive this engagement, Texas Wesleyan ensured faculty were involved in the process of defining learning outcomes for the programs, generating curriculum maps to chart where learning outcomes are introduced and reinforced across the curriculum, and provided access to other programs’ assessment work. They also set up collaborative work sessions so that faculty across campus could work together and learn from one another.
“All School of Education programs are standards driven and accredited by outside agencies. Taskstream by Watermark has enabled us to assess and manage the progress of our students relative to these standards. Additionally, Taskstream by Watermark has transformed the faculty into a data-driven decision making body. In this way, we make decisions about programmatic changes and improvements based on the data we collect and we manage in Taskstream by Watermark.”
As a result of these changes, Texas Wesleyan was able to more easily prepare for and obtain SACSCOC reaffirmation using effective, transparent and streamlined processes. With Taskstream by Watermark, Texas Wesleyan could easily collaborate across departments and programs, view and edit key documentation, craft a narrative with supporting data and documentation, and share their findings. The data in the system has become relevant and necessary on campus; it is used for real purposes of improvement and faculty now want more of it and rely on it to inform decisions.