The Power of Non-Academic Outcomes

February 15, 2021 Nikki Kowbel

Outcomes are all about measuring institutional progress toward key goals. Are you achieving your mission? Are you even close? Every unit should have a list of outcomes that tie back to your institution’s mission statement, and non-academic units are no different.

Union University’s culture of continuous improvement places equal emphasis on academic and non-academic excellence. As the institution adopted Planning & Self-Study by Watermark for their assessment and accreditation reporting, they involved non-academic units from the start. “When I started working with Academic Support on developing outcomes, I told them, ‘You are the foundation of this institution. Without you, it doesn’t work,’” said Michele Atkins, Assistant Provost for Accreditation and Research at Union University. “By the end of our three-hour workshop, they were submitting outcomes of their own – and now they can see where they fit.”

Success outcomes are used to measure performance relative to goals, outline how a unit will help the institution achieve its mission, and monitor key metrics. In some cases, if non-academic units interact with students, there could be learning outcomes that link to their work to help demonstrate learning that takes place outside of the classroom.

They are similar to key performance indicators (KPIs) in that they help you measure the most important work being done at your institution. Tracking these outcomes helps non-academic units prioritize their services and improve their processes, and by keeping a close eye on progress over time, you’ll be able to catch issues before they become major.

Here are some examples of non-academic outcomes that, if met, would make a major impact on your institution:

  • Increase the number of students who attend advising hours by 20%
  • Grow alumni donations during the fall drive by 30%
  • Submit accurate, thorough accreditation reports on time in alignment with regional standards (Watermark can help with this one…)

Non-academic outcomes help set expectations, focus, reflect, and improve across your institution. And when they’re clearly defined, your assessment process is a breeze.

For help in writing non-academic outcomes that will make an impact on your campus, check out the recording of Assessment Basics #1: Developing Quality Outcomes & Objectives.

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