Maintaining assessment momentum, post-accreditation visit

September 18, 2023 Watermark Insights

Maintaining assessment momentum, post-accreditation visit

Although continuous improvement is a major force in the worlds of business, healthcare, and technology, higher education is newer to the pursuit. For generations, academia has mostly stayed in its own little world. But in a time where change is rapid and enrollment rates are steadily declining, it's simply too risky to stop innovating after achieving accreditation.

Continuous improvement essentially includes measuring, evaluating, and innovating at your institution to maintain commitment to delivering high-quality results. For example, an accrediting agency may require your institution to provide an assessment monitoring report with your assurance argument to show how your new plan closes the loop.

Below are some strategies your institution can use to keep working toward continuous improvement even after you've passed your accreditation evaluation.

7 tips for continuous improvement after accreditation

The following outlines key strategies for maintaining assessment momentum. 

1. Strategic academic assessment

You may need all hands on deck for a while after your accrediting body lifts your monitoring report. Imagine, for example, that your institution has 15 full-time faculty members who have been assessing a class for one of your institution's general learning outcomes (GLOs) per semester for the past four years. Your institution has been laser-focused on collecting useful data, and most of your faculty has embraced the process by using the information you collected to improve their courses.

Now, however, your institution may need to expand to the courses that haven't been assessed. Your plan may be to recruit the help of adjuncts to strategically choose courses that best align with the year's GLO theme.

2. Co-curricular assessment

Without on-campus residents, enthusiastic student life, and real learning service requirements, co-curricular assessment can be a challenge for small institutions. Since co-curricular learning technically happens outside the classroom, institutions need to rely on their support services to serve as examples.

Say your advising and admissions teams realigned their strategies to be more student-centered. A key part of this process is assigning student learning outcomes that align with your GLOs so you can assess how effective your new student success plan is.

Hopefully, you can use this data along the way to demonstrate how these new initiatives contribute to student learning outside the classroom. This information can also help you conduct a thorough program review.

3. Internal culture of assessment

Building an institutional culture of assessment centers your administrative and teaching processes around continuous improvement. This culture can help institutions overcome change resistance so they can make real efforts at improvement. 

Here are some tips for getting everyone on board:

  • Communicate: Hold regular meetings with stakeholders like administrators, faculty members, and IT department leaders to ensure everyone is working toward the same goals. 
  • Emphasize teamwork: Continuous improvement requires everyone in your organization to work closely together. Focus on building teams that you can rely on to devise and implement major changes.
  • Provide training: When your key stakeholders know how to use data analytics and measurements to understand student success, they're more likely to buy in to your strategies. These stakeholders often include faculty members and staff who will be directly impacted by the changes.

4. External benchmarking

External benchmarking

While you should absolutely be proud of what makes your institutions stand out, you also need to consider how you measure up to the competition. Limiting your scope to your own institution can cause you to fall out of touch with students' changing needs — and with higher education enrollment rates continuing to drop, falling behind can be detrimental.

Using data from organizations like the following can help you gain a deeper understanding of the higher ed landscape so you can put your institution in context:

  • National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)
  • National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA)
  • National Student Clearinghouse (NSC)
  • National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

5. Look beyond higher ed

Businesses look for inspiration from many different sources, including those outside their industry — that's how the biggest companies continue to innovate year after year. In higher ed, though, looking for inspiration from other sectors is often discouraged. 

Engaging with the world beyond academia can help your institution better understand what students really need to succeed during and after their course of study. For example, faculty members who keep up with developments in their field can help propose curriculum changes that better prepare students for a strong career.

6. Track the right metrics

Collecting and understanding institutional data is critical for continuous improvement initiatives because the insights you gather from that data will help you make the most informed decisions. But you first need to make sure you're collecting data that's actually relevant to your institution. 

Creating SMART goals can help you determine which performance metrics you need to track to meet your overall objectives. A SMART goal is one that meets the following criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Conducting regular reviews of your data and measurement techniques is essential for ensuring your actions meet your institution's changing needs. You also may need to change which metrics you track later on — in fact, with today's rapid pace of change, you'll likely need to do so frequently.

7. Commit to continuous improvement

Planning out your continuous improvement strategy is one thing, but putting those plans into action is quite another. It takes hard work and dedication to begin making real steps toward continuous improvement. 

Administrators can help support your efforts by encouraging participation from staff and faculty. For example, they could begin offering reimbursement for membership in professional organizations, which could help faculty members stay up to date on what the world outside academia is experiencing.

Invest in the right technology. A robust data collection and analytics platform specifically designed to meet the needs of higher education institutions can help you turn your assessment data into actionable insights, which are essential for making informed, data-driven decisions that will push your institution to the next level. 

Look for a tool that offers rich visualizations for easy interpretation so you can provide your stakeholders with data they can clearly understand. You'll also want to make sure your platform integrates with your learning management system (LMS) for seamless data sharing — this helps simplify reporting so you always have the most accurate, up-to-date information available.

Commit to continuous improvement with Watermark

Collecting and analyzing institutional data is critical for powering continuous improvement efforts. If your institution needs a strong data analytics platform, Watermark's comprehensive suite of technology solutions can help you.

We're dedicated to providing higher education institutions with the digital tools they need to generate insights that drive real change. Contact us today to request a live demo of our solutions, and see what Watermark can do for you.

Commit to continuous improvement with Watermark

About the Author

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut euismod velit sed dolor ornare maximus. Nam eu magna eros.

More Content by Watermark Insights
Previous Article
Watermark's Responsible Use of AI Statement
Watermark's Responsible Use of AI Statement

As we harness the power of AI to make our solutions work better, it is our responsibility to our clients an...

Next Article
Evolving the Student Course Evaluation Process for Greater Insights
Evolving the Student Course Evaluation Process for Greater Insights

Higher education institutions seek to measure course quality, instructional quality, and learning outcomes....