Operational Assessment & Continuous Improvement: By the Math

January 12, 2022 Dave Hansen

Operational Assessment & Continuous Improvement:  By the Math

Higher education is always evolving and changing. Institutions like yours must take steps to continuously improve and refine their operations to deliver the most effective and beneficial experiences for their stakeholders. 

Operational assessment involves a systematic analysis of your college or university's key operations, including but not limited to your administrative processes, student services, resource allocation, and academic programs. Your institution can use the insights from the assessment to identify where you can improve performance.

We are breaking down how to create an operational assessment plan that aligns with continuous improvement and uses hard data to drive accuracy, efficiency, and alignment. 

The importance of operational assessment

Operational assessment helps higher education institutions validate their conclusions and guide decision-making with data-based evidence. The assessment offers quantitative insights to monitor, evaluate, and translate into continuous improvement efforts. 

Colleges and universities can use the principles of continuous improvement and operational assessment to:

  • Achieve institutional goals more efficiently: Operational assessment in higher education is important for identifying opportunities to refine your institution's processes, align with its overarching mission, and optimize efficiency. 
  • Better serve students: Assessment data allows colleges and universities to enhance the quality of student experiences. Your institution can continuously improve every aspect of student life, from the faculty members they engage with to their degree programs. 
  • Meet accreditation requirements: Your college or university can quickly identify ineffective or unsatisfactory processes that could impact your chances of earning accreditation with operational assessment. 
  • Save costs: A major advantage of operational assessment is easily identifying expense-saving opportunities. Your institution can gain insights that inform optimized resource allocation, procurement, and budgeting. 
  • Satisfy stakeholders: Assessment also helps higher education institutions meet the needs of students, faculty, staff, and administrators. 

Assessment data is integral to gauging student achievement and your institution's progress in meeting primary objectives. It is also key to optimizing your institution's processes to foster long-term success.

How to create an operational assessment plan with Watermark

An operational assessment plan is a comprehensive and systematic approach to analyzing the effectiveness of every process within a higher education institution. The following steps will teach you how to create one for your college or university:

1. Define your institution's vision

Higher education institutions can begin establishing an operational assessment plan once they've determined or reviewed their vision for the future. In many cases, this takes the form of a mission statement. 

Mission statements are typically short, to-the-point descriptions that aim to create the institution's foundation and demonstrate its main purpose. These statements will guide decision-making and are key to reaching your college or university's overarching goals. They often encompass an institution's dream for the next 5 or 10 years, helping create unity across every department, club, and program to work in tandem to realize the vision sooner. 

You'll utilize your institution's mission statement to create specific and individualized outcomes that align with your vision for the bigger picture. Defining your institution's mission is an essential starting point and will inform the rest of the steps. 

2. Create your outcomes

Create your outcomes

Your higher education institution will keep its mission statement in mind when deciding on the goals used for operational assessment. These outcomes should be:

  • Specific: Your assessment outcomes should be targeted around particular operational processes and explicitly state the actions your institution will take. 
  • Measurable: Ensure you choose goals that your institution can measure to accurately track and observe your improvements. This is very important. 
  • Achievable: Choose pursuits that are challenging but possible to achieve or accomplish. An achievable goal should motivate and inspire your stakeholders instead of being overly easy.
  • Relevant: Your assessment outcomes should directly align with your mission statement and be relevant to your college or university's daily operations. 
  • Timely: Set time-specific boundaries around your institution's efforts to reach your objectives. 

The outcomes you choose will help you gauge how well your institution is doing at achieving its overall vision. They will serve as important indicators throughout the operational assessment. 

3. Establish benchmarks and targets

Having clear benchmarks for each outcome will help your institution monitor its progress toward continuous improvement. These targets will help your college or university determine the areas you are thriving in and the operations that could use refining. 

You'll use both direct and indirect measures to keep track of your goal progression. Direct measures involve the observable and data-backed insights that your institution can use to inform decision-making. Indirect measures include the feedback you gather from your stakeholders, including students, staff, faculty, and administrators. You'll need both direct and indirect measures to paint the full picture of your operations. 

Your strategic performance targets will help your college or university stay organized and motivated in efforts to meet key objectives. 

4. Gather and analyze assessment data

The next step in your operational assessment plan is collecting data. You'll need dynamic tools like Watermark Planning & Self-Study that make gathering and analyzing your operational data simple with increased transparency and organization. 

Automated data collection tools can help your higher education institution streamline the process and boost efficiency. These tools can comb through and make sense of large volumes of data. 

Having these insights is a major advantage for colleges and universities. They can provide data-backed recommendations for improvement and measures for whether or not your operations are meeting certain objectives.

Assessment data is essential for optimizing your processes and reaching your institution's mission more efficiently. 

5. Document your assessment findings

Higher education institutions should document their progress. Comprehensive reports about your operational assessment outcomes are integral for long-term improvement efforts. 

Documentation allows your college or university to look at your strengths and weaknesses objectively. It also helps you determine where to implement changes within your operations and which efforts need editing to help achieve your target outcomes. 

Reflection is an essential element of operational assessment. Your institution can learn from these experiences and make new decisions that support continuous improvement.

You'll use your assessment findings to establish the most effective plans for optimizing operational efficiency and ultimately enhancing your higher education institution. 

Request a demo to see Watermark higher education solutions in action

If your college or university wants to harness the power of operational assessment and continuous improvement, turn to Watermark. 

Our solutions are designed for higher education and help your institution centralize and streamline your assessment and planning processes. With Planning & Self-Study, you can easily understand and act on your assessment data. Your college or university can also harness the power of Watermark Outcome Assessment Projects to use rubric-based assessments to measure your operational efficiency and program learning outcomes. 

Request a demo of the higher education software from Watermark today.

Request a demo to see Watermark higher education solutions in action

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