Are you considering taking your paper/pencil assessment process to an electronic one?
Is the thought of moving all that information into an assessment management system making you wonder what it would feel like to be run over by a steamroller? We recently moved from a paper/pencil assessment system to Taskstream’s AMS and the steamroller hasn’t arrived yet. We are not quite finished (are you ever “finished” with assessment?) with our implementation, but we are getting close to having four years of assessment plans for our bachelor, master, and doctoral programs logged into Taskstream. This blog post outlines the steps we used to rollout Taskstream on our campus.
Step One: Start with a Paper/Pencil System
We used a paper/pencil system in 2015-16 to teach the campus best practices in outcome writing and assessment planning prior to implementing Taskstream. I feel strongly that assessment should be faculty driven and Taskstream helps document and archive the faculty’s efforts. I wanted to be sure the campus was up-to-speed with using best practices to conduct assessment and avoid spoiling the transition to Taskstream with poor assessment practice. We began with the Nichols and Nichols (2005) assessment plans and assessment reports, but we customized the plans and reports to fit the nomenclature in Taskstream. We did this so when we trained our campus assessment leaders to use Taskstream, they were not confused by the nomenclature in the system. Words such as outcomes, curriculum maps, assessment plan, assessment findings, action plans, and so forth are common language on our campus now. Furthermore, if we had solid assessment plans and one year’s worth of assessment reports, we knew we had good information to populate Taskstream.
Step Two: Transfer to Taskstream
We used the assessment plans and reports to begin populating Taskstream in Spring 2016. My office includes an assistant director, research analyst, and three graduate assistant (GA) students, and we all participated in the project. However, the Assistant Director of Assessment, Dr. Topeka Small, and GA students did the heavy lifting. Moreover, the assessment plans and reports were loaded into Taskstream as supporting evidence and remain archived there today. The assessment plans and reports continue to be of service during the campus-training phase that we are in now, but more on that in a moment.
Step Three: Train the Campus
We are currently in the middle of training the campus to use Taskstream to document our assessment efforts. Our campus has small assessment committees with chairpersons for nearly every program that lead and document the assessment efforts for their program. If there isn’t an assessment committee chairperson, the department chair takes responsibility for executing the assessment process and documenting assessment. My office and our Information Technology Services office established a single sign-on system to Taskstream through our MyCampus portal to minimize the frustration associated with multiple web addresses, logins, and passwords.
You might be thinking “why would you train the campus if you loaded all the outcomes, assessment plans, and assessment reports?” Our office discovered several unintended consequences while populating Taskstream. The first was sometimes the assessment report didn’t match the assessment plan. The second was the benchmark was different than initially planned, and third, some faculty viewed the assessment report as just that, a report. Faculty needed to take ownership of their assessment process and continuous improvement and view the assessment report as the beginning point for improvement not the ending point. Also, when there are more hands on the data, there can be more opportunity for errors. So, we are training the campus, which we believe will overcome some of the unintended and unforeseen consequences of my office entering the data into Taskstream. Training initially began with our Deans. They received formal training from Mark Guinn at Taskstream. Mark concentrated mostly on the analytics and at-a-glance reports since Deans are not responsible for data entry, but they are responsible for making sure their faculty conduct and document assessment. Then, we trained Associate Deans to use the analytics and at-a-glance reports, and we familiarized them with data entry. Last, we are training the assessment committee chairpersons and Department Chairs on data entry.
Thus far the feedback is generally positive. Deans, Associate Deans, Department Chairs, and assessment leaders are pleased they have one central location for all things assessment. They are also pleased that we can bequeath the workspaces when job duties change or when employee turnover occurs. In my opinion, the success we’ve had so far with rolling out Taskstream is that the mission, outcomes, curriculum maps, and 2015-16 assessment cycle was already entered into the system (thanks to my Assistant Director, Dr. Small and GA students). This provided a model they could follow for 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 assessment cycles, and during the training sessions. In other words, the campus was immediately familiar with the information; therefore, making it easier to navigate Taskstream.
Step Four: Establish Help Services and Monitor Closely
I want assessment to “stick” and I want our assessment leaders to feel supported, so we have established help services on campus in addition to the ones provided by Taskstream. Dr. Small, Assistant Director of Assessment, keeps three office hours per day where her door is open to anyone who wants to drop by the office for one-on-one assistance with Taskstream. She and I also assist faculty and Department Chairs over the phone and some have contacted Taskstream directly. I appreciate the help services offered by Taskstream particularly on the weekends. Furthermore, we monitor the use of Taskstream closely. The history logs and at-a-glance reports are very helpful when reporting to the Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor about who is conducting and documenting their assessment efforts.
In summary, we have used four steps to implement Taskstream. Overall, our rollout of Tasktream has gone well; however, the true test of success will be over time with the rollup of assessment to improve the curriculum and thus improve student learning.
Founded in 1909, A-State meets the challenges of continuing as a destination university for more than 14,000 students through the combination of world-class research with a long tradition of student-friendly instruction. The second largest university in Arkansas, Arkansas State is a doctoral-level national institution with more than 150 degrees areas of study, including a robust online program, and a diverse student body from across the nation and the world. A-State uses Taskstream’s Accountability Management System (AMS) to manage and document program-level and general education assessment processes, and conduct internal peer-review of all program-level assessment plans and reports. A-State will also use Taskstream’s AMS to manage and document co-curricular student learning assessment in the near future.
 Nichols, J., & Nichols, K. (2005). A road map for improvement of student learning and support services through assessment. Fleming, NJ: Agathon Press.