Opinion: Answering the value question in higher education

According to an assessment solution expert, assessment solutions alone are not the silver bullets to determine the value of higher education.

assessment-value-educationIn the years that I have stood at the helm of Chalk & Wire (now nearly 20) I have never experienced such a consistent demand for assessment systems for cross-campus use. Clearly, leaders feel compelled to address the “value” question in Higher Education as never before.

This clearly constitutes a “trend” in 2014-2015 if there ever was one.

Institutional leaders have apparently lost faith in traditional indirect measures that led to a holistic sense of satisfaction among students and alumni. Alternatively, they have experienced a dissatisfied accrediting agency demanding direct measures of learning outcomes; and suddenly found the conventional award of a 10-year reaffirmation reduced to the now common five. Some tell me they are required to post annual reports that address the shortcomings cited and nearly all have to do with assessment.

The question is: Will buying an assessment system successfully address the value agenda? From experience, I can safely say, no.

If campus leaders follow the trend only as far as the invoice for the new software then they will have missed the real trend.

Some of our higher education clients tell us that we are their third assessment system in less than five years. Software is obviously not the silver bullet. Assessment cannot be fixed by spending more money on IT and technology alone.

If the campus staff and assessment leaders just replicate the usual measures in the shiny new system, they will get the same inconclusive evidence that plagues them now, albeit displayed in pretty dashboards and well-designed graphs that are all the rage in the age of big data.

To get at the real value agenda, the trend must be to jettison the “satisfaction” data baggage and to aggressively look for new sources of information.

(Next page: How to get the real value agenda)