Outcomes and Assessment
As a student-first University, the University of Northern Colorado is dedicated to
meaningful, useful, and timely student learning. Along with UNC derived competencies
in International and Multicultural Studies, in keeping with the alignment of our Liberal Arts Curriculum with Colorado’s Guaranteed
Transfer Pathways (gtP), the curriculum is designed to foster the development of the
following competencies for all students: Civic Engagement, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Diversity & Global Learning,
Information Literacy, Inquiry & Analysis, Oral/Presentational Communication, Quantitative
Literacy, and Written Communication.These competencies are distributed across the
learning outcomes in the gtP/LAC categories.
- About the Liberal Arts Learning Outcomes
The skills and ways of thinking students acquire in a liberal arts education are highly valued by employers and are essential for societal vitality and an engaged citizenry in democracy. When students pursue a liberal education, it provides them with broad, essential skills while deepening their understanding and honing their cognitive skills within majors. A liberal education situates students for greater success in graduate and professional school and for the long-term throughout their working lives.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has conducted research on the perceived importance and relevance of liberal education learning outcomes among employers hiring college graduates and the professional trajectory of graduates majoring in the liberal arts and sciences. The research indicates that a college education remains a reliable pathway to economic prosperity, and college graduates in liberal arts professions contribute to the health of communities and the quality of the educational systems in those communities.
Specifically, employers value the cognitive skills and dispositions a liberal education provides such as the ability to think critically, to communicate clearly, and to solve complex problems, to be able to work effectively as part of a team, to engage in organizational innovation, to act with ethical judgment and integrity, and to demonstrate intercultural skills and the capacity for ongoing learning. These skills, and their ability to deepen discipline-specific knowledge, are viewed are as fundamentally necessary for professional success. A liberal education that provides students with skills in written and oral communication, critical and creative thinking, quantitative and digital literacy, and the ability to locate, evaluate, and apply information aligns student learning with the needs of the modern workforce. Brief summaries of these reports as well as the reports themselves are included in the next accordion tab on this page.
In deciding to have these liberal arts learning outcomes at the center of UNC’s general education curriculum, the liberal arts council is committed to fostering student development of these lifelong personal and professional skills. ln addition to the learning outcomes generated through work by the larger higher education faculty community, in keeping with long-standing tradition at the university of Northern Colorado for valuing multicultural and international studies, the learning outcomes for these liberal arts curriculum designations have been constructed by UNC faculty and approved by the council.
- AAC&U Research on Impact of Liberal Arts Learning
The following reports are of research done by AAC&U (Association of American Colleges & Universities) to understand the relevance of liberal arts/general education in the contemporary work world. These reports provide data that supports the above descriptions about the value of the liberal arts outcomes that are incorporated into and on which student learning is assessed in UNC LAC courses.
This report synthesizes information collected from employers concerning the values of a college education and, specifically, liberal education outcomes. The following are a few highlights of the findings. The results demonstrate that the oft-cited mistrust of higher education is not in line with a solid majority of the employers surveyed who have confidence in higher education and the value of a college degree. Additionally, at least half of employers view the skills of a liberal education as “very important” and the majority of the remainder believe it is at least “somewhat important.” Finally, active and applied learning experiences provide job applicants with an advantage; and the use of portfolios, internships, and experiences that provide both breadth and depth of learning are favored by employers.
This report relates the findings of an employer survey that asked hiring managers and executives about their confidence in colleges and universities the skills of graduates and the alignment of their priorities for college learning with their perceptions of the preparation of recent graduates.
This report lays out the VALUE approach to assessment of essential learning outcomes. If you look closely at the CDHE language around the GTP competencies, you can see the influence these efforts had on the state’s development and intended use of those competency rubrics.
Administrator Survey Report (2015)—Bringing Equity and Quality Learning Together: Institutional Priorities for Tracking and Advancing Underserved Students’ Success
This report reports the findings of surveys and interviews of administrators in higher education concerning priorities for tracking and advancing the success of underserved students.
Report on Earnings and Long-Term Career Paths (2014)—How Liberal Arts and Science Majors Fare in Employment
The report illustrates that a college degree, regardless of major, remains a good investment of time and money (the report also provides some data concerning students who attained some college or an AA degree but not a BA). The report also examines the impact of the Great Recession on employment and the rebound of college graduates compare to those with some, or no, college education. A key finding of this report was that “Especially when considered together with findings from AAC&U’s previous employer surveys . . . the findings from the 2013 survey strongly suggest that, in today’s competitive, fast-moving economic environment, those seeking well-paying and rewarding jobs will require both specific knowledge in a field of study and a broad range of skills that extend across fields—some of which are particularly well developed through study in the liberal arts.” The report provides data on the median annual earnings for college graduates by age group and area of undergraduate major.
Employer Report (2013)—It Takes More Than A Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success
A precursor to the 2018 report, this report indicates the perspectives of hiring managers and executives concerning their priorities and preferences for new hires and the alignment of those priorities and the essential learning outcomes of liberal education. A key finding of this report was, “Nearly all those surveyed (93%) agree, ‘a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.’” The report also emphasizes the need for ethical judgement and intercultural skills among recent college graduates as well as the capacity for ongoing learning. Many of the same findings as later employer surveys are demonstrated here such as the desire for educational practices that include active learning requiring sustained effort such as collaborative problem-solving, internships, undergraduate research, project-based learning, and the attainment of both general knowledge and the ability to apply learning.
- Student Learning Outcomes by gtP/LAC Category
- Written Communication
- Arts & Humanities
- Social & Behavioral Sciences
- Natural & Physical Sciences
- UNC IS and MS Learning Outcomes
LAC Assessment Process
At UNC, part of the charge of the Liberal Arts Council is to develop and implement a program for assessing the Liberal Arts Curriculum. The Council’s approach to assessment is guided by our commitment to a relevant and engaging student general education experience. There are three distinct aspects of the assessment of the Liberal Arts Curriculum, Indirect Syllabus Review, Direct Assessment of Student Learning, and Indirect Assessment of Student Learning.
Indirect Syllabus Review (ISR)
- ISR Process
Per the Course Approval Process to be approved into the Liberal Arts Curriculum at UNC, a course as well as the syllabus submitted for course approval, the Course Approval Syllabus, must meet certain requirements. The syllabus requirement is for three interrelated reasons: 1) requirements and state of Colorado back-end responsibility for gtP pathways courses, 2) teaching transparency and allowing students not only clear access to what is expected but also how the work in course is designed to facilitate meeting those expectations, 3) familiarity and providing students a sense of consistency across the general education experience. To clarify back-end responsibility, once a course is approved into the state’s gtP listing, any teaching syllabus can be pulled at any time for an audit to see if the course meets state requirements. The Council’s Indirect Assessment Process (ISR) process is designed to mimic this external auditing process.
While the syllabus used by any individual faculty member at UNC to teach a course in the LAC must include the required LAC syllabus elements, the construction of that syllabus is determined by the individual faculty member in conjunction with the policies and procedures of the academic unit offering the course. The Council’s ISR process is a review of the syllabi used by faculty in actually teaching an LAC course, the Teaching Syllabus, MUST contain the required LAC syllabus elements.
The actual teaching syllabus from every section of any LAC course offering must adhere to all LAC syllabus standards. These require that every syllabus contains:
(1) the required CDHE gtPathways statement,
(2) the content and competency criteria for your LAC/gtP category copied verbatim,
(3) student learning outcomes connected to those criteria, and
(4) evidence of clear alignment between major assignments and activities and the SLOs/content and competency criteria.
Courses that also carry an IS or MS designation must also
(5) include the relevant learning outcomes for that designation and have assignments aligned with those outcomes as well.
Indirect syllabus review is an ongoing process in which a syllabus from each course in the Liberal Arts Curriculum is reviewed once every five years, in a repeating cycle. To achieve this end, the Liberal Arts Council distributed the existing courses in the curriculum across a four-year period with a plan to review any newly added courses in the 5th year. Beginning in AY 21-22, for all courses undergoing review, one teaching syllabi for one section of the course has been “pulled” at random from the syllabi repository of the respective UNC college. Academic units receive an indirect syllabus review memo each Academic Year notifying them of what courses will be reviewed in the upcoming AY and providing a report on the courses that were reviewed in the current AY. Any teaching syllabus pulled for ISR will be a syllabus used in teaching the course in either the fall or the spring semester of the review Academic Year. If the course is not taught in that AY, the most recent teaching syllabus available will be reviewed.
The ISR process uses a three-strike policy with an Initial Review, a Rereview and a Final Review. If at any time a course fulfills all LAC syllabus requirements, the course returns to the cycle and will be reviewed again in five years. If a course does not fulfill all the requirements in initial review, it moves to rereview, and similarly with rereview to final review. If a course does not fulfill requirements all three times, the course will be removed from the LAC until the unit submits a revised course for Approval.
The Council’s assessment program incorporates authentic and UNC faculty-determined
course-embedded assessments of student learning in relation to the set of learning
outcomes included above.
- Direct Assessment Timeline
Six Year Rotation of Direct Assessment by LAC/gtP Category
• 2023–2024: Natural, Physical, & Health Sciences
• 2024–2025: Written Communication
• 2025–2026: Mathematics
• 2026–2027: Arts & Humanities
• 2027–2028: Social & Behavioral Sciences
• 2028–2029: History
- Direct Assessment Process
UNC’s Liberal Arts Council is dedicated to facilitating a quality general education experience for all UNC students and promoting useful and meaningful student learning. The LAC’s Direct Assessment process is designed to provide data to the teaching faculty, academic units, and the Council that allows development of an accurate and complete picture of student learning across UNC’s Liberal Arts Curriculum. Having this data provides the opportunity to reflect on teaching and assessment practices and engage in conversation with our peers to refine what we do in ways that augment student learning and enhance student experience.
The Direct Assessment pilot in spring semester 2023 showed a solid proof of concept that the approach taken by UNC's LAC can be implemented by faculty using existing systems and can yield potentially informative data. In AY 23-34, informed by the pilot, the LAC will be working to provide additional clarity as to what we hope to achieve through the DA process. Direct Assessment is an on-going in-development process on which the Liberal Arts Council will work diligently to ensure it being used for constructive purposes to enrich the teaching and learning at UNC.
- Direct Assessment Rubrics--gtP/LAC Competencies
- Direct Assessment Rubrics -- International and Multicultural Studies
- Indirect Assessment
Indirect Assessment refers to any method of collecting data that requires reflection on student learning, skills, or behaviors, rather than a demonstration of it. Whereas the LAC’s direct assessment process is designed to collect data on actual student learning per the student learning outcomes (SLOs) associated with the gtP/LAC competencies for each of the Curriculum Categories, the indirect assessment process is designed to collect reflection data on the LAC experience. This includes not only reflection on the experience within any particular course/semester but also the experience of participating in the direct assessment process as well as collective teaching and learning experiences across UNC’s Liberal Arts Curriculum. The LAC’s indirect assessment process contains three elements.
- Faculty feedback gathered from discussions with members of specific academic units within the year following engaging in the Direct Assessment process.
- Student feedback from a short survey we are working to include at the end of each LAC course.
- Student feedback from focus groups of volunteer students at the end of each semester in which they participated in the Direct Assessment Process.
The LAC at UNC engages in indirect assessment to ensure that faculty and student voice is part of the assessment process.
- Using Canvas for Direct Assessment
Included are a range of support materials that faculty may find useful when working on LAC Direct Assessment.
The first set of videos in the LAC Assessment Playlist are the most directly relevant. These feature Director of Assessment Dr. Chad Beebe providing context for the rubrics used in the LAC Direct Assessment and walking the viewer through the key elements of using Canvas to do LAC Direct Assessment.
Playlist – LAC Assessment
This playlist contains four videos that cover an introduction to LAC Assessment and Guaranteed Transfer Pathways, how to set up assessment rubrics, how to add individual outcomes to create an assessment rubric, and how to add individual outcomes and grading criteria in a single rubric. Key terms:performance levels, outcome point values
The following materials are some of what is available on the ID On Demand webpage.
Grading in Canvas
"Grading in Canvas" is one of our self-paced instructor training modules in Online Course Technology, focusing on feedback options in Canvas and the gradebook: Rubrics and Speedgrader. After completing this training module, you will be able to understand and be prepared to use grading options and tools available in Canvas, create and use a rubric for grading in Speedgrader and enhance instructor presence and student engagement by using Canvas' grading tools. We recommend you complete the "Build Your Canvas Gradebook" training module before taking this training. Key Terms:LMS, develop assessments, grade assessments, create new content, organize course content, course, training module
Experience Canvas for Students
This self-paced, introductory course provides two modules to help your students who self- register become more oriented with using Canvas. Key Terms:LMS, orientation module, learning module, system requirements, navigate, Gradebook, tools, support, training.
Playlist - Canvas Assessments
This playlist contains six curated videos that cover current assessment options in Canvas. Key terms:Canvas classic quizzes, assignments, discussions, activities, rubrics, webinar, captioned. Likely most relevant is Rubrics Travel With You
IDD Webinar Playlist
This playlist contains all current UNCO IDD webinars. The webinars address working with the online classroom template, Canvas Gradebook, classic quizzes and Panopto. Key terms:demonstrations, on-demand, self-paced, training, captioned. Likely the most relevant webinars are Gradebook Basics and Gradebook Management.
Canvas/Instructure: Full Set of Instructor Guides
This webpage provides you with a listing of all instructor guides via Canvas/Instructure. Key Terms:Canvas support, resources, help, searchable guides
Rules of Netiquette
This guide provides you with guidelines for polite and professional online communication and presence. Key Terms:communication, online
AI Detection in Canvas
This guide provides an overview of what AI detection software is currently available to you in Canvas, what you need to know about AI detection software, some additional strategies to recognize AI-generated content, and where to find additional assistance. Key Terms: TurnItIn, Turnitin, false positives, similarity report, AI writing detection, testing security, assignment and assessment reconfigurations