Walden is dedicated to creating and sustaining a “culture of evidence” in which data about achievements in student learning and the experiences that support student learning are continuously collected, analyzed, and shared for the purpose of continuous program improvement. Responsibility for assessment of student learning experiences is shared by faculty from each program, the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, and the University Assessment Council representing each school and college, as well as key support services. Assessment for continuous improvement at Walden takes place through five systems designed to provide faculty and administrators with multiple insights and perspectives on the student experience. These systems include:
The Learning Outcomes Report (LORbook) has been issued since 2004 as a continuing document summarizing the outcomes assessment plans of each program within the university. Each year, program directors, faculty, assessment staff, and members of the University Assessment Council work with the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to produce the report. This report specifies program learning outcomes and their alignment with the program, assessments for each outcome, available data from direct and indirect assessments, interpretation of that data, and recommendations made and actions taken as a result of the previous LORbook. Once distributed to the greater Walden community, the LORbook is discussed with the Curriculum and Academic Policy committees throughout the university to gather feedback and recommendations to improve student learning. The report for doctoral, educational specialist programs, and Research Courses are published annually in the winter. The report for master’s and bachelor’s programs is published annually in the summer. Academic skills courses LORbook is published annually in the fall.
Each degree program is expected to participate in an academic program review every five years. Academic program review is a comprehensive process designed to ensure that a program adheres to university values of quality, integrity, and student-centeredness and is accountable to academic and professional constituencies. Walden’s current academic program review process is aligned with standards set forth by the Council of Graduate Schools in 2005. In this yearlong process, a program review committee made up of academic administrators, faculty members, and operational partners completes a comprehensive self-study on the program’s organization, mission, curricula, faculty, students, and support services. A panel of faculty members from other higher education institutions then reviews the self-study, visits with the review committee onsite, and issues recommendations for program improvement. The program review committee uses the self-study and external faculty feedback to create a final plan with recommendations for program improvements that align with the budget cycle. These recommendations are then followed up after one year to check their status and determine whether additional support is needed.
Walden University’s co-curricular review, which uses the Baldrige criteria as the framework, is a continuous quality-improvement process that engages internal and external stakeholders in systematic processes to evaluate the performance of a service unit, including the impact on student learning outcomes. The purpose of the co-curricular review process is to help ensure that each co-curricular service unit meets Walden’s requirements for performance excellence and achieving sustainable results. Each service unit is expected to select, collect, and integrate data and information for tracking its operations and overall performance in relation to the university’s mission, vision, values, and strategic goals. The service unit’s analysis and review of such data and information is a continuous process. While not all Walden service units directly impact student learning outcomes, those that do ensure additional focus is put on these measures. Like the Academic Program Review, the co-curricular review occurs on a five year cycle, however, the self-study created in year one is reviewed internally during year two and externally during year three.
Course evaluations are administered by the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to students at the end of each online course. The evaluations solicit information from students on instructor performance, course design and content, student learning and application of course materials, and student support services. Information from individual course evaluations is made available to individual faculty members and program administrators and allows for ongoing improvement of instruction and course content. Data from these evaluations is then compiled and reported on a quarterly basis for the programs and the university. These reports supplement other sources of data used by school and college leadership in planning for improvements to support student learning.
Students in Walden competency based education programs also receive a quarterly survey that is similar in fashion to the course evaluations. In addition, when students complete a competency they receive and ‘end of competency’ evaluation.
Each year, Walden conducts student, alumni, graduate, and faculty satisfaction surveys. These surveys ask about all facets of the student experience, including instruction, course design, online tools, residencies, field experiences, theses, and dissertations. Students, recent graduates, and alumni are also asked to reflect on knowledge and skills aligned with university learning outcomes, what has supported them in their experience at Walden, and how they’ve understood and practiced the university mission. Faculty members are asked about teaching conditions, support services, online tools, and governance and are asked to rate student knowledge and skills aligned to university learning outcomes. In addition, employers of Walden graduates are surveyed annually about their satisfaction with the professional performance of the graduates and observations of growth in professional skills (if employing the Walden graduate during the studies). Information from these surveys is compiled annually and disseminated to the Curriculum and Academic Policy committees, school and college leadership, and operational partners to inform improvements in instruction, services, and program design. In addition, learning outcomes data from these surveys are used in the annual LORbook.
In accordance with best practice around outcomes assessment, the university refers to multiple sources of data on student learning. These include: