Editor’s Note: Melanie Brown directs the Academic Skills Center in the Center for Student Success at Walden University. She has also supported students at Walden as an academic advisor, dissertation editor, and writing instructor. She has worked in higher education for 10 years, serving as director of The Writing Center and the Writing Across the Curriculum program at St. Norbert College near Green Bay, Wisconsin. She and her partner live in Minneapolis, are avid three-season bike commuters, and hike every year among the rocks at Zion National Park.
The Criterion Four subcommittee documents how Walden University takes responsibility for the quality and continuous improvement of its educational programs and support services. In the HLC assurance argument, we present evidence in three categories: (1) quality of educational programs, (2) data-driven improvement through student learning assessment, and (3) attention to retention and completion rates.
One way we ensure educational quality is by conducting regular academic program reviews (APRs) in our colleges and co-curricular reviews in our student support centers. An APR consists of a program’s self-study, a quality assurance review conducted by the university’s Academic Quality and Accreditation office, evidence from external reviewers, and the program committee’s review of and response to the APR’s findings. The review culminates in an action plan for the program to follow to improve the quality of its offerings for students.
Specialized accreditation also denotes the quality of university programs. For more information on our specialized programmatic accreditations, visit www.WaldenU.edu/accreditation.
Measurable student learning outcomes help the university identify strengths and areas for improvement in student learning experiences at course, program, college, and university levels. Faculty members, assessment coordinators, and instructional staff participate substantially in Walden’s student learning assessment processes. Two ways the university assesses student learning are by using rubrics in courses and completing annual Learning Outcome Reports (LORbooks).
Walden University Rubric Guide—Updated in 2014, this guide presents best practices in rubric design. This year, the university will begin using Blackboard’s electronic rubric tool, which will give students the opportunity to see their rubric requirements before submitting assignments and to keep rubric feedback accessible after their assignments are graded and returned.
LORbooks—Faculty members and assessment staff analyze course assignments related to program-level learning outcomes. The team reviews data from direct assessments (e.g., assignment grades, dissertation/doctoral study rubric ratings) and indirect assessments (e.g., from the university’s Student Satisfaction Survey and Employer Survey, among others) to identify points for course and program changes to improve student achievement of learning outcomes.
The success of our students remains our top priority; therefore, we continually search for ways to help students thrive in their programs as they work toward their degrees. Faculty and administrators use data to develop student support initiatives. Such initiatives include implementation of MyDR for dissertation/doctoral study document tracking, establishment of capstone intensive retreats, and development of the doctoral proposal revision workshops in the Academic Skills Center.
As members of the Walden community, your comments on these topics are important to us. In your role at the university, how have you seen curricular or program changes implemented to help students achieve learning outcomes? Share your comments at HLCFeedback@waldenu.edu.