OIT Technology News: November 2013

Fall Edition

New Features in Courses.SMU to Support Student Learning Outcomes

A major initiative is underway to enhance the measurement and reporting of student learning in SMU’s new University Curriculum across all schools. Currently, faculty members teaching in the new curriculum are required to assess the Student Learning Outcomes approved for their course. They report on how well students are attaining the core college competencies offered in the new curriculum. All of this data is collected by the Office of Assessment and Accreditation to support the University SACS accreditation standards. 

Currently, faculty submit these reports in a number of different ways. For the first two semesters of the curriculum, these reports come through email, with a variety of attached files; word documents, excel documents, scans saved as pdfs and jpegs. That makes it quite difficult to gather all of the data efficiently, and effectively measure and report on our success as a University in meeting outcomes. Therefore, several modules were recently purchased for Courses.SMU (AKA Blackboard) to help streamline the process of gathering the data for both the faculty and the Office of Assessment and Accreditation. Additionally, two other software packages have been added to help with the assessment and reporting process.

Content Module
The Blackboard Content Module provides integrated shared storage within Courses.SMU. Currently, files that are uploaded to a course are only available within that course. If the course is copied from one year to the next, each file is then duplicated. The Content module allows an instructor to store all of those files in one location and link from multiple courses to that content. It also allows for shared content across a department. To support the Learning Outcomes initiative, a library of rubrics for assessments will be provided to all faculty via a shared folder in the content module. These are predefined rubrics that outline the various Student Learning Outcomes specific to SMU. 

Learning Outcomes Module
The Learning Outcomes Module allows faculty to leverage the shared rubrics from the Content module within course assignments. A faculty member imports the appropriate rubric into their course. They then create an assignment for the course and align the specific questions or assignments to a specific outcome. During the grading of the assignment, the faculty member will assign two grades: one for the actual assignment and one for the success in meeting the learning outcome. The secondary rating for the specific outcomes is then aggregated and available for the Office of Assessment and Accreditation.

This software is being pilot tested this semester for more broad availability next semester. Examsoft is an exam management software that allows faculty to administer an exam digitally while blocking access from those devices to the internet or other resources. During the exam period, the computer or iPad is restricted to accessing the test only. The device can not communicate with the internet or run other applications. Once the test is submitted, all communications and programs are then unlocked and returned to normal. The test itself is fully encrypted and can only be read using the Examsoft application. Examsoft has been integrated with Courses.SMU to import the students enrolled in a particular course and then authorize those students to access exams for the class. Once those are graded within Examsoft, the grades can then be imported to the grade center in Courses.SMU. Instructors may also link specific questions within the test to specific learning outcomes in the university curriculum. Reports are then generated based on the student success in answering those particular questions successfully.

At this time, the configuration of these various components is still underway. We are in the process of developing online tutorials to assist faculty in using these new tools. Once implemented and adopted, these new tools will simplify and enhance the tracking and analysis of these student performance on these critical learning outcomes.