National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Example of Good Assessment Practice: Capella University


Jankowski, N. (2011, August). Capella University: An Outcomes-Based Institution (NILOA Examples of Good Assessment Practice). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

"If we are not doing an excellent job of assessment, we can't be confident that our curriculum is achieving that which we hope it is. Essentially, our students need to learn, persist, graduate, and then achieve their goals in life and career. We can't tell if any of that is real unless we have some sort of learning assessment underneath."
-- Provost

Capella University: An Outcomes-Based Institution

Capella University was selected for a case study due to its systematic, embedded student learning outcomes assessment process; its administrative support and vision of what assessment can do for individual learners; its transparency efforts such as Capella Results, which publicizes assessment results, and its help in developing Transparency By Design; and its use of assessment results to enhance learner success levels.
Link to the full report here.

Lessons from Capella University

1. Administrative support is vital to providing the vision and drive to continually assess student learning at many levels across an institution, as well as to publically report results.

2. Developing the requisite infrastructure and processes necessary for organization-wide learning outcomes assessment takes time, understanding, resources, and the involvement of many different groups throughout the institution.

3. As with other aspects of learning outcomes assessment (Ewell, Paulson, & Kinzie, 2011; Kuh & Ikenberry, 2009), accreditation may be used to help facilitate ongoing, internal, continuous improvement of student learning and assessment processes.

4. Building a collective understanding of the importance, potential, and meaning of assessment takes time and the involvement of many people across the institution. Cultural shifts toward becoming an outcomes-based institution cannot occur if assessment is the purview of, or understood by, an individual or a single office.

5. Student learning may be enhanced by designing programs and curriculum backwards from the desired learning outcomes to specific courses and their learning activities. Such a backwards design approach may facilitate student progress in achieving outcomes and help faculty to better understand and use assessment results.