National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment |

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Institute Occasional Paper 12: Assessing Learning in Online Education


Prineas, M. & Cini, M. (2011, October). Assessing Learning in Online Education: The Role of Technology in Improving Student Outcomes. (NILOA Occasional Paper No. 12). Urbana, IL: University for Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.


NILOA's twelfth occasional paper, Assessing Learning in Online Education: The Role of Technology in Improving Student Outcomes, written by Matthew Prineas and Marie Cini, from the University of Maryland University College, focuses on how online education can impact how we understand and assess student learning outcomes. The authors begin by tracing the development of both online education and assessment practice, arguing that little crossover has occurred between the two even though opportunities to connect the movements abound including data mining, program design, real time program changes, and individualized analytics for students. This paper concludes with a discussion about the changing role for faculty in this new paradigm of online education and assessment.

Paper Abstract

The national learning outcomes assessment (LOA) movement and online learning in higher education emerged during roughly the same period. What has not yet developed is a sophisticated understanding of the power of online learning and its concomitant technologies to change how we view, design, and administer LOA programs. This paper considers how emerging techniques, such as data mining and learning analytics, allow the use of performance and behavioral data to improve student learning not just for future iterations of a program but in real time for current students. Also considered are powerful learning methodologies which predate online learning but have found renewed utility when coupled with new technologies for assessing and assisting student learners. The authors postulate that technology will enable educators to design courses and programs that learn in the same way that individual students learn, and we offer some conditions that we believe are important to further this goal. We conclude with a consideration of how the faculty role will necessarily change as a result of these advances in our understanding of using technology to improve learning outcomes.

Biographies of the Authors

Matthew Prineas is the Academic Director for English, Literature, and Humanities in the School of Undergraduate Studies at University of Mary- land University College. He received his PhD in English language and litera- ture from the University of Rochester and an M.A. in English from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Previously, he worked as an adminis- trator at the National Endowment for the Humanities, where he coordinated curriculum development for EDSITEment, an online resource for K-12 teachers across the country. From 1995-2000, he was a faculty member in the English department at Idaho State University, and has published articles on Milton, Henry Vaughan, Ben Jonson, and other seventeenth-century authors.



Marie Cini is the Vice Provost and Dean of the Undergraduate School at University of Maryland University College, where she oversees 32 bacca- laureate programs serving 67,000 students worldwide. She earned a PhD and a master’s degree in social psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a master’s degree in counselor education from Pennsylvania State University. Before UMUC, she was an associate vice president for Academic Affairs and interim dean of the School of Management at City University of Seattle. During her tenure there, she reorganized and led the school’s e-campus initiative, while also establishing common curriculum standards, enhancing the Prior Learning Assessment process and linking academic affairs staff in the U.S. more closely with those in the international arena. Dr. Cini has published and presented extensively on the topics of authentic assessment and academic integrity, leadership development in adult learners, retention and adult learners, group newcomers and innovation, and program development across cultures.



"In this compelling new NILOA Occasional Paper, Matthew Prineas and Marie Cini argue persuasively not only that the connections between online education and learning outcomes assessment are deep but also that the mediated settings provided by online education have the potential to significantly improve assessment and its capacity to improve teaching and

Peter Ewell

Peter T. Ewell
Vice President, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS)
Senior Scholar, NILOA