Academic Program and Student Outcomes Assessment Plan
During the 2007-2008 academic year, UW Oshkosh made substantial progress in terms of its Liberal Education initiative. In October 2007, an AAC&U official gave the keynote address on the organization’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) campaign at the Provost’s Summit on Teaching and Learning at our campus. This was followed in February 2008 by the attendance of a faculty team from UW Oshkosh at an AAC&U national conference on general education and assessment in Boston.
Upon returning to campus, the conference participants worked with other members of the Liberal Education Reform Team (LERT) and governance groups to adopt a framework for new University-wide learning outcomes for a 21st-century college education. A second faculty team attended the AAC&U annual General Education Institute in Minneapolis in May.
Over the course of the next academic year, LERT workgroups will examine the University’s assessment processes and the tools needed to support the learning outcomes. The LERT team also will collaborate with units across campus to define a process to align curriculum and general education courses to the learning outcomes.
In addition to faculty contributions, the dean of the College of Letters and Science, the provost and the chancellor have been active in supporting Liberal Education initiatives. Dean John Koker is a LERT tri-captain at UW Oshkosh, an active member of the System Advisory Group on the Liberal Arts (SAGLA) and leader of a UW System group examining System-wide student learning outcomes.
In October 2007, Provost Lane Earns spoke to the Board of Regents on LEAP; the following month, he served as the System representative at the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities conference titled “Liberal Education and Wisconsin’s Promise,” and in April 2008, he participated in a state conference for education, business and media leaders titled “Liberal Education and Wisconsin’s Promise: Building Leadership, Advocacy and Support for What Really Matters in College.” In January 2008, Chancellor Wells was elected a board member of the AAC&U.
Other academic endeavors that fall under the umbrella of the Liberal Education initiative on campus are the First Year Experience Program, the Sustainability Initiative, the American Democracy Project and the Provost’s Teaching and Learning Summit.
The University also made considerable progress toward addressing concerns from the HLC report in the areas of curriculum and assessment. The academic program review process started up again after a short hiatus brought on by budget shortfalls. Beginning this year, programs will be asked to review their assessment plans to ensure viability prior to beginning the next program review process. The campus also will continue its efforts to reduce the number of credits to degree for students in academic programs.
The Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) initiative has made significant progress toward finalizing a design and establishing a Web presence. In the future, the University will pilot assessments to determine the best selection for a measure of accountability for the last segment of the VSA process.
New program development and program expansion of existing programs supported by the Growth Agenda will be a major priority for the University during the coming year. The College of Nursing will create a proposal for authorization of a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree in collaboration with UW-Eau Claire.
Considerable growth of outreach and nontraditional-student programming through the New ERA collaborative, articulation agreements and transfer agreements has expanded the programmatic inventory and geographic service area of the institution. In fall 2008, the library created a new research and study space that will allow users to find information, receive assistance and write papers in an environment designed for students. Lastly, a review of retention efforts campuswide will provide a framework for possible realignment of services and clarification of an administrative oversight position.
The colleges continue to review their progress toward the four strategic initiatives of Engaged Learning, Globalization and Diversity, Community Engagement and Student Excellence established through the University-wide strategic planning process. Updates to these initiatives are addressed in the update of the Academic Program Plan 2006.
Continuing efforts to address the University’s six major challenges are outlined below:
Changing student profile: implications for recruitment, retention and mix
In terms of the student profile, the University launched a pilot Titan Advantage Program (TAP) to assist students to transition from high school to university. In addition, a First-Year Experience program will be launched during the coming academic year to support an integration of student life and academic campus experiences for new students. This also includes a required course that serves as an introduction to the University; expanded orientation and transitions programs for first-year students, transfer and non-traditional students; and additional parent programs and outreach.
Demographics show that as the number of majority high schools graduates decreases, and the number of minority students increases, the University will be challenged to align academic and student support services to address learning and language needs. To that end, an increase in the number of sections of Supplemental Instruction courses has been supported by the colleges and the Provost’s Office in order to address additional tutor requests. Other support services include the hiring of an English language tutor for the Center for Academic Resources, and a Native American specialist will begin to work with that target population as a part of expanded retention and advising efforts.
Priority funding for the 2008 year will focus on high-risk retention groups, including undeclared majors and students with academic difficulties, and an early warning program and early assessment of students’ preparedness and engagement.
Based only on the ACT report, data suggest that UW Oshkosh is the first choice of only 28 percent of students who apply. The number of applications from students of color increased by 15.7 percent in 2007-2008. It will continue to be difficult to attain a healthy mix of students as long as we are not the campus of first choice for many who enroll here. The University continues to face the challenge of maintaining and increasing the scholarship support necessary to attract and retain high-quality, low-income, multicultural and international students. In the coming year, the University will review the results of the Campus Climate Survey to determine next steps in planning.
Lastly, an initiative to expand enrollments in high-demand areas will contribute to the student enrollment mix for biology, environmental studies, psychology, medical technology, chemistry, history, women’s studies and the traditional BSN programs.
Changing faculty profile: implications for recruitment, retention and mix
Maintaining competitive salaries, professional development funds, grant and research support, and student quality are key issues in ensuring healthy morale among faculty and academic staff of all the colleges.
Several trends have implications for the faculty and academic staff profile over the next year. The professional colleges anticipate challenges due to an aging workforce and declining numbers of terminally qualified faculty. All colleges continue to be affected by the increase in faculty in dual-career relationships, the need to diversify faculty and a shift in commitment away from the University toward the professional disciplines.
An increased emphasis on the integration of technology in the delivery of education and educational services has resulted in changing demands of academic positions. It also has served to blur the distinction between work and non-work time and increase labor mobility in the academic market. Turnover rates among faculty and academic staff are expected to increase in the next five years. Maintaining competitive salaries, professional development funds, research support and infrastructure, and student quality are key issues in ensuring healthy morale among faculty of all the colleges and retention of high-performing faculty.
Budget cuts, more than programmatic needs, have driven increases in the percentage of courses taught by instructional academic staff. In 2005, faculty taught 57 percent of the undergraduate courses at UW Oshkosh, but this number had declined to 52 percent in 2007. The number of full-time instructional academic staff teaching courses was 49 percent for the same period. The University is challenged to make thoughtful decisions about the appropriate mix of faculty and instructional academic staff and determine how to compete effectively in hiring terminally qualified candidates, meet the changing needs of both to ensure retention of high-performers and communicate the value of both to a healthy University community. In an attempt to address this issue, last year the campus hired more than 20 additional faculty members, and this year, as part of its role in the Wisconsin Growth Agenda, it is anticipated that the University will hire 30 more.
In order to do what it can to raise faculty salaries internally, UW Oshkosh last year developed a Professorial Productivity Raise Policy. This fall, the University is looking to raise the amount of money given to faculty at the time of promotion (something it did only two years earlier). This is in addition to the Salary Equity Process that has existed for almost a decade. Another effort to assist faculty came this past year in the form of the creation of a $90,000 External Grants Expansion Program.
Ongoing challenges faced by the University include:
- Improving faculty/academic staff recruitment and retention by, for example, building a campus community that fosters institutional loyalty,
- Meeting the increased knowledge and skill development needs for faculty and academic staff,
- Providing adequate support for faculty/academic staff to meet their teaching, research and service obligations,
- Finding ways to encourage the transition from academic staff to terminally trained faculty,
- Increasing the diversity of the faculty and academic staff, and
- Managing workload.
Curriculum structure, program planning and program review
The University is addressing the challenge to institutionalize processes and procedures for integrating program review and student outcomes assessment. For the new review cycles, faculty members are engaged in program review with a new emphasis on identifying and using student-performance data to guide programmatic decision making. A review of the program assessment plan will take place at least two years prior to the formal program review to ensure adequate data collection practices. Currently, assessment plans are evaluated for alignment of learning goals and assessments. We also need a review process that would help us to identify potential new majors that would benefit our students through a more developed market analysis and environmental scanning process.
Faculty committees are in the process of evaluating the assessment and review processes for the General Education Program based on the adoption of the new liberal education learning outcomes. The selection of assessment tools that are aligned to the learning outcomes will be a major task of the assessment groups in the next year. This process will be informed by the alignment of courses and program outcomes to the new learning outcomes. Additional assessment challenges include the expansion of assessment of student experiences outside the classroom (e.g., internships, clinical experiences, residence hall and student life) and the implications of these experiences for student learning.
A pilot process for the review for certificate programs and degree completion programs is underway. As more online courses are added to programs, it is increasingly important to review the role of online courses and online programs within our program mix and to modify existing processes to accommodate this delivery mechanism. Additionally, a review of the institutional capacity to support fully online programs is needed along with a review of accreditation implications. As program development and meeting student demand for online instruction increases, the institution will consider initiating a Change Request to the Higher Learning Commission for approval to deliver fully online programs. Lastly, more efforts were dedicated to the oversight of collaborative agreements with outside agencies and institutions.
Recently proposed additions to the curriculum by faculty members include establishing Art emphases in 2-D Studio (Drawing, Painting, Photography and Printmaking), 3-D Studio (Ceramics, Fibers, Functional Design, Metals and Sculpture), Design (Graphic Design and Functional Design) in COLS. A new graduate certificate program was approved in Leadership for Postsecondary, Technical and Adult Education in COEHS. COB eliminated the Investments emphasis and the Corporate Finance emphasis. Several colleges renamed programs resulting in the following: Urban Planning (COLS), Professional Counseling (COEHS), Human Services and Educational Leadership (COEHS), Neurosciences minor (COLS), Urban Planning (COLS), and Human Services Leadership (COEHS). The major of Fire and Emergency Response Management was moved to the Bachelor of Applied Studies degree program in the Center for New Learning.
State funding through the Growth Agenda and private funding from the University Capital Campaign have increased opportunities for new and improved academic programs, student/faculty collaborative research and student scholarships. New initiatives include a laboratory and clinical simulation program in CON, outreach and collaborative programs in COEHS, a Family Business Center in COB and a campuswide Center for Scholarly Teaching. An area of concern is the lack of increase in the library’s collections budgets since 1999–2001. In addition, the purchasing power of the collections' budgets has been reduced by approximately $450,000 during the same time period through information inflation and FTE growth. We must continue to find alternative revenue sources to support existing programs and to develop new ones.
Since January 2005, the director of Graduate Services has assumed responsibilities for the coordination and facilitation of policy, procedural, administrative and curricular activities. To advise and support policy and curricular matters, a dean-in-residence has been appointed by the provost and, since fall 2006, a graduate faculty chair of the Graduate Council is elected to represent the needs of this faculty body. The Graduate Council remains the primary policy-making body for policy and curricular matters as they relate to University graduate studies.
Graduate Studies includes 15 active and vibrant degree programs as well as graduate certificates and post-master’s offerings. While Graduate Studies continues to enroll more students than any other comprehensive campus in the Wisconsin System, enrollment numbers have begun to taper off, and enrollments at UW-LaCrosse and UW-Whitewater are challenging UW Oshkosh’s leading position. The decline in recent years of GPR-based graduate enrollments is reflective of a number of factors, not the least of which is the proliferation of choices the public has for graduate studies in the region. The following are some of the conditions facing the future of Graduate Studies and enrollment at UW Oshkosh:
- There are more than 25 other private four-year campuses, private doctoral institutions and for-profit educational organizations within the state, almost all of which have made serious gains in market share over the past five years. Additionally, there is heightened competition among UW System campuses vying for graduate students;
- Competition from CESA’s (Cooperative Educational Service Agencies) in-district training and other programs offering educational programs for teachers that require fewer credits and less rigor coupled with changing requirements for public school teachers;
- Slow development of off-campus courses or nontraditional delivery courses;
- “Soft” economy and less employer reimbursement of graduate courses;
- Nonexistent budgets in departments for marketing and promoting graduate programs; reduction of program budgets to maintain course array; elimination of marketing budget in the Graduate Studies office; and
- Reduction of institutional support of graduate assistants, both in FTE and amount of funding available to programs.
Creating programs that attract students, putting services and schedules in place that meet the needs of graduate students, setting enrollment targets, setting diversity goals and ensuring that program offerings meet the needs of the University are challenges faced by all the Graduate Studies programs. More attention must be paid to long-term planning based upon student and University needs, such as retaining and supporting research active faculty and the research infrastructure to support graduate student theses.
Outreach, adult access, community engagement and summer session
A final challenge and opportunity for the campus is the expansion of outreach, adult student access, community engagement and summer session programs. UW System institutions’ share of the adult student market has declined in recent years, according to a Market Analysis of In-State Competition, prepared by the UW System Office of Market Research.
With the creation of the Adult Nontraditional Student Resource Office, the increase in credit-transfer agreements and the development of new online degree completion options, UW Oshkosh has experienced growth in the adult nontraditional student segment and is poised for a substantial increase in enrolling adult nontraditional students. Policy changes have been implemented that encourage more arts and sciences faculty to teach in off-campus programs.
While still a barrier, compensation for faculty teaching and developing off-campus and online programs is improving. Growth Agenda funds have been dedicated to joint faculty positions between UW Oshkosh’s Center for New Learning and the colleges and for joint staff positions to specifically address the needs of incoming adult nontraditional students. Twelve new off-campus, credit-based program deliveries are planned for the next two years. A revision to the new BAS degree has occurred, allowing greater access to the baccalaureate degree for technical college graduates. Additional support staff has been added to market adult programs, support students who enroll in those programs, and support faculty who wish to develop off-campus accelerated, hybrid, and online courses designed for adult nontraditional students. The University recently finalized articulation agreements with New ERA institutions and more statewide agreements are pending.
Adult nontraditional students make up the fastest growing segment of the higher education market in the United States. The competition for this market segment is intense due to flat or declining population growth among traditional college-bound high school graduates. Colleges and universities no longer are the only option for the growing adult education market. Fast-track and distance-learning programs, corporate universities and for-profit institutions (growing nearly five-fold in the past 20 years) compete directly with traditional colleges for an increasing share of the market. Those institutions that make extensive use of the internet and distance education to promote and deliver programs have achieved greater success in attracting this market than those institutions that rely on traditional print-based promotion and face-to-face delivery of programs.
Initiatives to increase the numbers of adult nontraditional students at UW Oshkosh include expanding delivery sites, redesigning UW Oshkosh’s Web presence, increasing collaboration with UW colleges and technical colleges in the area to expand credit transfer options, expanding cohort-based and off-campus courses and reactivating Credit for Prior Learning portfolio review.
Goals include the following:
- Identify high-interest majors among adult students and create an alternative nontraditional version of those majors, beginning with the Criminal Justice major;
- Reactivate Credit for Prior Learning through portfolio and align with updated Prior Learning Assessment University policy approved in 2005;
- Expand cohort-based and off-campus courses, combinations of courses and certificate programs delivered to targeted employee, professional or citizen groups;
- Create and promote credit and noncredit educational packages designed for specific professional and career groups;
- Conduct the Graduation Project to invite and support UW Oshkosh students who dropped out during their senior year to return and graduate;
- Conduct a systematic review of policies and practices in relation to their impact on adult nontraditional students; and
- Develop processes to encourage faculty participation in programs designed to serve adult nontraditional students.