New learning outcomes defined

By Meredith Wathne

MSUM is working to establish university-wide student learning outcomes as part of the improvement project leading up to the Higher Learning Commission reaffirmation visit in 2017.

Every 10 years the HLC visits campus to ensure that the university is doing a good job of preparing students for life after graduation.

In the four years leading up to the visit, universities work on an improvement project to be presented when the HLC comes.

During the last visit in 2017, MSUM presented a 10-year snapshot report, along with collateral materials branded with the MSUM logo. The HLC changed the process for the next visit to avoid the flashy, promotional-heavy magnets and frisbees. Tim Borchers, dean of the College of Arts, Communication and Media said the HLC made the change because tactics used in previous rounds is actually helping campuses better themselves, and they wanted to see projects that promote continual improvement.

Last June, the Assessment Academy team spearheading the initiative attended the HLC Assessment Academy to kick off the project.

Team members included staff members Jason Anderson, Tim Borchers, Tim Decker, Michelle Malott, Jeremy Page and Stacy Voeller.

The intention of the new university learning outcomes is to better define the educational experience expectations for MSUM students, no matter their major.

“Are they really learning the things we think they should learn to become participating adults in a society that needs participation?” Assement Academy team co-chair Voeller said. MSUM already follows the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities learning outcomes, and by defining specific, the university rounds out its offerings to students.
“Looking at (the outcomes) in line with our strategic plan and our vision, and our fulfilling our promise, I think that it’s a really good way of closing that loop and being accountable for what it is we say we’re going to do,” Voeller said.

The new learning outcomes also focus on the educational experiences that come with co-curricular activities and will be focused on student growth outside the classroom.

“They’re not just, ‘well now I’m a ‘blank’ major and that’s all I’ve learned,’” said Michelle Malott, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences. “But they also have learned a lot of other skills that they pick up in co-curricular activities.”

On Friday, Borchers, Vollere and Page are traveling to Chicago to give a presentation on the university’s improvement plan at the HLC Conference. The commission is impressed with non-academic department involvement in the plan.

“They didn’t accept that many proposals, so I think it’s a really good thing,” Voeller said. “They’re noticing that we’re doing good stuff here.”

The Assessment Academy team has met with different departments and will meet with Student Senate for feedback on the proposed learning outcomes to make sure expectations meet academic standards across campus.

The academy team encourages student and faculty input and will be accepting feedback on until April 16. A draft of potential outcomes can also be found on the site.

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