Point Loma Nazarene University

Assessment Wheel: Transparency, Sustainability and Faculty Engagement

Institutional Overview

logo_pointlomaPoint Loma Nazarene University offers more than 60 undergraduate areas of study and graduate program regional centers in Bakersfield, Mission Valley (San Diego), and the Inland Empire. Founded in 1902, PLNU serves more than 3,500 students. PLNU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Key Challenges

Some of the challenges PLNU faculty were determined to address included the following: faculty ownership and control of the assessment process; moving from compliance to a continuous improvement culture; creating an environment of assessment transparency; developing a learning community around assessment; and engaging discussions around best practices. PLNU began implementing an assessment management system and needed to move assessment plans and activities to the next level of development by creating an open online forum to engage faculty, co-curricular staff, and others in campus-wide discussions around student learning.


Assessment Wheel: Model used with permission from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (2011).

As an institution, PLNU also needed a more efficient, effective way to aggregate assessment data over time and across multiple programs and campuses for program review, curricular changes, historical records, trends, and evidence of student learning. PLNU faculty leadership wanted to move away from storing key assessment data in a variety of locations, including hardcopy and digital files, to a more transparent, consistent, and easily accessible location to be used by multiple governance bodies such as curricular and program review committees.

Our Solution

In efforts to address these challenges, PLNU implemented the Assessment Wheel across academic and co-curricular units. The Assessment Wheel was developed by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and adapted by PLNU faculty leadership to meet the institution’s unique needs. In addition, PLNU created an individual assessment wheel for each academic and co-curricular unit. The wheel has provided PLNU with a sustainable and intuitive framework that has encouraged faculty to have conversations among themselves regarding the different components of student learning assessment and improved transparency.

LiveText, a comprehensive assessment management system, was adopted in late 2008 by Point Loma Nazarene University. Point Loma uses LiveText for its myriad functions to aggregate assessment data across multiple programs and campuses, particularly for programs such as General Education, nursing, and business which have professional and regional accreditation requirements.

LiveText is seen as a critical companion piece to the assessment wheel, fostering collaboration among departments and streamlining the process of collecting institute-wide assessment data.

LiveText began as a grassroots movement at PLNU, with a small group of faculty converts that grew as word spread regarding the tool’s ease of use. More and more faculty began using the tool to assess course and program outcomes. Once the different program and department-specific rubrics were inserted into LiveText, it was very easy for faculty to assess students and, with just a couple clicks, generate instant reports on how their students were performing against these rubrics. This process also allowed faculty and administrators across different programs to finally have conversations about the kinds of rubrics they were using – now ensuring consistency in evaluations and increased transparency to students on how and what they would be evaluated.

Additionally, students in different programs, such as nursing, business, and music have started using LiveText to create e-Portfolios, eliminating any need for putting together cumbersome paper binders in order to meet portfolio requirements. The e-Portfolios allow students to exhibit the competencies and demonstrate program learning outcomes.

The use of LiveText continues to evolve and grow at PLNU. Faculty members are using it for their promotional and tenure packages. In addition, PLNU plans to take institutional transparency to next level by creating a stronger linkage between LiveText and the PLNU assessment wheel, allowing faculty to seamlessly upload end-of-semester assessment results into their assessment wheel from LiveText.

“For assessment results to truly inform program improvement, the assessment structure must be owned and designed by the faculty and have the ability to adapt to each program’s unique needs as well as being sustainable. PLNU faculty have dramatically changed the assessment culture from an annual compliance report model to one of continuous improvement based on the evolving evidence derived from the assessment of student learning.”

Dr. Maggie Bailey
Vice Provost for Program Development and Accreditation

“LiveText has been a powerful tool we have utilized to streamline the collection of assessment data – which has helped serve as a spring board in spreading faculty use across campus. As more and more of our faculty and students begin to use LiveText for assessment or to build e-Portfolios, it is imperative that we continually refine our trainings and demonstrations to highlight best practices and examples of use taking place. Whether sharing with faculty or with students, some of the greatest “ah-ha” moments of understanding or inspiration have taken place just by seeing what someone else had done.”

Stephanie Lehman
LiveText Coordinator
Office of Institutional Effectiveness