University of St. Augustine

Systematic Assessment for Continuous Improvement across the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences


Institutional  Profile

logo_uofstaugustineThe University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), is a small, for-profit graduate university specializing in the Health Sciences. Prior to becoming a university, the institution offered seminars and continuing education courses for professional licensure of Physical Therapy students. In 1979, the institution became a university and offered graduate degrees. Today, USAHS offers eight academic degree programs at three geographical locations in three different states each with varying levels of distance learning. USAHS’s largest degree programs are the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program. USAHS also offers Masters degrees for Orthodpaedic Assistants and practice-oriented doctoral degrees in Education and Health Sciences. The programs are delivered in classroom learning formats with clinical education components. Courses are offered in online and blended formats as part of flexible, part-time degree and non-degree offerings.

The institution is accredited regionally by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), Senior College and University Commission, as well as by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) and the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). USAHS has earned programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) and the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).


Key Challenges

In striving to achieve its mission – the development of professional health care practitioners through innovative, individualized, and quality classroom, clinical, and distance education – USAHS has been motivated internally by the desire to continuously monitor and improve the quality of the learning experience for its students by engaging in systematic assessment. The University sought to increase its ability to transparently track progress of students in achieving student learning outcomes. At the same time, adhering to specialized programmatic accreditation standards for evidence-informed practice has served as a motivator for USAHS to develop assessment cycles and inform curricular activities.

Because its three geographically disparate campuses vary in age, assessment instruments and teaching strategies varied between campuses at USAHS. Also, the university determined certain standardized tests to be of limited utility in measuring the achievement of certain core competencies, such as critical thinking. Evidence gathered via end-of-program measures, such as exit examination scores and capstone course performance, needed to be supplemented with authentic formative assessments. Fortunately, USAHS had already identified clear points in educational programs at which the progress of its students could be traced for various skills and competencies, such as decision-making.

Key performance indicators expressed in its program assessment plans needed to be operationalized in a consistent and systematic fashion. A short term goal was to implement strategies to directly measure student success, especially by gathering evidence of the effectiveness of its learning modalities to supplement pass rates on licensure and certification examinations with these additional meaningful institutional measures.

Given these motivations, the University did not have an Assessment Management System (AMS) in place. Common analytic rubrics had not been implemented to measure learning across programs. And three Institutional Learning Outcomes would need to be systematically assessed within two years; and the timing was critical with an upcoming WASC Site Visit within five months of implementation. The University also needed the AMS to be compatible with its Learning Management System, as well as its eLearning platform.


Solution

The Outcomes Assessment Coordinator at the University of St. Augustine, Dr. David Turbow, was assigned to implement a system across the institution, to work with Program Directors to develop and implement analytic rubrics for key assignments, oversee faculty training, and provide support to faculty and to students. The University’s leadership chose LiveText to partner in this process.

Together with LiveText, the University developed a plan to implement LiveText in concert with the adoption of assessment best practices (i.e. rubric embedded assessment), communicate strategically to faculty and students, and heightening student awareness of performance expectations.

From the LiveText side, an Education Consultant and Implementation Team Lead worked with the Outcomes Assessment Coordinator to determine pressing assessment needs for the institution – identifying learning outcomes that needed to be assessed in accordance with the Institutional Effectiveness plan, determining presence/absence of signature (or key) assignments in course(s) to assess competencies, and identifying existing tools. LiveText Implementation entered the Program Learning Outcomes and Institutional Learning Outcomes as standards, as well as worked with the University’s IT Department to integrate the system and prepare the test environment before going live.

LiveText is currently used university wide, with approximately 1,750 student LiveText users across three campuses. The University has used LiveText to embed an analytic rubric to measure written communication on a signature assignment in a Critical Thinking course to assess a common Program Learning Outcome across entry-level professional programs. USAHS is also using LiveText to embed an analytic rubric for Information Literacy in several courses in professional programs.

The University plans to expand overall use of LiveText across the institution. Future goals include implementing developmental e-Portfolios to measure deep learning and professional growth. A portfolio approach will likely be suitable for EdD and DHSc programs where students develop teaching philosophies for foundational coursework and become self-reflective practitioners in their training. USAHS is planning to expand the use of LiveText to assess learning in clinical rotations and internships aligned to programmatic accreditation requirements. The University also envisions using LiveText to assess co-curricular outcomes (e.g. Integrity & Professionalism, Communication, Leadership) acquired through student involvement in service learning, community service, student associations, professional advocacy, wellness activities, and research opportunities. “With LiveText, we were able to show that we could embed a common analytic rubric to assess learning outcomes, engage faculty across all three campuses in an assessment activity, and include adjunct faculty in the process. One of the benefits that came out of using LiveText was that we created an Assessment Portfolio to share our data transparently. We were commended as an institution in our Site Visit report for rapid progress in assessing student learning outcomes,” said Dr. Turbow.

“With LiveText, we were able to show that we could embed a common analytic rubric to assess learning outcomes, engage faculty across all three campuses in an assessment activity, and include adjunct faculty in the process. One of the benefits that came out of using LiveText was that we created an Assessment Portfolio to share our data transparently. We were commended as an institution in our Site Visit report for rapid progress in assessing student learning outcomes.”

“By embedding common analytic rubrics for key assignments in graduate Health Sciences courses, we have already used LiveText to initiate a more systematic and sustainable process to assess student learning outcomes. Students get genuinely excited when they know the expectations and we can trace their own growth and progress in acquiring skills over the course of their respective programs. We are engaging our faculty across campuses, building authentic interdepartmental relationships, and supporting student success.”

Dr. David J. Turbow
Outcomes Assessment Coordinator, Office of Assessment and Institutional Research
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences