Learning Council Endorses New Assessment Model and Discusses Online, Honors and Degree Pathways Projects

Just days after faculty approved the Program Learning Outcomes Assessment (PLOA) Model at the PLOA Summit, the Thursday, January 30, 2020, Learning Council meeting dedicated considerable time and attention to this important work. John Niss, Learning Council co-chair and Faculty Association past president, and Wendi Dew, assistant vice president, teaching and learning, provided council members with an overview of the new model and facilitated discussion regarding its implementation.

One theme that arose in the discussion was our institutional capacity to implement the new model — including what it will take for our assessment, data and analytics, and faculty development teams to support this work. With respect to the assessment of student learning in Associate in Science (A.S.) programs, John and Wendi explained that it will be embedded in the A.S. program review process, not intended to be a separate or additional process. One recommendation shared is that we provide tools or visual representations to help describe the new model to our colleagues who were not part of the model development team, stressing the “power of clarity” for the model’s successful implementation.

The Learning Council officially endorsed the plan the faculty have put forward, and members affirmed their support for the implementation, which will include providing guidance to the Assessment Coordination Committee, which will report to the Learning Council. Ana Caldero, dean, arts and humanities and interim dean of communications on West Campus, thanked John and Wendi for their leadership and shared that, due to their inclusive, transparent and thorough nature, the learning outcomes assessment efforts have already begun to shift the tenor of assessment.

Honors Design Team and Online Strategy Updates

Robyn Brighton, director, strategic learning initiatives, provided the first of several project updates, focused on the Seneff Honors College Design Team’s work to-date. Robyn distributed a list of “success criteria,” each developed in relation to considerable data and discussion, including a great deal of student input. She also encouraged her colleagues to promote and attend one of the upcoming Honors Design Conversation sessions, to be held on each campus this month and early March.

James McDonald, dean, career and technical programs, noted that he was pleased to see that the Success Criteria explicitly mention A.S. degree programs. Michelle Foster, dean, academic affairs and a member of the Honors Redesign Team, drew attention to Robyn’s excellent stewardship of the redesign process and thanked Robyn for her leadership.

Wendi and Isis Artze-Vega, vice president, academic affairs, co-chairs of the Online Strategy Team, then gave a brief update on the work of the Online Strategy Team, sharing a list of the quantitative and qualitative data needs identified by the team, as well as a draft outline of the strategy documents. Notably, the strategy will include separate sections for online courses (with recommendations in the area of scheduling), online programs and for the associated institutional needs and cost, with an emphasis on the experiences of fully online students.

Degree Pathways Update and Request for Assistance

Cheryl Robinson, director, curriculum and articulation; Evelyn Lora-Santos, East Campus director, advising; and Isis provided the last of the updates, focused on the degree pathways efforts. They described the work completed to date, including a feedback gathering process that reached nearly 400 students, 18 New Student Experience (NSE) faculty and 26 advisors.

Evelyn distributed a template of the new Degree Pathways tool and walked council members through the various sections, providing the rationale for each. Cheryl described changes that will be made to the catalog, notably the deletion of pre-majors and transfer plans, since a primary objective of the degree pathways initiative is to move to one planning tool. Isis noted the other areas of the College where the outcomes of this work will be visible: in the NSE class, New Student Orientation and advising sessions.

Cheryl and Isis asked the council for assistance navigating a “gray area” challenge — that is, determining which courses to include in the term-by-term section of the pathway tool. The common program prerequisites (CPPs) will be included, of course. However, in cases in which UCF’s catalog refers to “preferred” and “recommended” courses, we will need to make a Valencia determination regarding how to communicate the University of Central Florida (UCF) expectations to students.

Council members suggested that external stakeholders be brought in for their assistance in making those determinations, and Lisa Macon, professor, software development, expressed concern that, in the case of math requirements, our students may be held to a higher standard and at risk of excess credit. Specifically, UCF includes CGS 2100C in its Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning General Education Program, and Lisa suggests we consider doing the same thing at Valencia.

The immediate next steps in the degree pathways work are as follows: Program advisors will populate the templates with the CPPs, and these drafts will be shared with Academic Deans for their input on course sequencing and pathway-specific guidance for students.

Isis requested suggestions on communicating the progress and outcomes of this work to all relevant stakeholders. Wendi asked about NSE faculty, whether they all knew the degree pathways were being developed and what the implications for their academic plan assignment will be. Others shared that the academic plan has several components, such that the term-by-term guidance provided in the degree pathways tool would still seem to function within the class. Lisa proposed that division-level communication would be most effective.

Learning Council Role in Advancing Equity at the College

Finally, during a brief discussion on the role of the Learning Council in advancing equity at the College, council members suggested that this group may want to focus on a dimension of equity: equity in learning and that we should consider whether to add equity as an expectation when we commission work (in our work proposal template, for instance). They also requested that Senior Team provides guidance on how we will arrive at an institutional definition of equity, a multi-dimensional “master umbrella” under which each of us can connect our efforts.

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