Blog: Idea Exchange

Advancing Assessment at California Baptist University, Part 3: Paving the Way for Change

Dirk Davis & Kathryn Norwood June 26, 2017

Welcome back for the third installment of this four-part series that explores the journey of adopting new technology for the collection of assessment data on student achievement in the Division of Online and Professional Studies (OPS) at California Baptist University (CBU).

In Part 1 on automating assessment, we examined our initial steps of 1) Developing a sense of urgency around the need for change and 2) Forming a powerful coalition along the way. In Part 2 on envisioning change, we walked through our next steps of 3) Creating a vision for change and 4) Communicating the newly-formed vision.

We’ll continue our journey now in Part 3 on paving the way for change with steps 5) Removing obstacles and 6) Creating short-term wins.

Step 5.  Removing Obstacles

We knew that clearly identifying the leaders who would be assisting in the change delivery was paramount to our ability to successfully pave the way for change while automating our assessment within OPS at CBU. As the Associate Vice President of Academics for our division (Dirk) and Dean of Assessment and Accreditation (Kathryn), we became obvious players on the team.

However, we recognized that a supporting role—who was not an administrator and could liaise between administration and faculty while assisting with data creation in Taskstream—was key to providing a smooth transition to the change. So, the Academic Support Coordinator position was born! We were fortunate to hire a qualified individual, Jeff, who had years of experience working with the OPS team and knew our degree programs inside and out.

Kathryn and Jeff trained with Taskstream to learn the art of creating templates for each degree program, aligning courses to each degree, and creating more than 400 rubrics that serve as the gateway to collecting assessment data. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, the two worked arduously during the summer of 2016 to prepare for the roll-out of Taskstream in the fall.

Since effective assessment is a foundational expectation for all OPS faculty, we took every opportunity in faculty meetings to publicly praise the individuals who began using Taskstream for assessment purposes for the first time in the fall of 2016. At the same time, we identified the change resistors and took time to have personal conversations to discuss their concerns, re-emphasize our mission, and explain how our previous manual assessment data collection process no longer met our growing needs.

Step 6.  Creating Short-Term Wins

To pilot Taskstream in the summer of 2016, we decided to choose a target absent of change critics… and we thought we did just that. We selected our first doctoral degree program which had begun the previous spring with two cohorts taught by three professors. Another misstep on our part! The resulting sample size was too homogeneous and had limited representation of both our degree offerings and our student population at large. Take two!

We should have analyzed both the pros and cons of choosing a brand-new program with a limited number of faculty to pilot during the summer. It was too easy and everything went smoothly. We learned so much more after the initial fall session.

To set the stage for some immediate wins among all faculty teaching in the fall of 2016, we launched full-scale communication training that took into consideration the different ways and rates people learn. This included the creation of short videos to help faculty visualize the process and follow steps, along with training manuals that included screenshots and guided directions for both students and faculty involved in assessing through Taskstream. Kathryn and Jeff offered one-on-one tutoring to both students and faculty to set everyone up for a successful launch.

Justifying investments in each project, we knew we were utilizing the latest technologies in distance education through faculty who are committed to student’s academic, professional, and spiritual success.

We continued throughout the fall of 2016 to remind all faculty that we were collecting reliable and valid data that would ultimately benefit the students we serve. A short-term win was created as we completed a successful semester of using Taskstream to collect assessment data that we recognized would carry us through to a brand-new year.

Stay tuned for the fourth and final part of this series, where we’ll walk through the final steps: 7) Building on change and 8) Anchoring changes in the culture.

About California Baptist University

California Baptist University (CBU) is a private, faith-based, liberal arts university located in Southern California with a current enrollment of approximately 9,157 students. The Division of Online and Professional Studies (OPS) began in 2010 to service non-traditional students seeking a distance learning environment. Initially, offering eight programs to approximately 500 students, OPS has since grown to offering 37 programs that serve approximately 4,000 students each semester.