Institutional Improvement Through Ongoing Research

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According to Wikipedia, “institutional research is a broad category of work done at schools, colleges and universities to inform campus decision-making and planning in areas such as admissions, financial aid, curriculum, enrollment management, staffing, student life, finance, facilities, athletics, and alumni relations.”

To support the efforts that California Coast University has for institutional improvement and to meet the requirements of our accreditor, the Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC), the University is committed to its own process of institutional research. Internally, the research we conduct provides us valuable information to see “how we are doing” and to make informed decisions regarding educational programming, admissions policies, and operational decisions to name a few. Externally, the information we provide to DEAC is used to ensure we meet established standards and to compare our data with outcomes noted by other similar institutions.

The following will help to illustrate some of the ways we conduct research at the University:

  • First, we ask students to complete a survey for each course they complete. At the end of each course students are prompted to answer a series of questions regarding the impressions they have of the course, the quality of the course and textbook, the difficulty of the course, how well the course aligns with the course objectives, and the value they found in the course.
  • Next, at the end of each educational program, students are asked a series of questions about the program itself. These questions include the overall courses that were included in the program, their impressions of the quality and applicable of the value of the program.
  • Also, graduates are surveyed a couple of years after graduation to provide their feedback to the value of the degree after a period of time has passed.
  • Students are also given the opportunity to provide feedback through student satisfaction surveys at any time through their programs.
  • Another avenue through which information is gathered regarding the quality of the program is through the activity of the Advisory Council. For each school at the University an Advisory Council works throughout the year reviewing courses and program offerings for continued value and applicability to the marketplace. Council members provide recommendations for change, revision, realignment, etc. In addition, they provide valuable information on what is happening in the future of the various professional fields they represent. The council members are chosen based on their experience in their respective fields and professional communities.
  • Another avenue of data collection we use is the analysis of the test and writing assignment scores. To do this, we archive all test scores and instructor feedback and review it for quality improvement purposes. This is done on an ongoing basis.

When the aforementioned data is gathered during a prescribed time frame, it is evaluated and analyzed by the Outcomes Assessment Committee. The Committee is comprised of a combination of representatives from each of the various schools at the University, along with the Director of Compliance and the Chief Academic Officer. The Committee then makes recommendations and plans for changes to policies and/or programs based on the data evaluated. The Outcomes Assessment Committee meets quarterly to review collected data and to make recommendations for institutional improvement within the established accreditation standards.

As institutional research is an ongoing process directed toward continually improving programming, we welcome and encourage feedback from students and graduates to help us make things better.

This article was written for you by a member of the California Coast University staff. Do you have a question, comment or an idea for an article? Email: [email protected]

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