Sharing What I Find

Instructional Design and Technology in Education

Assessment for Learning Improvement: Comparing Two Universities’ Approach to Reveal Key Principles and Strategies

Educause Webinar June 4, 2019

Collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University and James Madison University

Assessment for learning improvement is central to higher education

  • accountability
  • accreditation
  • desire to impact students

We are different, yet

  • public university vs. private university
  • 23000, primarily undergraduate (Master and PhD) vs. 15K students (split equally between undergraduate and master/PhD
  • 5 areas of general education
  • 100 academic degree programs vs 200 academic degree programs
  • 11 student affairs departments with programs
  • Center for Assessment & Research Studies(JMU)
    • helps all programs do their assessments (10 faculty)vision statement for JMU
  • Teaching Excellence & Education Innovationmission CMU
    • Teaching consultants (design)
    • educational technologists (technology)
    • assessment team (data informed cycle)


comparison between programs

Both centers are dipping their toes into different levels – classroom and programs or programs and classroom as they evolve.

Our approach to assessment is the same

There is a common process and shared principles for assessment for learning improvement for anyone who is doing evidence-based practices.

Outcomes and objectives are used interchangeable in this conversation.


  1. Outcomes focused – start with measurable objective then building programming and assessment to map to the outcomes
    1. CMU: wanted to know if   VR experiences had a positive effect in learning. Defining learning objectives identifies the data source needed to assess VR experiences
    2. JMU: information literacy: defining objectives provides the base, upon which everything else is built.
  2. Alignment & Evidence-based – leverage existing literation on how learning works and collect data on student outcomes to evaluate and feed back into learning strategies
    1. CMU: students weren’t applying what they learned in the lab to the exams. They might need more “discovery” instead of following directions. Looked to the literature: for evidence-based strategy: inquiry-based learning
    2. JMU Information literacy embedded into first year communication course to provide substantive content; evidence based through quizzes and through completion of online tutorials
  3. Ensure the data sources accurately reflect what you want to measure (direct measures are best when possible)


Author: Heidi Olson

Heidi enjoys working with content experts in developing eCampus courses to provide alternatives for students. Her other interests include faculty training in best practices for eCampus and researching eCampus tools to help fulfill learning outcomes. Having worked in the distance education arena for over 20 years, she has a wide range of experiences in supporting students and faculty as technology and pedagogy evolve.

Comments are closed.