A badge of excellence in assessment

The Office of Assessment and Planning promotes a data-driven process of educational change. The office coordinates SCSU's assessment system, thereby providing a coherency in the university's approach to assessment as well as the integration of assessment activities from the university level to the individual course level. Within the assessment system, there are different types of assessments. These include performance-based tests, rubrics, and surveys. The assessment system is comprised of both internal and external assessments, including the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+), the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Both formative and summative assessments are included in the assessment system, particularly for certification programs. The university participates in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) College Portrait.

At Southern, Institutional Effectiveness is comprised of two offices: Institutional Research and the Office of Assessment and Planning (OAP). Southern has learned that both offices are necessary. OAP engages in longitudinal, cohort studies that hone in on the "difference that makes a difference" in terms of student success and graduation. The studies focus on promoting not only students' academic learning, but also their development. Institutional Research and the Office of Assessment and Planning work closely together. For example, data on retention and progress to degrees that are collected by Institutional Research are incorporated into the predictive models developed by OAP. Both offices contribute to maintaining the university's accreditation.

OAP works with faculty to develop rubrics and performance-based assessments. Rubrics and assessments are administered by the office through its online assessment system. The university's Faculty Annual Activity Report in Watermark Faculty Success is coordinated by the office. So, too, the office configures and administers paper and online surveys on behalf of university offices as well as for accreditation and academic program review. In addition, faculty members routinely turn to the office for help with grant-funded research projects.

OAP administers current student, faculty, and alumni surveys on behalf of programs in the process of conducting their self-studies for academic program review. Also, OAP configures and administers surveys to evaluate the impact of campus initiatives. To support grant-funded research projects, OAP provides technical assistance, including survey administration. 

Students who work in OAP gain competence in data analytics, designing research studies, interpreting data, and writing reports. They work with Qualtrics, SPSS Statistics, R, SNAP Surveys, Tk20, Excel, and other software for data analytics. 

Southern's assessment system is based on verifiable statements of what students are expected to gain, achieve, demonstrate, or know by the time they complete their academic programs ("Learner Outcomes"). Southern's assessment system encompasses courses, competencies, programs, and the institution as a whole. The "key elements" (learner outcomes) embedded within the Liberal Education Program (LEP) link them together. 

Excellence in Assessment


Excellence in Assessement logo


Southern is among only five colleges and universities in the country to be selected for the Excellence in Assessment designation – a recognition for successfully using data about student learning to help improve student performance.

The designation was announced in August 2017 by the  Voluntary System of Accountability, a public college and university transparency initiative led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. They have teamed up with the American Colleges & Universities and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). Read more.