San Antonio College (SAC) is part of the Alamo Colleges District and is the oldest public two-year college in Texas. The school is known for high quality instruction and is ranked in the top 10 nationally for Community Colleges of Excellence by the Aspen Institute. SAC is a comprehensive public community college whose mission is to empower its diverse student population through educational achievement and career readiness. Located just north of downtown San Antonio, the college has a university-like feel and serves more than 20,000 students per semester, awarding more than 5,000 degrees and certificates each year.
Clear Need for More Efficient Assessment
In 2014, San Antonio College began using eLumen, an all-in-one platform that helps institutions of higher learning and all individual stakeholders to integrate their curriculum, assessment, and student success processes. SAC began with a desire to assess all sections and students on course-level student learning outcomes (SLOs) for accreditation. The adoption was successful and is now a regular part of their assessment culture.
A few years ago, SAC expanded its efforts by adopting eLumen’s student engagement module and began working with students to build individual digital portfolios. The school has now become a leader in the Alamo district with respect to its use of portfolios. Most recently, they’ve begun to use the eLumen Strategic Initiative System for assessment reporting.
Prior to the use of eLumen, SAC used a “catch-as-catch-can” system of spreadsheets for assessment reporting, filling out numerous Excel documents at every level. The result was too many people spending too much time to capture data, and the data were slow to collect and imprecise to evaluate and make actionable. Importantly and urgently, there was little or no connection being made between student grades and SLOs.
Improving Alignment for Faculty, Staff and Students
Though eLumen was originally implemented to support accreditation, SAC soon began to find clear benefits that led directly to improved instruction and superior learning outcomes. According to Jolinda Ramsey, the college’s IPPE (Integrated Planning and Performing Excellence) Learning Assessment Support for Arts & Sciences, “In Arts & Sciences, our faculty understood their objectives in the classroom and sometimes those objectives would overlap with Student Learning Outcomes. When we began using eLumen, it really helped to clarify the SLOs and the way in which they could drive the instructional pathway for courses. eLumen clarified it for our instructors and made it clear for our students. The result was a tool that allowed instructors to consistently improve courses based on desired learning outcomes, which is exactly what you want.”
“Back in the spreadsheet days, it was a very complicated process,” adds Rosalind K. Ong, Academic Program Director. “We were working from a collection of thumb drives from a variety of sources. It was a less-than-optimal situation. With eLumen, everything was right there. You could put in the information and the lead for each discipline could write a report and he or she could easily see that other people had completed their parts. Everything was now in one location. It standardized the method for everyone on how they would enter the information.”
Julie Razuri is the IPPE Learning Assessment Support for PTE and represents the Workforce areas at San Antonio College. According to Razuri, “Most of the Workforce areas are accredited and we had certain accreditation standards. We were using Excel spreadsheets for tracking outcomes. Our faculty had to submit spreadsheets to someone who reviewed them. There were so many spreadsheets that often we didn’t get the results back in time to make decisions we could, and should, have made. As a faculty member, we were simply checking the boxes. We knew it had to be done for accreditation purposes. Then we got eLumen. The transition was very easy, and once we got it into place, reports were getting produced. That’s when the faculty began learning how to improve.”
Better Outcomes for Students and Instructors
eLumen is now a regular part of San Antonio College’s assessment process, implementing student engagement models, creating meaningful student portfolios, and providing the necessary data to improve courses that are tied to SLOs.
“Now every faculty member can assess for every course and section,” said Ramsey. “Faculty members can see their own reports to see if assessments are working. They can see these from a discipline level, a program level and an institutional level, even understanding what marketable skills are gained. In addition, eLumen helps them quantify student engagement through their student dashboards.”
All the faculty at San Antonio College are introduced to student portfolios through an orientation course they take. A planned next step is to get faculty to use the student portfolios as an assessment tool in their own classes.
“We are asking students to look at their student dashboards and portfolios to get the big picture,” explains Razuri. “Have they met or exceeded expectations? How are they on their SLO performance? Students are building their own portfolios now, using them to seek employment, to have a repository for assessed work, which leads to employment later.”
“When we began using the student portfolios,” says Ramsey, “our survey results indicated that the student portfolio was easy to use, beneficial for students’ futures and that it would help on their track to graduation and be a benefit as an employment tool. All those measures increased in the post-survey.”
San Antonio College continues to find new ways to improve learning outcomes using eLumen, and faculty have enthusiastically embraced the process. The result is student achievement that has continuously improved. With a current ranking now in the top 10 of community colleges nationwide, the sky is the limit―or perhaps the stratosphere since learning outcomes are already sky-high.
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