One of BYU-Idaho’s four core themes is to provide a high-quality education that prepares students of diverse interests and abilities for lifelong learning and employment. How does the university measure if students have achieved the desired learning outcomes of their program and of a general BYU-Idaho education?
The answer to that question lies in the university’s assessment strategy. Departments across campus routinely match learning assessments to student outcomes, gather data, analyze results, and present their findings in a program review. The university is launching a new tool that will assist program leaders in this process and contribute to the ongoing process of improving student education.
The Assessment Evaluation Feedback and Intervention System (AEFIS) is a software tool the university recently adopted to make the program review process more efficient by pulling student learning data seamlessly and reducing the burden of those in charge of assessment.
AEFIS connects to Canvas and functions mainly in the background. Program leaders indicate which assignments are used to measure each program learning outcome and then an assessment coordinator establishes the link in AEFIS. Faculty simply enter grades into Canvas as normal and AEFIS automatically aggregates the data.
“A key criterion we used in deciding on AEFIS over other software was determining what could reduce the load on faculty as much as possible,” said Ben Fryar, managing director of Institutional Research and Assessment. “We didn’t want to change anyone’s regular interface or workflow.”
Brian Jones and Devin DuPree are assessment coordinators and support the program assessment process. Jones and DuPree are psychometricians; individuals who are trained in educational testing and measurement. While AEFIS will be helpful in collecting data, a more important aspect is the support Jones and DuPree can provide program leaders in developing a strong assessment strategy so the data will be useful.
“We never want to take assessment away from faculty, but now we have someone who can help them understand what good assessment is and how to do the technical work,” said Associate Academic Vice President Van Christman.
With the software currently at the end of its technical implementation and entering into the early adoption phase, Jones and DuPree have already started working with program leads across campus in using the new software. As you read this, AEFIS is collecting student learning data.
Although AEFIS has the capacity to pull data for course learning outcomes and overall institutional learning outcomes, the current, initial focus is to use it at the program level. Over time, there are hopes to expand its functionality.
Just like student learning outcomes need to be assessed, so will the effectiveness of this new software tool. As more program leads and department chairs work with the assessment coordinators in incorporating AEFIS into their assessment strategy, they will be able to have valuable conversations in determining if AEFIS is useful in student evaluation. Academic leaders will also be able to discuss ways the assessment can be improved. To begin the process, interested program leads and department chairs should contact the assessment coordinators at email@example.com.
“The bottom line of all of this is about how we can improve learning,” Christman said. “All of these parts and pieces, the assessment coordinators, the program reviews, and everything else, is for faculty to focus on learning. We want faculty to ask, How do I help my students get better? How do I know if they’re getting better? and How do I improve that? That’s really the purpose of all of this that we’re doing.”