Operation Impact places emphasis on academic assessment
By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
Last summer, Grand Canyon University launched a three-year, institution-wide project to evaluate the University’s processes and practices relative to academic assessment.
Throughout the process, the University will present findings of its Operation Impact to members of the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission, through which GCU is accredited.
Operation Impact was developed as a means to reinforce GCU’s commitment to its assessment strategy by establishing a centralized set of best practices and optimizing its operations for the improvement of student learning. The goal of Operation Impact is to lay the foundation for a culture of assessment.
The University has steadily improved as an academic institution since its reinvention in 2004 and has strengthened degree programs in the fields of nursing, education and business, among others. GCU’s six-year graduation and overall retention rates have improved, with nearly 60 percent of students graduating in recent years — a rate comparable to many larger public universities. Nearly 76 percent of GCU pre-med grads who apply to medical schools are accepted. Nursing and education students score above 90 percent on their professional licensure tests.
GCU leaders hope the University’s academic assessment practices become a model for other institutions.
Antoinette Farmer, assistant vice president of institutional effectiveness and academic affairs, is on the nine-member team responsible for researching and presenting Operation Impact. She said GCU’s assessment practices consistently exceed those of other institutions.
“We go to conferences and it’s as if we are movie stars,” Farmer said. “They see the growth on campus and they see that we went Division I, but then they see (what we’re doing with academic assessment) and they are amazed that we are advancing academically as well.”
Other members of GCU’s Operation Impact team: Hank Radda, provost; Mark Alexander, vice president of curriculum and content services; Dilek Marsh, executive vice president of business analytics; Judith Eroe, director of academic assessment; Jennifer Lech, vice president of academic compliance; Morgan Denney, program director of institutional effectiveness; Kelly Sanderson, vice president of academic operations; and Sherman Elliott, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Operation Impact contains four phases: Phase 1: “Say it,” Phase 2: “Do it,” Phase 3: “Prove it” and Phase 4: “Improve it.”
Phase 1, which focused on identifying and sharing assessment practices used by the University, ended in December. Phase 2 will end in July and involves communicating and training employees on assessment practices. Phases 3 and 4 focus on integrating research into classroom learning and validating the University’s practices through collected metrics. For more details on Operation Impact, click here.
Eroe is helping spread GCU’s academic assessment expertise worldwide.
Eroe traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, in February to present at a higher-education summit that focused on maintaining academic standards and enhancing the quality of the student-learning experience.
Eroe was invited by Dr. Marsha Watson, the current president of the Association for Assessment of Learning in Education who previously served as GCU’s dean of assessment and graduate studies. Eroe, who joined GCU in 1987, began working in the Office of Assessment in 2006.
At the summit, Eroe addressed GCU’s work in building a community of practice through collaborative design and faculty development through online assessment. She said guests and presenters were impressed with GCU’s work in evolving the ways universities assess competency in higher education.
“Education is really the true democratizer and key to a better future,” said Eroe, who has presented at numerous assessment conferences. “Our main goal with assessment is that we enable students to come out of education changed and with the ability to change lives for the better.”
Reach Cooper Nelson at 602.639.7511 or [email protected].