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Strategic Assessment of the Strategic Vision: Quality Academic Programs

Strategic Vision Assessment:

Can we measure advances made in delivering quality academic programs?

President Schmotter charged the University to evaluate our strategic vision and progress as part of both a review and updating of the University’s Strategic Plan in tandem with the upcoming NEASC self-study process.  As part of this process, he has requested a group to consider the following question:

Can we measure advances made in delivering quality academic programs?

Committee members:
Dr. Jane McBride Gates
Dr. Ellen Abate
Dr. Robyn Houseman
Ms Jennifer O’Brien


Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) faces the challenge of delivering quality academic programs to students with fewer resources.  A major challenge within the next decade will be to continue to deliver high quality instruction and clinical-based learning while advancing graduate education, on-line learning, scholarship and service.

We recognize the need to improve efficiency in the delivery of academic programs and to develop more efficient strategies for the deployment of our instructional resources for the faculty to devote more time to learning and portions to scholarship and service.

Within the context of transformational change in the educational landscape there has been a shift in the measuring of quality academic program delivery.  For years, academic program quality was measured by the quality of inputs. An input model focused on the factors of faculty, faculty qualifications, instructional resources, facilities, technology and quality of students to determine the overall quality of academic programs.  Today, emphasis is placed on an output model, transformed learning, with a focus on assessment of student learning outcomes to evaluate the quality of academic programs.  This shift will continue to have a significant impact on the design and delivery of academic programs.  The focus on learning outcomes will require transformational changes in the structure, delivery, and assessment of quality academic programs.  Evidence of this transformation is already occurring and can be seen at WCSU with the recent bold and forward thinking adoption of the AAC& U LEAP model by the General Education Committee resulting in a change from a distribution model of core courses to a competency based core curriculum.

Project Objective:

This document addresses strategic planning principles regarding the present and future of quality academic programs at Western Connecticut State University. This report summarizes survey responses (both quantitative and qualitative data) from students and faculty regarding their perception of ‘best practices’ that contribute to academic quality. Following data analysis, the committee members identified sources of evidence that can serve as indicators of quality within academic programs.

Student Survey

Procedure:  An electronic survey (Zoomerang) was sent to all students in the Spring 2012 semester. The total number of voluntary survey responses used included the first 100 students who responded to the survey. The responses received in the survey may not be generalizable due to the non-probability sampling method but do indicate student opinions who have strong feelings about the questions asked. The following information is a summary of student responses to four qualitative questions and one quantitative question:

Student Question 1: What was it about WCSU that convinced you to choose WCSU over other opportunities?

The majority of respondents (59%) indicated that location was the reason they chose WCSU, followed by affordability (34%), and programs and degrees offered (29%). Students also indicated other factors such as size, athletic programs, faculty and flexible scheduling (10%).

Student Question 2: What are your expectations for your college experience?

The top three reasons students identified were getting a degree, to learn skills and gain knowledge for their major (real world knowledge); and for socialization. Other expectations included a positive experience and get a job.

Student Question 3: How is WCSU meeting your expectations?

Approximately 20% of respondents indicated that WCSU had met or exceeded their expectations, 10% felt that their experience could be better, 5% felt that their expectations were not good. Areas of improvement as identified by students included: general education classes, physical plant (fix buildings), financial aid application process, course registration process, parking, student activities needed (especially on weekends), better food in café, cater too much to accounting and nursing majors.

Student Question 4: Please tell us what we can do to provide better quality academic programs?

Approximately 24% of respondents identified quality faculty and better advisement, 27% identified course scheduling and offering (more sections of existing courses, more evening/weekend/one day-per-week classes), more variety and better quality 100 level courses, 15% identified environmental issues (parking, weekend activities, rehab building in need of repair).

  1. In rating your overall college experience, how important are each of the following:

Percent of the total students selecting the option.

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Not at all Important





Faculty Teaching Ability




Fairness (grading policies)




Course content




Choices for majors




Employment prospects




Academic Advisement




Engagement in classroom (your involvement in the learning process)




Internship/clinical experience




Technological resources




Faculty availability outside of class




Library resources




Use of technology in the classroom




Class size




Extracurricular activities




Service learning/volunteer opportunities








Faculty Survey

Procedure:  An electronic survey was sent to all faculty and staff in the Spring 2012 semester. The total number of survey responses received was 64 (n = 64). The responses received in the survey may not be generalizable due to the non-probability sampling method but do indicate faculty opinions who have strong feelings about the questions asked. The following information is a summary of faculty responses to four qualitative questions.

Faculty Question 1:  How do you define quality academic programs?

40% of faculty respondents identified preparation of students for careers and advanced degrees as a definition of quality, 27% stated good faculty and well designed programs, 8 % identified challenging programs and high standards, 9% identified that quality fulfills the major needs of the student.

Faculty Question 2:  How do you know if your program is a quality academic program?

25% of faculty identified student academic success, 22% stated standardized assessments and tracking measurable outcomes, 20% stated graduation rates, employment and graduate school acceptance. Other factors identified included program enrollment and retention.
Faculty Question 3:  What indicators would (or do) you use to show that your program is a quality academic program?
40% of faculty responded that evidence of student evaluations as an indicator, followed by job placement and graduate school (22%), performance of standardized exams (21%), evidence provided by clinical practicum, portfolios, internship (16%), enrollment in major, retention rates, graduation rates (13%), course format, faculty expertise (13%) and benchmark requirements and awards to student and school (16%).

Faculty question 4:  Please provide the methods you use to collect these data on quality indicators.

18% of faculty identified student evaluations, existing data (annual reports, TK-20, portfolios) 14%, social media (12%), assessment/self study (9%).


Overall, students, staff and faculty rate the quality of their educational experience as very high. A major indicator of student success is the preparation of students for success in their careers or graduate school. Another indicator is the provision of programs and course options that attract quality students. Finally, another indicator of quality is the provision of an experiential learning environment that is supportive and challenging resulting in the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and growth for students, learning outcomes.


Definition of quality learning program:

A quality academic program provides students with affordable, challenging experiences, which result in academic and personal growth; the program is informed by scholarship, and prepares students for real-world application of field-specific knowledge in future employment and/or continuing education as evidenced by learning assessment.  Faculty are highly qualified and adhere to rigorous academic standards.

Identification of quality indicators and sources of measurement or evidence


Indicator Source of measurement Evidence

Faculty ability

Course evaluations

Reputation in field (external review)
Student Learning Outcomes
Peer Evaluation
Peer reviewed articles, exhibitions, scholarship of discovery, of integration, of application and of teaching
** There is concern about the lack of standardization regarding teaching evaluation tools and procedures


Faculty involvement with external constituents

Annual reports
Professional affiliations
Testimonials from external organizations


Faculty involvement on campus/recognition

Awards/recognition – Tenure/Promotion
Leadership activity (clubs, student groups)
Accreditation Reports, Program Reviews

Student success

Graduation rates

Trend data (compare to state and national trends) – Office of Institutional Research


Graduate school acceptance rates

Alumni Surveys (self-report)


Employment in field

Alumni Surveys (self-report)


Internship/clinical experience assessment

Preceptor Evaluation


Portfolio Assessment

Program specific knowledge, competencies and skills (use of rubrics)

Program Review

Variety of degrees offered

Discipline specific standards
Academic Program Review


Variety/scheduling of classes

Enrollment reports

Learning Environment

Class size

Faculty /student ratio (enrollment reports)


Out of class experience

Course evaluations, clinical and practicum evaluations


Physical buildings

Campus Reports -


Technological resources

Smart classrooms, computers labs, access to software


Experiential opportunities



Student resources (library, career center, housing, student life, counseling services)

Follow-up survey – Institutional research



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