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Goals in Outcomes Assessment

Outcomes Assessment provides a platform for managing assessment of an institution's curriculum and programs. Assessment is a process where an institution states the future outcomes it expects, collects data to report on the success or failure of the outcomes, and reflects on ways to achieve more successful results in the future. Expected outcomes take a variety of forms and are used in a variety of ways, including formal academic accreditation processes, budget projections, and evidence for creating new degree programs. Expected outcomes are benchmarked or measured against different goals in different contexts.

Institutions give expected outcomes different names based on historical conventions and are measured in different ways. Blackboard Learn already provides a flexible Goals interface that enables institutions to organize and label goals in a way that best meets their needs. With the addition of Outcomes Assessment, the institution can define relationships between goals so that the broader context of goals across the institution can be understood.

Given the hierarchical structure of an institution, goals set at a given level of the institution may play a part in the successful attainment of another business unit's goals. Institutions are able to report on goals as they relate to other goals, perhaps analyzing how all departments are helping to attain the university’s goals, or how a course is linked to its department goals. These nested and interrelated goals open a new level of sophisticated reporting that can assess how different facets of an institution are meeting their goals in relation to the institution as a whole.

Internal and External Goals

Outcomes Assessment goals can come from external or internal sources.

External goals are set by an organization outside the institution. that the institution is measured against. External goals, also referred to as standards, can come from the following sources:

  • Federal government
  • Regional accreditation bodies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) or the New England Association of Colleges and Schools (NEASC)
  • State licensing boards
  • Government agencies
  • Professional organizations

Internal goals are set by the institution and its constituent departments to gauge student learning as a means to measure academic program viability, institutional effectiveness, and demonstrate accountability to internal and external stakeholders.

The Role of Goals in Assessment

Goals, also known as outcomes, learning statements, objectives, and standards, identify an end result and expectations established by internal and/or external stakeholders. Goals identify the institution or program expectation of student ability upon completion of a course, program (major and/or degree), and graduation. Goal statements start as broad statements, often addressing competencies such as critical thinking, quantitative analysis, or scientific literacy. Goals are often required to become more specific to meet the needs of an academic program or major, using discipline-specific language to articulate specialized expectations.

Goals across an institution do not need to relate to one another. However, demonstrating how goals among programs relate to institutional goals can illustrate a coherence in curricular objectives across the continuum of learning. 

For further detail and examples, see one of the many texts on this concept: Assessment Clear and Simple: A Practical Guide for Institutions, Departments, and General Education by Barbara E. Walvoord.

Classifying Goals in Blackboard Learn

The organization of goals in Learn is designed to fit the specific nomenclature unique to each institution. In Blackboard Learn 9.1, goals are organized by sets, categories, parent goals, and child goals. 

  • Goal Sets - represent the collection goals for a particular unit within an institution
  • Categories - represent the subsequent collection of goals within the set
  • Parent Goals - broad goal statements
  • Child Goals - supportive and detailed statements supporting specific requirements to meet the broader parent goal

For example, an academic unit might organize goals in a collection specific to their unit within an institution. Each subsequent category may then be specific to the related programs of study or departments within an institution, including goals for courses.

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Populating and Creating Goals

Populating goals in Learn is flexible to meet any organizational process. Goals can be imported from a locally-created XML template file, downloaded from Behind the Blackboard (login required), or manually populated through the goals management interface. When creating goal sets, institutions can utilize any organizational language when entering language for goal types. In addition to goal sets and categories, goal types are used to organize and categorize goals within Learn.

To learn more see Creating and Managing Goals and Importing Goals.

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There is no prescribed language by which an institution categorizes goal types. Types are specific and unique to the institution and units within the institution per their assessment and operational philosophy. Suggested types include:

  • Academic Goal

  • Accreditation Goal

  • Administrative Goal

  • Course Goal

  • Course Outcomes

  • General Education Outcomes

  • Goal

  • Outcomes

  • Learning Objective

  • Learning Outcome

  • Standard

  • Student Learning Outcome

​Other descriptors can be added to further define the type, such as undergraduate, graduate, masters, or graduation.

The goals management tool is designed to be flexible to manage the system of goals specific to an institution, while not prescribing a specific philosophy or process to create and manage goals to meet the needs of an institutions unique assessment process.

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