No college has an outcomes assessment effort that is either perfect or complete. There are always ways in which the comprehensiveness of an assessment effort, use of assessment results for improvement, or the administration and governance of the assessment effort can be improved. RMU is working hard to try to improve the three following aspects of its outcomes assessment effort:
- General Oversight - The RMU Outcomes Assessment Plan calls for the overall assessment effort to be overseen by a Committee on Outcome Assessment. Although the Committee did meet for several years after the initiation of the Plan in 2003, it has struggled to find a role in governance of the assessment effort at RMU. Many colleges have established the position of Director of Outcomes Assessment to provide full-time oversight of this important function. Middle States' reviewers suggested that RMU consider adding a similar position in their response to RMU's 2007 Periodic Review Report. The University is currently reviewing alternatives for governance of its outcomes assessment process.
- Assessment of General Education - General Education courses are often referred to as "Core" courses in the academic world. These are the courses in English, History, Humanities, etc. that every college student takes to assure that they have a well-rounded education.
RMU, like many other colleges, has had great difficulty in assessing student achievement in its general education curriculum for both practical and organizational reasons. RMU's Core curriculum does have stated learning outcome goals. However, the 13 Core courses are spread across six different academic departments. Since every RMU undergraduate must take these courses, there are hundreds of sections taught and dozens of faculty members teaching them each semester. RMU's Core curriculum does not exist as a separate administrative unit with dedicated management; rather, it is a conceptual entity run as a cooperative joint venture. Changes to the Core Curriculum are thus difficult to implement.
Another problem confronting RMU and other colleges is that desired outcomes of a general education program are often difficult to both articulate and measure. What does it mean to be "well-rounded" or "globally aware" or other similar-cited desirable outcomes for general education? And even if you know what these mean, how do you measure them, particularly when students take only one class in a specific discipline as part of their Core education?
RMU continues to work on addressing this issue and it will take substantial work to install a meaningful general education measurement and improvement system. It is far from unique in this regard.
- Non-Accredited Disciplines - Pursuit of specialty accreditations and the satisfaction of licensing requirements have been the main means for establishing an effective outcomes assessment system at RMU. However, not every major or academic program is covered by such accreditations or requirements. Non-covered programs in general have not been as proactive in installing assessment procedures as those programs who are subject to such arrangements. RMU continues to address this issue and also continues to pursue additional specialty accreditations, with their stringent outcomes assessment requirements, as an important part of its strategic plan.