Oakland Community College

History of Accreditation and Student Learning Assessment at OCC

Oakland Community College (OCC) is a large, multi-campus institution located in southeastern Michigan. Initially granted candidacy status in 1968, OCC received full accreditation in 1971. The college’s comprehensive visit in 1997-98 extended the college’s accreditation to 2007-08.

At that time, the HLC visiting team recommended that a visit focused in part on the assessment of student academic achievement occur in 2002-03. Accordingly, a focus visit occurred on March 24-25, 2003. At the end of the visit, the team concluded that OCC had not adequately addressed the issues related to assessment.

The team stated that despite making significant progress in "building an organization that uses ongoing assessment of student outcomes for the improvement of learning," particularly in the areas of classroom and out-of-classroom assessment, the team stated that OCC had more work to do in order to fully implement its assessment program. Therefore, the team recommended that the next comprehensive visit remain scheduled for 2007-08, but that a progress report be submitted by March 30, 2005 "documenting that assessment plans for all programs have been fully implemented, including the collection and analysis of appropriate data and how this data is being used for program improvement and/or student learning."

During the focus visit OCC was in the beginning stage of program assessment. The Student Outcomes Assessment Committee (SOAC), a standing committee of the College Academic Senate, had developed a matrix format for plan development and distributed forms to program faculty. SOAC held workshops to review assessment and to facilitate the beginning development of program assessment plans. Campus Assessment Coordinators and Deans worked closely with faculty to complete the development process, and at the time of the focus visit, thirty-nine (39) out of approximately 80 programs had completed their assessment plans. At that point, only a few programs with outside accreditation had implemented assessment by collecting and analyzing data and 'completing the loop" in terms of instituting changes to improve student learning.

The college was also in an initial developmental stage with regard to general education assessment. The OCC faculty had developed a list of ten General Education Attributes that they expected students to be exposed to by the time they had completed a course of study at the college. Faculty in the disciplines then went through a curriculum process to list the attributes found in their specific courses. All courses on the college’s General Education Distribution List were required to go through this process. At the time of the Focus Visit, actual assessment of attributes was done on a voluntary basis by faculty who used various classroom assessment techniques in their courses. SOAC attempted to annually collect and aggregate data from faculty, but the results were spotty and overall disappointing.

Between March 2003 and submission of the mandated Progress Report in 2005, OCC worked diligently to comply with the HLC’s expectations. Extensive professional development for faculty and academic administrators was offered through the college’s Professional Development Training Center, an Office of Assessment and Effectiveness (OAE) was established to facilitate the work of SOAC, and a substantial budget was allocated to assessment.

Given the comprehensive and complex nature of occupational program offerings at the college, SOAC recognized the need to clearly define which programs required formal assessment plans. They did this to both focus and prioritize assessment efforts. Therefore, a list of criteria was established which set parameters for those programs needing assessment plans as well as those that did not, at least initially, need to participate in the process. A comprehensive assessment database was developed by the college to automate and manage the process, and the college began efforts to integrate assessment into both the curriculum development process and program review. Additionally, a financial incentive system was instituted to provide funding for targeted program assessment activities and improvement initiatives directly resulting from assessment findings.

When the Progress Report was submitted, fifty-six (56) of seventy-three (73) programs that were required to have assessment plans, in fact had plans in place. Among these programs, forty-three (43) had generated assessment findings, while two (2) were under major revision. Consequently, seventeen (17) did not have plans. The majority (14) of these programs were new and had been established the previous year.

After the Focus Visit, OCC defined General Education as a program and identified the General Education Attributes (subsequently renamed Outcomes) as the areas in which students were expected to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities upon completion of a program of study. The college identified available direct and indirect assessment instruments and proven techniques for administering these assessments. In 2004, SAGE (Student Assessment of General Education) Week was established.

The HLC Staff Analysis of the Progress Report concluded that the college had "responded conscientiously" to the evaluation team’s recommendations, and they cited the numerous ways in which OCC had "restated its commitment to provide the necessary professional development and support to faculty in their understanding of and support of assessing student learning." At the same time, they stated that the college had provided "little evidence" in the Progress Report of the closing of the feedback loop. Consequently, they clearly stated the expectation that OCC “should provide evidence of how improved pedagogy and curricula has led to increased student learning and understanding” during the comprehensive evaluation visit scheduled in 2007-08.

Most recently, Oakland Community College had its last Comprehensive Visit in March 2008. Despite continuing efforts to build a Culture of Assessment at OCC, the Evaluation Team again was not satisfied with our progress in the assessment of student learning. Eleven new occupational programs did not have assessment plans and the team expressed serious concern that despite over a decade of Commission citations, "the college has made insufficient progress in implementing the structures it has in place for the assessment of student learning."

They praised the Student Outcomes Assessment Committee’s effort and the centralized administrative infrastructure and the allotted resources; however, the team observed "a lack of closure for Oakland Community College." Consequently, they mandated another Focus Visit by May 2011 and recommended the following:

"If the report is deemed unsatisfactory by the evaluation team conducting the focused visit, the date of the next comprehensive visit will be moved forward to 2014-2015."