Learning Together—Why taking a self-paced assessment course with 1000 of your peers is valuable for your professional growth

It’s week four of our eight-week open course, Applying & Leading Assessment in Student Affairs, a free open, online course delivered by Student Affairs practitioners from across the country. As the Course Manager, I wanted to share with you some quick highlights of the course so far, in addition to providing context for those unfamiliar with the course and reminding them there is still time to join!

 Quick Course Recap

This is an eight-week/eight-module, self-paced, free course covering all aspects of the assessment cycle, guidance on how to consult/coach others in assessment, and how to critically approach the work in order to advance equity. Since it is self-paced, participants can move through the course as fast or slow as they like. The instructors move through the course one week at a time, so just know that grading or discussion board feedback, if you are ahead or behind of the current week of instruction, may not get as much engagement from instructors or other participants.

Know that each course module is designed for 1-2 hours of engagement. Course data for the past five years has shown the majority of participants spend 1-2 hours each week on the course. I share this as an FYI, but also to encourage folks who perhaps were thinking of joining the course but worry it may be too late. It’s not too late and it’s totally feasible for you to work your way through the course to finish before the course closes on April 3.

Speaking of joining the course, we fully support you joining the course for access to the resources even if you don’t think you can engage or complete the course. First and foremost, we designed this course to be helpful and useful for assessment-related folks. As such, if now isn’t a good time for you or you can’t take on anything else at the moment BUT you know these resources would be beneficial to you, sign up! Course participants retain access to the course for years (i.e., folks from the 2017 course still have access to their course section!). You have nothing to lose, since it’s free, and we WANT you to take advantage of the content and resources. Registration closes on March 25 and won’t re-open until late fall 2022 or early 2023 when we anticipate running the course again – so sign up if you think this will be useful for you!

Status of the Current Course

With nearly 1000 participants, it’s been an active first half of the course. Folks met one another and learned about assessment foundations in Module 1, then walked through 11 steps of assessment planning in Module 2. Module 3 provided perspective on how to coach and consult on assessment work, as well as introducing the first written assignment for the course. And now, in Module 4, folks are learning how to align assessment with institutional priorities.

We also have a free live panel discussion on Tuesday, March 29, 2:00 PM EST to take a deeper dive into Module 4 on AEFIS Academy hosted by course instructor Greg King. You can register for that event here.

The instructors held a mid-course live session on February 24, 2022, to engage participants, as well as folks interested in learning more about the course (since registration is still open until March 25). In addition to some great feedback and Q&A among attendees, some formative feedback has inspired the instructors to take action to improve the course experience for the second half of the course (e.g., adding more resources/tutorials, enabling checklists for course progress to be more easily seen).

The live session was a great example of this in action, but instructors also made it a point to reiterate the course truly is intended to be a community of practice. As much as the instructors are in a formal leadership role with the course, they truly encourage everyone attending to share, engage, and support one another in the learning experience. Beginners in assessment should leverage the community to ask questions about assessment-related efforts. Likewise, more advanced assessment professionals should use the opportunity to share their wisdom, insight, and experience with folks looking for feedback.

Important Reminders

In addition to the engagement and dialogue happening between participants in the course, the open course has an optional course connections/information sheet people can share contact information and assessment interests to help make it easy to connect within and beyond the course. Even better, our course partner AEFIS Academy has supported us in creating a Student Affairs Assessment Leaders Hub. This hub has all things related to the course and student affairs assessment: webinars, curated resources, blogs, and even a group where people can join and stay connected well after the course ends. Like the open course, AEFIS Academy is free to join and has all sorts of resources, connection opportunities, and useful content to support assessment work and more!

If you are new to the course and want to learn more, you can read more about it, see the syllabus, access course data, read through the diverse list of course contributors over the years, and view testimonial videos and past course data via the Student Affairs Assessment Leaders website. And remember, registration is open through March 25; you won’t be behind if you join now and there’s still time to encourage your colleagues to sign up in order to gain access to these awesome resources.

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