BSC implements new assessment methods

September 1, 2017

Community college is first to adopt tech available in Blackboard


Kara Welk, institutional assessment coordinator at BSC, smiled as she walked faculty members through as assessment module recently at the National Energy Center of Excellence.

In some of the final days before Fall semester, Bismarck State College faculty brought their laptops to the National Energy Center of Excellence for some interactive training designed to offer new ways of assessing their classrooms.

Over three days, Kara Welk and Scott Helphrey walked the faculty members through new processes. The training was broken into several modules to hit numerous points. Those in attendance were happy to take the opportunity to expand their knowledge base, noting that the transition to Blackboard as the learning management system of choice across the university system had been as smooth as could be expected. As of last week, BSC was the first to take the assessment training.

According to Welk, those participating in the training would keep reports throughout the coming year. At the start of next summer, an institutional report would be provided, which would help the assessment process improve, year-by-year.

Essentially, the training provided attendees with an increased technological ability with which to assess their respective classrooms. Instead of being a presentation-only training module, the activities allowed for high levels of interaction. Attendees were given opportunities to explore tools through content they were already familiar with – their own respective course offerings.

Welk, institutional assessment coordinator at BSC, said the assessment training was something she and Helphrey had built up over the summer.

“In Blackboard Learn there are things you can do to assess the classroom,” she said, noting that meant such things as inputting rubrics into the system to align them with classes. Faculty members noted the value of that particular detail, as well as the overall training. “I think it went well. We got positive feedback. Assessment doesn’t necessarily have a great reputation, but the feedback we’ve gotten was that folks think this will work well – it’s a good connection between what they do in the classroom and what we can use institutionally.”

Welk noted that the training could aid in classroom assessment in multiple ways.

“The expectation is that there is a connection between what happens in our classrooms and what we have as institutional outcomes,” she said. “To demonstrate that, we need to have data available. By doing this in Blackboard it can help faculty think through and see how it affects things in the longer term. The hope is that it will take some of the burden out of faculty time.

“This is designed to move forward with all courses – online or onsite,” Welk continued. “Even the in-person classes will have an ‘online’ presence.”

While most of the faculty who attended the training presided over predominantly on-site courses, the variety of courses they taught was fairly large.

“It was very exciting to see more Career and Tech programs there, and energy folks,” Welk noted. “There was a liberal arts perspective, as well. To see this cross-section of our campus will help give us a better statistical sampling. As we were moving through this process and figure how this would work for institutional outcomes, we had to tweak things to make sure that the assessments would work in any type of classrooms.”

Data input for the assessments will continue through Fall and Spring semesters. Institutional-level reporting will commence at the end of the school year, followed by a synthesis over the summer months.

“It’s encouraging to see the direction we’re going,” Welk concluded. “We’re excited as an institution to be here. It’s been a big transition for faculty to come over to Blackboard – it’s work up front but in the long run I think it will set us up for success and improve student learning.”