In 2010 we began a process to revise the University of Maryland University College undergraduate curriculum. The redesign was intended to create a more career-oriented curriculum to provide students with the skills and knowledge that could be applied in the workplace. This presentation will walk participants through the process of identifying real-world program learning outcomes and authentic assessments.
The redesign was intended to create a more career-oriented curriculum to provide students with the skills and knowledge that could be applied in the workplace. UMUC redesigned 32 programs, including over 800 courses. Over 400 Faculty were involved in the year-long process. Program outcomes were developed with professionals from the field. Each Academic Director invited professionals from the respective field to help define outcomes for his/her program. Through a structured, facilitated process, the group of professionals brainstormed the roles that students with a degree in the field would hold. This list of identified roles led the group to brainstorm the competencies that these roles would require. The competencies were clustered to form broad statements of what the student would need to be able to do ‘out there’ that we are responsible for ‘in here’ [in the classroom]. These statements became the program learning outcomes. Once armed with the program outcomes, the key assessment points were identified. The courses were mapped to provide a pathway through which students will learn the skills and knowledge to master the key assessments; thus providing evidence of program outcomes mastery. The key assessment points were placed in required courses within the program using real world examples and case studies. The assessments are ‘authentic’ in that they are modeled after tasks that would be often be performed ‘on the job’ by someone with a degree in the program’s field of study. These authentic assessments are often staged throughout the course, rather than presented as one final project. We have found that by staging the assessment, the instructor can give feedback to the students throughout the process. This enables the students to actively learn while engaging with the instructor. In many cases, the authentic assessment is a project that the student can keep in a portfolio to show future employers as an example of his/her abilities.
Creating more career-focused programs has several benefits for the students. First, students find the coruse-work more interesting and relevant to their interests. They are working on problems and faced with situations that they can expect to face while on the job in their chosen field. Student's no longer have to ask "Why do I have to learn this?" Second, students have work products that they can show to prospective employers. Students finish their educational career with real world work, such as a business plan, a needs assessment, or a software program. Students can prove to a future employer that they have the skills and have mastered the competencies to perform tasks ncecessary to be successful on the job. Students are more satisfied, teaching and learning is more effective, and faculty are more satisfied. Faculty can teach using their real world experience- much more satisfying than teaching from a text book.
There are some potential costs associated with this practice, depending on how the organization is set up. We found that local business owners and employers were willing to participate without cost. We also used program directors and full time faculty to assist with the planning- this was part of their job duties. We paid adjuncts to assist with the course redesign process. This could be quite costly depending on how many adjuncts are necessary.