Institutional Effectiveness and Curricular Improvements
Ashford identifies itself, first and foremost, as an institution that is concerned with teaching and learning. Therefore, its central commitment is to student-centered learning, academic excellence, lifelong learning, and development of the institution’s foundational values of self-worth, creativity, interdependence, service, integrity, and effectiveness.
Ashford University’s course development model is founded on a pedagogy of engagement that is rooted in constructivist theory and community of inquiry (COI) models, as particularized through the widely-recognized Sloan Consortium’s Best Practices in Distance Education.
Under this model, students are not only encouraged but required to participate in ongoing interactive online discussions; given frequent and contextually relevant feedback through Waypoint Outcomes; and provided the resources and support to succeed—such as writing assistance, mobile course platforms, an award-winning eBook platform for content resources, and appropriate learning resources.
Providing Feedback Using Waypoint Outcomes
Ashford uses multiple strategies for its assessment efforts, but the most important data come from faculty assessment of student learning at the course level. These data are derived by employing a system of assessment using strategically designed electronic rubrics provided by the Waypoint Outcomes data-gathering tool and integrated with the learning management system. Two central features of this application are the well-defined evaluation criteria on the Waypoint rubrics and the option to use pre-prepared, editable feedback. These features enable Ashford faculty to provide significant and substantive quality feedback to students on written performance throughout the student’s academic program. The use of transparent rubrics allows students to understand the level of achievement expected and challenges them to engage fully in their studies. Additionally, because each criterion in a grading rubric is mapped to one or more course and program outcomes, this tool enables the University to gather data continually on how well students are meeting course, program, institutional, and other learning outcomes.
The integration of grading, providing feedback, and assessing using the rubrics provides scalability, consistency, and efficiency, which directly benefits students, instructors, assessment personnel, and administrators.
Constellation is a publishing initiative and learning platform that takes the best features of traditional textbooks and combines them with the best features of the Web to create a premium student experience. Developed and engineered by Bridgepoint, Constellation is customized content geared to Ashford’s courses and students, combined with a robust set of features that make course materials engaging and accessible to students of various learning styles and abilities. Highly qualified subject matter experts author content that addresses student learning outcomes.
Mobile Computing Technology
Ashford University launched new application technology that empowers students and faculty to connect to their learning environment via their mobile device. The application enables students to use their mobile devices to contact support staff, complete discussion posts, and review important information regarding their academic status.
Integration of the Lumina Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP)
Ashford utilizes an outcomes-driven approach to curriculum development. Each degree program at the University is defined by student learning outcomes. This structure facilitates integration of current University practices and the Lumina DQP.
Learn more about the Lumina Foundation.
General Education and the Capstone Experience
Traditionally, bachelor’s degree programs have featured some form of senior integrative experience to demonstrate core concepts of a focused discipline. In the case of Ashford University, all programs at the bachelor’s level feature not only a senior capstone experience but also a recently added General Education capstone course in each bachelor’s degree program. The object of these focused integrative experiences is to require and enable students to achieve a higher-order synthesis of concepts basic to a discipline and to General Education competencies.
24 semester credits reflecting core competencies:
- Applied Ethics (3 credits)
- Information Technology (3 credits)
- Critical Thinking (3 credits)
- Mathematical (3 credits)
- Mathematical Competency Prerequisite (3 credits)
- Written and Oral/Interpersonal Communication (9 credits)
25 semester credits required to meet the General Education subject areas:
- Cultural and Aesthetic Awareness (3 credits)
- Literature (3 credits)
- Science (4 credits)
- History (3 credits)
- Diversity Awareness (3 credits)
- Social and Personal Awareness (3 credits)
- Political Science (3 credits)
- Humanities (3 credits)
3 semester credits identified with the General Education Capstone Course
University Learning Outcomes Assessment (UniLOA)
The University Learning Outcomes Assessment (UniLOA) is a standardized survey that has been in use at Ashford since 2010. The survey measures student behaviors within the domains of Critical Thinking, Self-Awareness, Communication Skills, Diversity, Citizenship, Membership & Leadership, and Relationships. The UniLOA is currently administered to online students in PSY202: Adult Development and Life Assessment and to campus students in EXP 103: Freshman Experience, required courses for all University undergraduate students.
Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (SAILS)
Project SAILS is a standardized test of information literacy skills, based on the Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. The skill sets tested include Developing a Research Strategy; Selecting/Finding Tools; Searching; Using/FindingTool Features; Retrieving Sources; Evaluating Sources; Documenting Sources; and Understanding Economic, Legal, and Social Issues. Ashford University has been utilizing SAILS since 2010 to assess student achievement in this important domain. The SAILS is currently administered to online students in English 122: English Composition II and to campus students in EXP 103: Freshman Experience, required courses for all University undergraduate students.
The General Education curriculum is designed to be a cumulative learning experience, giving learners a unique opportunity not only to apply their General Education knowledge but also to evaluate and synthesize it over an extensive time period.
Student Success Orientation Course
Access to higher education is a key element of the Ashford University mission. However, the University’s leadership recognizes its responsibility to make sure that those students who choose to attend Ashford are prepared for college-level work.
Since October, 2011, Ashford University has offered a two-week orientation course. The orientation is designed to provide students with a complete overview of the Ashford online classroom experience, prepare them for success in their courses, and help them self-evaluate their readiness to succeed in an online college setting. The experience provides a realistic, up-front overview of Ashford University’s expectations so that students are aware of what is expected of them as they prepare for their studies. Students become familiar with Ashford policies and learning resources that are available to them throughout their academic career with Ashford. They also gain an understanding of how to access and navigate within the online classroom, so they can feel confident when they move to their first course in their respective programs.
In this course, students learn how to participate in discussions within the online classroom. They engage with their classmates to create a sense of community, which is critical to their success in each course throughout their program. Being able to dialogue and write in a way that gets the point across effectively and efficiently is a critical skill that needs to be mastered as soon as they enter the university and will also assist them in their personal work environments.
Students also have the opportunity to evaluate their readiness for learning by completing an assessment that focuses on strategies required for college success. They reflect on life situations that may impact them as adult students and develop strategies they can use to manage their time and persist in their studies. They spend time thinking about their own preferences with respect to learning and also have opportunities to review their own technology competence. Upon completion of these activities, students have a clearer understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, which will help them set goals for continuous improvement.
Ashford University is a teaching institution focused on improving teaching and student learning, and its primary inquiry activities are built around this priority. Ashford has a strong tradition of faculty collaboration.
All faculty, both online and at the Clinton Campus, now continue that tradition through Faculty Forums, an inclusive platform that brings the entire faculty together. Faculty Forums are a gathering space where instructors share ideas, demonstrate best practices, and learn from one another. Faculty Forums provide an opportunity to gather as a community without the constraints imposed by distance. This opportunity fosters and strengthens friendships and builds upon the University’s strong learning community. Ashford continues to update curriculum, educational delivery systems, and communication tools in an effort to improve its approach to the students’ learning experience. Faculty Forums provide a platform to showcase valuable resources available to the faculty and to gather feedback.