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Assessment and Planning

The ongoing assessment of student learning and support services is of the utmost priority in achieving institutional quality, effectiveness, and student success while pursuing continuous improvement throughout the university. OPIE works collaboratively to assist in the direct and indirect measurement and tracking of various key institutional performance indicators to enable decision making.

Strategic Planning

Budgeting and planning processes ensure continuous examination of the adequacy of the University’s resource base to support the improvement of educational programs and related services. Each academic and operational unit of the University is required to participate annually in the strategic planning process in order for Northcentral to maintain alignment with its values of accountability and educational effectiveness.

Academic and Department Reviews

Strategic Planning Department Reviews (SPDRs) are fundamental to the continuous improvement loop as they include the action items of both academic and operational units, their correction strategies, and benchmarks for the implemented improvements in which they will measure the next cycle of outcomes-based data. SPDRs are to be completed on an annual basis by end of fiscal year with quarterly snapshot updates reports created as needed (e.g., updates on open or new action items). 

Program Reviews (PRs) are a systematic and reflective process in which an academic unit reviews and assesses data relevant to a specific academic program in order to develop long-term strategies for achieving improvements. PRs are completed every five to eight years (or sooner as deemed necessary by school leaders) on a staggered basis and are a critical component of the University’s comprehensive strategic planning, continuous improvement, and resource allocation processes. These reviews are meant to be strategic tools that are necessarily reflective over the period of review and provide both internal and external reviewers with a comprehensive synopsis of the assessment data for review process conclusions. Action plans ensuing from the PRs are meant to address long-term strategies in contrast to the tactical responses of the Annual Assessment Reports (AARs). Resources for completing PRs can be found here.

Annual Assessment Reports (AARs) complement the larger PR and are also intended to inform the PR by “rolling up” in the aggregate to supplement the formal internal and external review processes undertaken in the strategic PR. The AAR is meant to be a tactical tool that is reactionary and agile, focusing on shorter-term goals and incremental improvements. Resources for completing AARs can be found here.

Assessment of Learning

Student outcomes assessment is the ongoing process of evaluating the extent to which students are achieving their learning outcomes at the for the purpose of improving student learning. There are many ways to assess student learning through direct and indirect assessment measures.

Direct indicators: are measures that demonstrate the extent to which a student (or department) is achieving an outcome. Student learning is assessed by faculty using faculty-developed program level and/or institutional-level rubrics embedded within the online learning environment. These direct assessments provide meaningful feedback to students and faculty to help them better understand students’ progress through the program and the relevance of assessment to their learning and teaching. Interactive public dashboards for program learning outcomes and institutional learning outcomes data are available as well as additional reports and dashboards through contacting OPIE (

Indirect indicators are measures that demonstrate the perceptions about mastery of learning outcomes; they are not a direct measure of performance. Like direct measures, indirect measures can be quantitative, qualitative, or both. Northcentral also uses a variety of approaches in collecting this information, including focus groups and a comprehensive set of surveys to measure the perceptions of student learning and support services (see Surveys and Reports for more information).