Case Study: Helping Student Affairs and Academic Affairs achieve divisional goals while working together toward institutional success

Marquette University is known for having a culture of transparency and collaboration. So when the Student Affairs and Academic Affairs divisions needed more powerful assessment solutions, they chose the Campus Labs platform, which lets them share even more data with each other–and with key stakeholders.

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“Because all the data is connected and housed in one central location, student involvement has become a campus-wide initiative, with student affairs and academic partners equally invested in its success.”

Before choosing the Campus Labs tools, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs struggled to work together due to technological limitations. “Everyone was straightjacketed into using the same inflexible reporting format and terminology,” explained Sharron Ronco, Marquette’s Assessment Director.

Today, Campus Labs “enables us to have a conversation that is not centered around the lack of technology or limitations of reporting–and really is more about learning outcomes assessment,” noted Jon Dooley, Ph.D., Marquette’s Senior Associate Dean of Student Development. By removing obstacles and encouraging collaboration across divisions, the Campus Labs platform encourages everyone at Marquette to embrace assessment, and work proactively toward divisional and institutional goals.

In fact, Marquette was recently recognized by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, which highlighted the institution’s “communication regarding assessment activities, creativity within both its academic and co-curricular units, and centralization of its assessment resources.”

The Campus Labs solutions help the Student Affairs and Academic Affairs teams collaborate on reports and share their discoveries. In one case, the two divisions worked together on a joint report that examined student learning, involvement and engagement among various groups of students. Key findings were distributed through the Office of the Provost, which sent out an email filled with links to executive summary reports, survey reports, data tables and other relevant information and insights.

Sharing data and outcomes with key stakeholders is important, explained Dooley, in part because students and faculty deserve to be part of the process from start to finish. “We are asking students to give us this information, and I feel like we have a responsibility to share with students how we’re using it to try and make a difference for them–and for those who will come after them.”

Marquette is currently using the Campus Labs tools for planning, program review and student programming–and is preparing to use the Campus Labs accreditation platform in the future (HLC selected Campus Labs to support their accreditation process for member schools). The integrated Campus Labs solutions work seamlessly together, helping administrators discover the true causes behind campus-wide trends, while simultaneously enhancing critical processes such as accreditation.

“The accrediting agency expects integration of learning outcomes,” stated Ronco. “So what we define at the institutional level will then be pushed down to the core level, then to the program level, then to the course level, so people can start making those links and realize that we’re not running on separate tracks.” Working with the Campus Labs team, Ronco and her group can make connections between outcomes and goals, and demonstrate that the institution is continuing to make progress at every level.

Because the entire Campus Labs platform is designed to collect–and connect–more data, it also allows administrators to make informed, data-driven decisions about strategic planning, co-curricular programming and more.

“Having the vice president ask, ‘Do we have data on that?’ and be able to say ‘Yes, we do’” has made a significant impact, stated Dooley. Administrators have more opportunities to take action, more evidence of student success for co-curricular and curricular programs, and more ways to tell their story to institutional leadership, faculty, trustees and other key groups–even the students themselves.

The flexibility of the Campus Labs tools has also helped Student Affairs and Academic Affairs prove the value of assessment to others. “From the academic side, it helped us begin to turn perception of assessment from necessary busy work, to something that can actually work for your program,” noted Ronco. In Student Affairs, Dooley added that “we have been able to remove some of the fear and discomfort with assessment, collecting and reporting data. We have many more people who are engaged, collecting and reporting data than we had before. I don’t want to pretend it’s an enjoyable process–but it’s not a painful process.”

As a result, explained Dooley, people have realized that “assessment is not a dirty word.” Faculty and staff are better able to describe what students gain from a program. Administrators can conduct a survey and create a report that is meaningful and useful without having to take a class in SPSS. The Campus Labs platform even lets Marquette tailor key elements, from drop- down menus to a branded name and tagline for assessment tools.

While Student Affairs and Academic Affairs use some of the planning tools on an annual basis, a lot of the key functionality is used monthly, weekly and even daily to collect data and guide decisions. “We don’t close it down at any time,” noted Ronco. “We encourage programs to access their reports…in that way it’s kind of a living reporting system.”

The smooth transition to Campus Labs solutions has been a pleasant surprise for everyone involved. Ronco remembers having “120 relieved people” who were happy that they didn’t have to file a fixed format paper version of assessment reports–and could not recall a single complaint about the new system. Even the timing was impressive; the teams began drawing up the structure of what they wanted in June, and by September the platform was rolled out and almost everybody was trained. “We never had to sit back and wait for things to happen,” said Ronco. “I look back now and I’m pretty amazed.”

For Dooley, the Campus Labs platform has been a “force multiplier” that helped bring everyone even closer together, while making assessment even more valuable for departments and divisions campus-wide.

“I remember folks being initially skeptical,” said Dooley. But the Campus Labs team “has always delivered on promises it has made.” Now, Dooley is even more excited about what the future will bring. “There’s amazing stuff that’s happening–and we’re just starting.”