Contracted Assessment Tools
My office has an on-line assessment service that helps create, distribute and analyze assessment projects. This service has provided me with a wonderful structure for thinking about and creating assessment tools. It has also given me some huge headaches when it came to applying assessment projects.
I have come to really appreciate the fact that the service requires universities and the departments to report their missions and goals before jumping into the assessment projects. While it seemed easier to start designing assessments without thinking about these larger concepts, I have come to realize that key assessment issues and questions must ultimately tie back into larger goals and missions. Stakeholders will often be looking at these larger concepts when considering a department’s value and therefore offices should be looking for ways to showcase their value through this same lens.
While the process of submitting assessments for the service to post seems fairly intuitive it has been incredibly hard for me to work with the staff members to transfer my initial documents and plans into working models on the website. I am willing to concede that this is partially due to my limited assessment vernacular and the fact that it is hard for me to communicate the visual details I hope to see through email and phone conversations. The most frustrating thing for me has been the number of times when a service agent has completely changed the order of my questions, left out or added words to questions, or changed entire questions around WITHOUT indicating why the changes were made. Given that this is a service, I would expect and hope to receive feedback and advice, not unexplained updates. For me this has been the most disappointing thing, I haven’t learned how to create better questions or order them in more effective ways. This brings up a question as to whether it is in the services best interest to help me learn these things or if it is better to keep me unaware so they can keep serving me.
What I have gained from this experience is an understanding of the highs and lows regarding contracting outside agencies to handle certain functions within student affairs. Contracting services that provide a much needed product (like assessment help) that a lot of departments need (like assessment help) and that not many people enjoy or are particularly trained in (like assessment) is a job that all administrators will have to make. Administrators must contract services that are user-friendly, increase office efficiency, and improve a product or service that is already offered. They must also be willing to address the shortcomings of these services and make sure they contract with outside vendors who are open to conversations about how to improve their product.