Discussion and vetting of the DQP
North Dakota State University (NDSU) focused its DQP work at the department level, where each unit was charged with comparing its student learning outcomes and undergraduate capstone experiences in each major with DQP benchmarks for applied learning. NDSU created an electronic survey asking departments to evaluate to what extent their required capstone experience met the elements of applied learning from the DQP.
The survey questionnaire divided the applied learning benchmarks of the DQP into 14 separate items. For example, departments were asked if their capstone met the DQP’s benchmark of “formulates a question on a topic that addresses more than one academic discipline or practical setting.” If it did, then they were asked to describe what student activities in the capstone provide evidence for their conclusion. The intention was that evaluating the existing capstones would prompt departments to systematically reflect on how well the culminating experience induced their students to synthesize and apply the knowledge and skills they gain.
The North Dakota State College of Science is an associate degree-granting institution founded in 1903. Its primary mission is to support the workforce needs of the state and to provide liberal arts education. NDSCS awards the AA, AS, ASN and 37 AAS degrees, as well as certificates and diplomas. NDSCS was invited to join the Higher Learning Commission’s Pathway Degree Qualifications Profile Demonstration Project as an AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Program) institution and represent the two-year college perspective.
The NDSCS project focused on the AAS degree and used the DQP to determine how well the AAS degree aligned with employer expectations, stated goals for student learning, and the results of student learning outcomes assessment. Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC), an associate degree-granting AQIP institution in Minnesota, is also participating in the HLC Pathway DQP Demonstration Project and developed a similar project. Therefore, the first phase of this project, soliciting employer input, was conducted in collaboration with ATCC.
Major employers of students were invited to a one-day focus group to review the DQP and provide feedback. Representatives from 18 employers representing thousands of employees participated in the summit. Overall, employers felt the DQP was an instructive approach to developing consistent guidelines for degrees.
Northeastern University (MA) used the DQP in a pilot initiative to determine whether the online, hybrid and blended delivery models for programs in its College of Professional Studies met the proficiency standards for master’s degree programs. Faculty and assessment specialists developed graduate- level core competency statements which all graduate programs then used to craft statements of student learning outcomes.
Graduate faculty found the “spider web” to be particularly helpful as it allowed different programs to visualize how each in its own way matched the parameters of the DQP’s proficiencies. In addition, the DQP was presented to both bachelor’s and graduate degree programs, focusing on defining action verbs that are appropriate for the degree-level student learning outcomes, which led to consistency across programs. Thus, the majority of the degree programs within the College of Professional Studies have designated learning outcomes that correspond to the categories listed in the DQP, and are distinctive to the specific program.