The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) is a four‐year public research‐intensive institution. It is the second‐largest institution in the University of North Carolina System and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. UNC Charlotte is nationally recognized for improving degree completion rates (Association of Public and Land‐grant Universities 2019) and for assessment (Excellence in Assessment designee 2018; Robinson et al. 2019). Academic planning, student learning outcomes assessment, and institutional accreditation efforts at the institution are led by a centralized five‐person Office of Assessment and Accreditation (OAA), with additional assessment directors embedded within individual colleges. The OAA supports faculty efforts to enact high‐quality assessment that results in learning improvements through a combination of individual consultations, live and recorded professional development sessions, and online resources. We collaborate frequently with the campus’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). In this article, we describe ways in which our office supported faculty and staff during the pandemic with the goal of maintaining student success through quality assessment and academic planning.
As a result of COVID‐19, UNC Charlotte transitioned to emergency remote instruction and teleworking in mid‐March 2020. To better understand the challenges facing students, staff in the OAA conducted a brief survey of students who experienced academic difficulty during the transition to remote instruction. The survey was sent to 4,026 students who had been flagged by professors as struggling in a class during the spring semester. We received responses from 269 students (6.7%). In response to questions about challenges that arose from the transition to emergency remote instruction, students reported that instructors struggled to manage remote instructional technology (56%), and lectures or activities frequently did not work in a remote environment (52%). They also reported difficulty maintaining motivation to complete coursework (68%), feeling involved in remote learning (62%), understanding changes to course requirements (52%), and being available for synchronous classes (47%). When asked about resources that would be essential for their success in future remote learning, 65% reported the need for instructor support and 61% reported the need for increased instructions on how to be a successful remote learner. In response to questions about personal issues that caused them difficulty during the transition, 59% reported job loss or changed work hours, 36% reported personal or family health problems, and 13% reported increased child care responsibilities or food insecurity. The responses to our survey indicated that students experienced a wide range of difficulties and would benefit from improved online pedagogy. Results from this survey were shared with staff in the Office of Undergraduate Education and CTL to guide the development of supportive programs for students and to guide planning of professional development opportunities for faculty, respectively. The OAA used results to inform our own work with faculty and in the development of supportive programming.
Direct Support to Scholarship of Assessment Recipients
Each summer, the OAA offers competitive scholarship of assessment grants to faculty to develop and initiate program changes designed to improve learning. Although proposals had been submitted prior to the pandemic, OAA staff worked with this year’s recipients to adjust the focus of projects to support quality online assessment. For example, four projects that initially planned to improve alignment between learning objectives, activities, and assessments were expanded to create activities and assessments that could be offered online. Two faculty members trained in Quality Matters for the delivery of online classes organized a peer evaluation process to improve remote course design for less experienced faculty members. They identified a number of common problems, including: (1) missing modules or learning objectives; (2) poor alignment between learning objectives and content or assignments; (3) vague, incomplete, or poorly aligned rubrics; and (4) struggles with facilitating online courses and engaging students. According to one of…