ART’s reflection on the Higher Learning Commission conference

**I just wanted to let you know that I’m also using the free blog this week–your very thoughtful blogs led me to want to share–I also posted this to my basically fallow personal blog.

I have not been a regular blogger in my academic life. But assigning blogs in the context of my composition theory class has made me reflect a bit on that. It feels like the right thing to do to reflect on a conference in a blog space, rather than always privately. Not an earth shattering insight at all, but a change in my habit.

So, I want to take a few moments today to think about some of the take aways from attending the Higher Learning Commission conference in Chicago.

Analytics and Apps for Teaching and Learning

Probably the talk that made the biggest impact on my thinking, in part because it confirms what I’ve been thinking about digitizing and the power of both database tools and analytics and also in part because I’m aware that that is not my wheelhouse, is the keynote by a representative (the CEO?) of civitas, which seems to be building incredibly smart, flexible, adaptable tools with colleges and universities, not just for selling to everyone. Regarding my wheelhouse comment: I don’t write code; I don’t manage databases; I don’t build apps. But even I can see that what he says is true. All education will soon be driven by big data that feeds down to faculty and students in the form of apps that will help them to make more informed choices and in/at the moment information.

In the context of teaching and learning, this is analogous to good formative assessment, but it can be accessible all the time and data keeps going into the system all the time. It should be much more responsive and complete information than we were ever able to collect before. This is the big data payoff. But I truly love the idea that students might have apps related to their education that is able to help them with constant, individualized advising. That is, we’re already collecting data about student success and demographic and preparation information that affects success, retention, etc. And if we aggregate that data for strong statistical trends, the apps can advise students by giving them a range of choices that typically work for a student like you and they might provide next milestones for success. Civitas is building these tools, but they aren’t alone. There’s an element of gamifying in all this; there’s an element of formative assessment, as I said before; there’s advising; there’s the potential for emphasis on choice.

So, how can I put this to work in efforts at NDSU? It reminds me to continue interacting with OIR (office of institutional research) and to support in my discussions with campus leadership the idea that we need to get the information flowing in usable ways to faculty and students. And if we can’t get campus leadership to buy in to good tools, figure out in the mean time which is the most powerful information and get it in the right hands, especially in the context of general education. Perhaps think about organizing a strategic thinking group with OIR and the teaching and learning people on campus.

Writing the Accreditation Report Narrative

The primary purpose for our team of faculty, staff, and administrators going to HLC was to continue to develop our knowledge and expertise with HLC accreditation processes so that we can have a successful narrative, materials, site visit, and institutional actions for improvement on the basis of our evaluation. I want to just capture a few of the key drafting/revising points that I gleaned from sessions at the Pathways workshop:

  • don’t restate the criteria in the narrative
  • think about weaving through the narrative the connections to institutional identity–what makes NDSU a land-grant, research, student-focused institution? How do the pieces of evidence we offer relate to that?
  • don’t paper over limitations. Acknowledge areas where improvement is needed and talk about plans for improvement
  • Use the criteria summaries well to overview the case made in the section.

Most flagged core components:

4.b assessment

5.a resource base

5.c planning

4.c persistence/graduation

4.a program quality


2 thoughts on “ART’s reflection on the Higher Learning Commission conference

  1. I concur with your observation regarding data analytics and big data. Hopefully my research proposal will reveal some possibilities for the non-coders amongst us — theories such as genre and post-process and discourse community have a role among the swirl of numbers and ever stretching strings of codes.

    In my efforts with the Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology at NDSU (, there is a desire among the computer scientists, physicists, engineers, and other “traditionally computation-based” discipines to engage with the humanities and social sciences. CCAST has four modules to introduce students and others to options available. I will bring the details on Thursday.


    • Yes, I think it’ll be pretty important to have pedagogy people in the mix. The data and apps people can’t design good teaching and learning tools without pedagogy specialists. And advisors will be important because they know the institutional context for advising. So, I agree that there’s room for us non-coders here.

      Re: CCAST, I keep looking at those emails for events there and don’t know enough about the programs to see which or whether they might be useful to me. A short description of the tool might be helpful on campus ads.


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