Assessment and Efficiency – Classic Track Series

January 9, 2017

Often times, when schools talk about innovation they are referring to either program development or the creation of academic models.  Unfortunately, creating new academic models without simultaneously thinking about the way that the school will support the educational system is dangerous.  While many people are aware of the changes that Sioux Falls Seminary has made because of the Kairos Project, most are probably not familiar with the operational changes that have also been made and why those changes matter.

As we continue looking at the classic educational tracks at Sioux Falls Seminary and how they are being enhanced, let’s spend some time today looking at how the underlying assessment and operational models are supporting our classic tracks in new ways.

While the word can be used in many different ways, assessment is a term that has become very important for the seminary.  Spurred on by our work in the Kairos Project, assessment has become something that enhances our classic tracks in very important ways.  In short, assessment of degree programs and evaluation of student data in light of the outcomes for those programs provides data with which our faculty can make informed decisions regarding potential changes to curricula, classroom experiences, and even course structure.  We have created new ways to gather information about the student experience and have begun to collect valuable data that shows us where we need to improve our programs and how those improvements could be implemented.  Our first changes as a result of this system were implemented in the fall of 2016.  Already, we are seeing great progress, and we look forward to what we will learn from our students during the rest of the academic year.  Assessment gives voice to students in new and exciting ways.

Operational Efficiency
I know the phrase “operational efficiency” doesn’t spark a lot of interest, but I can tell you that it is at the heart of our hopes for students.  As we shared in a post a few weeks ago, we have decreased new student educational debt by 80%.  This isn’t possible without operating in an efficient manner.  It is this level of innovation, the combining of academic program development with new ways of administering the work of a school, at which unique opportunities are created for students and seminaries alike.

Our learning from the Kairos Project is starting to enhance the efficiency of our classic tracks as well.  In an upcoming post, we will share more about how we hope to expand the pricing model from the Kairos Project.  For now, the efficiencies that we see come through our method of course scheduling (which creates predictable schedules for students and lessens the number of courses that full-time faculty must teach each year) and our partnerships (like the one we have with Taylor Seminary wherein students can take courses from Taylor as if they were courses from Sioux Falls Seminary).  To put it simply, operational efficiency is not something many people talk about, but I speak with confidence when I say that innovation is only truly possible when schools also think critically about how to be good stewards of the resources that God has provided to them.

Assessment and operational efficiency create a strong foundation for program innovation.  Come back next week as we dive a little deeper into some of the creative program development activities that are beginning to take place in our classic tracks!

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