The Digication Blog

Enhancing outcome-based assessment to better the student’s learning experience is imperative in higher education. This is clear in the widespread emphasis on the current educational system.

Currently, higher institutions are facing several challenges, including poorly designed curriculums that inadequately prepare students for the future workplace or address the demands of the job market. 

As higher education prices keep soaring, academic institutions are under tremendous societal pressure to provide students with an education that will result in employment.

The big question is, “how do you enhance student learning in the 21st century, where almost everyone owns a smartphone?” 

In this Digication Scholars Conversation - Jennifer Sparrow, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at City University of New York’s (CUNY) School of Professional Studies (SPS), discussed outcome-based education with teaching and learning technologies to improve the student experience.

The Need For Outcome-Based Education


outome-based-assessment-kenny-eliason-unsplashOutcome-based education is a method where teachers focus on what students can do (outcome) after being taught.

Purpose-driven teaching, curriculum, and teaching decisions are centered on the best ways to accomplish the desired outcome. Hence, the introduction of backward design, which is different from traditional educational planning, is important. By first identifying the desired learning outcomes students should achieve, a curriculum is created detailing methods students will use to attain the intended outcome.

The need to shift from the significance placed on traditional gradings, such as the hours spent in class and course credits earned, has never been more clear – especially with the limitations experienced by institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consequently, educators in higher institutions and stakeholders are currently attempting to change how the effectiveness of education is measured using an outcome-based assessment. This also includes the acceptance and use of education technology to improve learning and outcomes.

Education (Teaching and Learning) Technologies to Improve Student Experience

Technological advances have also enhanced the student experience in higher learning institutions and contributed to the success of outcome-driven assessments. But, the greatest catalyst for the speedy implementation of teaching and learning is due to the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many professors who believed they would never use education technology or have any use for it until they retired were forced to go online, teaching remotely during the lockdown period. The result of the horrible pandemic created an opportunity for everyone to have that experience. As a result, institutions are now adopting education technology, including ePortfolios for learning outcome assessments.

Institutions are now reshaping educational spaces/curriculums to support new and innovative ways of delivering courses for teachers and students. Educators are now equipped with hardware and software that aid the teaching and learning experiences. Furthermore, instructors can personalize and tailor teaching to student needs and prepare them for real-world success.

Jennifer shared her experience with outcome-based assessment at CUNY. True to her words, modern-day students would prefer to take online classes instead of being physically present in a class.

Students would rather choose their mode of education and how it is delivered–especially when they now consider classroom education not fun.

With both sides wanting more from digital education technology and for teachers and learners to collaborate effectively, Digication has helped institutions make smarter investments in project-based assessments and experiential learning. And many institutions like CUNY have found Digication’s eportfolio to meet their expected outcomes. They have since been using it to bridge educational gaps.

Using technology, students who prefer the experience of their own devices can still collaborate across platforms with teachers, other students, and prospective employers.

Outcome-Based Assessment and Credit for Prior Learning

“This isn’t scientific yet, but try to compare the people who have credit for prior learning versus those who don’t, and the 3-year graduation rate if I’m correct is like 20% higher like they’re really graduating,” says Jennifer.

It’s no longer a secret that many academic institutions are challenged with the problem of grade inflation, resulting in the drop in value of the grade point average (GPA) model. Therefore academic institutions are seeking alternatives to continue providing education to improve the student experience in a highly competitive world. 

In that view, several higher learning institutions are leaning towards or have adopted the outcome-based education system rather than the GPA model.

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL), or Prior Learning Assessment, is an educational process where students can earn academic credit for their real-life equivalent of college-level learning experience acquired outside the traditional classrooms. 

Furthermore, accreditation bodies are proposing institutions develop sustainable methods of assessing student’s learning outcomes, specifically to improve the experience in general education courses. 

Jennifer opined that when a course syllabus is built based on portfolios and learning outcomes, it should be measurable and able to be demonstrated by students, which will engage students in writing better learning outcomes demonstrating competency.

Being able to factor in people who don’t speak English as their first language but are still able to learn in their native language and even get a credit if they could read and write in other major languages is a development that would improve the student learning experience and equity.

Jeff talked about having no wrong approach to competency but judging how good at it students are in their chosen field of competence.

Since some accountants, engineers, programmers, and many more experts who don’t speak English but are proficient in their fields seek to further their education, some institutions are now offering to allow non-native English speakers to demonstrate competency and even offer exams in other languages. In addition, digital technology like ePortfolio is used for experiential learning, outcome assessment, and credit for prior learning.

Using an outcome-based technology curriculum, students are required to develop ePortfolios to showcase their work and demonstrate progress toward completing learning outcomes. Through experiential learning and practical engagements, students will quickly gain hands-on experiences and replicate them in real-world situations.

It is anticipated that soon, institutions will rely upon more student portfolios for information to evaluate curriculum and the effectiveness of learning outcomes.

Therefore, every institution should deeply think about enhancing the student’s experience in higher education because students are always looking for a more comfortable space with a better learning system that will guarantee employment with their learning experience. Finally, the student’s experience should be at the center of every educational decision, and the use of technology will surely produce positive results.

Want to know more? Listen to Jeff and Jennifer on Digication’s Scholar Conversations.