Assessing Service Unit Coutcomes
Differences Between Student Learning Outcomes & Service Learning Outcomes

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As mentioned on other pages of this website, student learning outcomes (SLOs) are statements of the overall knowledge, skills, abilities, and/or values that students are expected to acquire at the course, program or institution levels. SLOs are measurable and provide evidence that learning has occurred.

On the other hand, service unit outcomes (SUOs) are statements that describe the desired quality (timeliness, accuracy, responsiveness, etc.) of key functions and services within the support and administrative units. SUOs are expressed as statements of what users of the service experience, receive or understand as a result of a given service interaction. SUOs are measurable and address both process and satisfaction indicators. SUOs are similar to SLOs in the sense that they examine the result of an experience. However, SUOs deal exclusively with non-instructional services provided to students or other members of the campus community.

Creating an SUO 

In order to create SUOs, units must first create a mission statement and unit goals. The mission statement identifies a unit’s purpose and reflects how the unit supports a student learning environment. Unit goals state what a unit plans to do to improve its services. However, unit goals are too vague and broad to be utilized in assessment and are instead utilized to create SUOs that can be assessed. If your unit needs to create or revise either of these, please utilize the document below to guide you through this creation process.

Once a consensus has been reached on a unit’s mission and goals, the unit should utilize the goals to create SUOs. SUO statements should identify central service activities, processes, and functions expected of the service unit and the desired quality of each. Some SUO statements may be similar to SLO statements. LBCC has decided that when a unit supports the learning of a client other than a student, the outcome will be considered an SUO. As you create your SUOs, utilize the following documents to ensure that you are on the right track.

Creating the Mission Statement and Unit Goals

A unit’s mission statement should include the following:
  • Identify the unit’s purpose.
  • Reflect how the unit supports a student learning environment.
  • Be distinctive.
  • Articulate the essential functions/activities of the unit.
  • Identify the primary stakeholders of the unit.
  • Align with LBCC’s mission.
How to Get Started on Creating or Revising Unit Mission Statements
  • Meet with your unit to discuss and gain consensus on your unit mission.
  • If your unit comprises multiple functional areas, make sure each is represented when you meet.
  • Discuss the purpose of your unit’s mission.
    • What are the primary functions or activities of your unit?
    • Who are the stakeholders?
    • Who do you provide services to and/or who benefits from the services?
A unit’s goals should encompass the following:
  • Be general statements that describe the department’s strategic direction.
  • Represent coordinated efforts of intended improvements for the department’s processes.
  • Reflective of long-term priorities.
  • Reflective of what the department plans to do.
  • Be representative of staff aspirations for the program.
  • Be primarily utilized for general planning.
How to Get Started on Creating or Revising Unit Goals
  • Think about what the program or office is striving toward.
  • A goal should include what the unit wants to improve in the next three to five years.
  • There should be no more than five goals for a service unit.
  • Meet with your unit to discuss and gain consensus on your unit goals.
  • If your unit comprises multiple functional areas, make sure each is represented when you meet.
  • If you are revising unit goals:
    • Consider how far have you come to achieving these goals.
    • Consider whether or not these goals are still relevant.
    • Decide which goals your unit will retain or refine.
    • Decide if the unit wants to create any new goals. 

Examples of Mission Statements

ACCOUNTING OFFICE. The Accounting Office seeks (1) to provide administrators with accurate and timely financial data to assist them in the management of the institution’s resources, and (2) to ensure that
financial records are maintained in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and
guidelines as established by State and Federal agencies.

OFFICE OF THE REGISTRAR. The Registrar’s Office is responsible for processing applications for admission, processing and reporting student enrollment, maintaining registered student records, receiving grades, and the processing of transcript information.

CAREER SERVICES OFFICE. The Career Services Office at Texas Christian University is an integral part of the educational process, assists students and alumni in assessing their career possibilities, setting their
personal goals and achieving their objectives toward becoming productive citizens in the global
community. While assisting its clients in identifying professional employment opportunities, University
Career Services also provides the university community with insights into the ever‐changing world of
work to help develop realistic ways to better educate tomorrow’s leaders.  

OFFICE OF ASSESSMENT. The Office of Assessment at Western Carolina University serves to promote
excellence in student learning, educational practices and quality of service by establishing and
maintaining a campus culture of self-evaluation and improvement at all levels of the institution. The Office
provides leadership and support to the campus community in efforts to demonstrate that the University
is fulfilling its institutional mission and to enhance Western Carolina University as a community of
scholarship.

CAREER CENTER. The mission of the career center is to aid students in the successful transition from
academia to the world of work, by preparing student realistically for the world after graduation. To
accomplish this goal the Career Center offers an array of services from freshman year through
graduation which includes career counseling; three classes for academic credit, workshops, and seminars
on career‐related subjects; assistance with resume writing and interviewing; and opportunities for part‐
time jobs, internships, and full‐time jobs.

LIBRARY. The library strives to support and stimulate teaching and learning by providing an environment
in which instruction and research can flourish. The college’s libraries aim to acquire, preserve, provide
access to, and disseminate recorded knowledge in all its forms. Access will be provided through
traditional and technological methods. The library will provide bibliographic, reference, and
instructional support to student, faculty, staff and the community.

Examples of Unit Goals

Goal Outcomes
The Office of Student Affairs will expand and strengthen student voice in college governance and the development of student services and resources. Student participation in college‐wide committees, task forces, and focus groups will increase each academic year.
The Office of Institutional Effectiveness will provide planning, assessment, and evaluation services to meet the needs of the college. Faculty, administrators, and staff will increasingly use the information to make decisions or assess the effectiveness of their area.
The Office of Institutional Effectiveness will promote a culture of inquiry and evidence at LBCC that focuses on promoting student success. LBCC faculty and staff will report an increased focus in their own areas (teaching or supporting an effective learning environment) on questions and data that relate to student success.
The Office of Risk Services will promote peace, order, and safety on campus by deterring and preventing criminal activity. Faculty, staff, and students will feel safe when they are on the campus.
The number of crimes reported on both the LAC and PCC campuses will decrease
annually.
Facilities and Maintenance will provide safe, clean, maintained and visually attractive buildings and grounds to be enjoyed by students, faculty, and staff. Faculty and staff will report they are satisfied with the safety, cleanliness, maintenance and visual attractiveness of the campus buildings and grounds they visit.
The Office of Institutional Effectiveness will expand ongoing and systematic outcomes assessment for all areas of the college. Instructional and non‐instructional college units will document all steps of their annual assessment plan for their units/functional area/program into the TracDat database by November 1 of each year.

Examples of Other Service Unit Outcomes

Process SUO
  • Faculty and staff will experience a decrease in the amount of time that submitted trouble tickets of a specified level of difficulty are resolved.
  • Student participation rates in transfer‐related activities will increase each year.
  • District faculty and staff will receive accurate and regular operational updates on Facilities projects.
  • Faculty will experience improved access to duplication services by making it easier to submit copy job requests via the web.
  • Recipients of inter‐district mail will receive mail in a timely manner.
  • Students and alumni will receive confirmation of transcript request fulfillment in a timely way
  • Economic and Resource Development will manage all economic development grants to each grant’s delineated standards and expectations.
Satisfaction SUO
  • Patrons will be satisfied with the library facilities and services.
  • Students will report that the supplemental learning activities they experience in the Success Centers contribute to their learning.
  • Faculty, staff, and students will note superior grounds maintenance on both campuses except for damage caused by rabbits.

Creating Methods of Assessment

Methods of assessment are used to collect evidence of success for each service unit outcome. They produce useful data that can be used to improve some or all aspects of a service. The documents below explain the common assessment methods utilized in the SUO assessment. 

 Survey Information

Surveys can be quantitative or qualitative in nature and ask individuals to express their perceptions of their own attitudes and behaviors. Surveys may be conducted online (at LBCC surveys can be conducted through the online platform of SurveyGizmo) or in paper form. Types of surveys that are appropriate for service unit outcome assessment include the following:

PROCESS SURVEYS. Process surveys are useful when assessing process SUOs. These surveys can generate data about student perceptions of service unit efficiency, accuracy, and fairness. This information can provide data that address the strengths and weaknesses of a service and can highlight service areas that need to be expanded or enhanced.

SATISFACTION SURVEYS. Satisfaction surveys are useful when assessing satisfaction-related SUOs. Service units might consider utilizing satisfaction surveys to discover whether individuals report positive or negative experiences with a service during and/or after an interaction occurred. Service units can utilize these results to improve their services and create more satisfying experiences for the consumers of the services.

Advantages
  • Useful in describing the characteristics of the student population.
  • Makes larger samples feasible for data analysis.
  • Can yield important data on the perspectives of students, alumni, and employers that can be useful in improving programs.
  • Can cover a broad range of topics, while asking only a small time commitment from participants.
  • Results can be easily interpreted.
  • Can cover areas of learning that might be difficult or costly to explore through other, more direct assessment measures.
  • Can provide access to individuals that would otherwise be difficult to reach by other types of assessment efforts.
Disadvantages
  • Social desirability may lead to answers that are less reliable. Whenever we ask individuals for information, they typically answer in ways that will make them look good.
  • Results tend to be influenced by the wording of items, salience of the survey, and organization of the survey questions.
  • Frequently rely on volunteer samples, which tend to be biased and receive low response rates.
  • Closed-ended questions may not allow participants to express their true feelings.
  • Survey items that are created without previous testing may be unreliable and not valid.
 Ways to Reduce Disadvantages
  • Never make a survey too long. Survey fatigue is a common problem with survey research and when surveys are too long individuals may stop filling out the survey completely or may answer questions quickly without reading the questions, leading to inaccurate results. Surveys should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete.
  • When possible use survey measures that have previously been statistically proven to be reliable and valid. These measures are typically found in peer-reviewed published studies.
    • The Educational Assessment Research Analyst has many measures utilized in these studies that can measure students’ perceptions of a variety of academic variables. Contact Jennifer Holmgren for access to these materials.
  • If you choose to create your own survey questions:
    • Create items that are clear and unambiguous.
    • Avoid double-barreled questions. Double-barreled questions ask a question that has more than one part (e.g., a question might ask a participant to agree or disagree with the following statement “The US should abandon its space program and spend the money on domestic programs”).
    • Use short questions or statements. Respondents are often unwilling to study an item in order to understand it.
    • Avoid using negative items. Respondents will often overlook the word “not” and answer on that basis.
    • Avoid biased terms. Biased terms are any properties of a question that may encourage respondents to answer in a certain way.
  • Use cognitive interviewing: Allow a small sample of students or employees to take the survey before conducting the survey on a larger scale. Have students write comments about the questions so that researchers can determine whether or not more information or clarification needs to be added to the questions.
  • Offer incentives for students to complete the surveys, such as extra credit or gift cards.

Analyzing Results

After data has been collected, service unit members will need to analyze the results. Typically this involves aggregating the data and calculating percentages. For focus groups, the analysis may include coding group members responses by themes that emerged from the discussions. If your service has conducted a survey and you would like advanced analyses done on your data, contact the Educational Assessment Research Analyst to assist you with this process. 

Taking Actions

Once a service’s data has been analyzed, service unit members should meet to discuss the results. At the meeting, consider utilizing the questions in the following document to guide the discussion and assist you as you find solutions to improve your services.

Guiding Questions for SUO Results

The following questions are intended to serve as a guide to service unit members in their discussions following the data collection and analysis process.

Service Unit Outcome Statements
  • Were the service unit outcomes that were assessed core outcomes for this service?
  • Is there any aspect of the SUO statements that should be revised?
Assessment Methodology
  • Did the assessment method accurately assess the SUOs? That is, did the assessment questions or data provide strong information about whether or not the SUOs were met?
  • If a survey or focus group was used, were the questions clearly worded?
Assessment Process
  • If an external evaluator was used, was the communication about the expectations of the assessment process clear and given early enough to the external evaluator?
  • Was the assessment administered with reasonable uniformity across semesters (e.g., same timeframe during the semester or year)?
  • Did the service unit members understand how to aggregate the data in a way that would be meaningful for the service?
Assessment Results
  • Describe the type of evidence that was collected to evaluate the SUOs. Is the data adequate to establish key findings and draw conclusions?
  • Has all the evidence been collected and documented? Is there any missing data or incomplete data?
  • Why did you or did you not reach your expected level of achievement?
  • What strengths and/or weaknesses do the results reflect about your service area?
Establishing Actions Taken
  • Based on the findings, what changes or modifications to the services, activities, and/or processes do you believe are necessary to improve the service? Specifically, what actions can be taken to improve the process of the service or client satisfaction?
  • Are there any new resources that will be needed for the enhancement and improvement initiatives?
  • From the actions that have been taken and documented at this time, what is a meaningful reevaluation date for the service?

Reporting Data

 

All services that conduct SUO assessments must document their SUOs, methodologies, results, and actions taken.  Utilize the following templates when documenting all aspects of your SUO assessment. These templates contain prompts that should guide you through the process of recording your SUO assessment information accurately.

SUO assessment information also needs to be input in the college’s data management program, TracDat. If you have editorial access to TracDat you can input this information yourself. If you do not have editorial access, send the completed templates to the individual in your department who maintains these records in the TracDat program.