SUNY New Paltz’s March 2021 Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) reaccreditation review included a recommendation from the evaluation team that the University publish program learning outcomes (PLOs) for all – not just some – of its registered academic programs in the undergraduate and graduate catalogs. The recommendation fueled our desire to prioritize attainment of this recommendation and to address it more systematically.
The Associate Provost for Strategic Planning and Assessment led a group consisting of the associate deans, the Associate Provost for Academic Planning and Learning Innovation (APLI), and the Academic Program Specialist to review the current practices for documenting and publishing PLOs and to improve that process. Following discussion and outreach to relevant faculty and staff, the group drafted a report which it presented to the Interim Provost for Academic Affairs for consideration and action. There is now an established format for all programs’ PLOs, a standard location for PLOs in the catalog with links to that location from program/department webpages, and guidance for the review and approval of PLOs for new and revised program proposals.
A Standard Location Currently, it is not always easy to find PLOs for specific programs on the University’s website. To remedy this, program PLOs in our five schools are being placed in a PLO SharePoint site where they will be available to designated campus personnel to view and update. The Provost’s Office, APLI, Deans, and Chairs will also have ready access to PLOs from the SharePoint site. PLOs will then be published in SUNY New Paltz’s catalog for each registered program along with that program’s official description. Including PLOs in the online catalog will automatically mean that they will be accessible on the campus website as well as from links provided on department websites. They will have a logical location and a consistent format and will be easy for students and external stakeholders to find. This will also ensure that students have the ability to preview what they can expect to learn from a program.
Updates to PLOs PLOs will be officially maintained and automatically updated whenever there is a program change and whenever the online catalog is updated, which is annually. This ensures consistency as there will be one official version of current PLOs for each program. Physically updating the catalog entry for programs already follows a standard procedure as updating is done by Academic Affairs rather than by individual departments. Having PLOs go through the Curriculum review and approval processes and entered in SUNY New Paltz’s catalog by Academic Affairs staff will ensure all programs’ PLOs are published on the University’s website.
PLOs for New and Revised Programs SUNY’s new program proposal forms contain a required SLO (PLO) element. The element is item 2.3.b on the new program proposal form for new Graduate programs (Form 2B), new Undergraduate programs (Form 1B), and Educator Prep programs (Form EPP-A). Having PLOs as part of the program review and approval process for new and revised programs enhances institutional efficiency. PLOs are automatically evaluated when programs are proposed, reviewed, and approved. Looking ahead, the process should be more efficient because the procedures are more clearly defined, and we are making use of some already-established systems and procedures.
These changes and clarifications will enable us to achieve our goal of having PLOs for all of our registered programs in our online catalogs. Similarly, we will address one of the requirements by the MSCHE evaluation team; namely, that we publish PLOs for all registered programs in the undergraduate and graduate catalogs.