Section H: Quality Focus Essay
Selection Process of the Action Projects for the Quality Focus Essay
The process for the selection and development of the three action projects (AP) included in the Quality Focus Essay (QFE) is the result of dialogue and participatory decision-making. These action projects reflect the degree to which the College meets the accreditation Standards as evaluated and analyzed in the Institutional Self Evaluation Report (ISER).
In spring 2015, as the Standards teams were writing drafts, the Accreditation Steering Committee (ASC) began regular discussions on the QFE, the QFE evaluation tool, and the process by which the APs would be recommended for inclusion in the QFE (QFE.1; QFE.2; and QFE.3; and QFE.4). In May 2015, the ASC received a total of six AP proposals for the QFE. During two different meetings, the ASC discussed the proposals and rated them according to a rubric based on the QFE Evaluation Tool; they were 1) professional development for classified employees (Standards III.A.8 and III.A.14); 2) integration of planning and the mission statement (Standards I.A. and III.D.2); 3) use of disaggregated data to reduce equity gaps (Standard I.B.6); 4) timely completion of governance processes (Standard IV.A.7); 5) development of additional internal fiscal audits for all SFPs, auxiliaries, and fundraising efforts (Standard III.D.5; III.D.8); and, 6) improvement of IT infrastructure (Standard III.C [QFE.5; QFE.6; and QFE.7]). On June 3, 2015, the ASC reviewed, discussed, ranked, and unanimously voted on proposals one and six to be recommended as action projects for the QFE (QFE.8). This recommendation was elevated to the Pierce College Council (PCC), which accepted these proposals and submitted the recommendation to the president (QFE.9). The president communicated her acceptance of the recommendation in July (QFE.10).
Towards the end of July, as the ISER was further integrated into a unified document, the evidence and analysis related to some of the learning outcomes processes revealed gaps, especially in the cycle of outcomes assessment and its lack of integration with the four-year planning cycle of the College. Since outcomes assessment impacts several Standards, the ASC considered this to be an area that could be further developed into an action project focused on improving the effectiveness of outcomes-related assessments (QFE.11). Due to the time constraints of the accreditation calendar and the fact that the PCC did not meet in August, the ASC, whose members represent all campus constituencies, made the recommendation directly to the president to add a third action project on outcomes assessment to the QFE.
The QFE was the focus of college wide dialog at the Leadership Retreat and Opening Day activities. The Leadership Retreat, held on August 21, 2015, focused on the cultural shifts (QFE.12). Specifically, presentations on outcomes and the quality focus essay involved the entire campus leadership in an interactive discussion focused on moving from compliance towards quality. Participants actively discussed and brainstormed their vision of educational quality focused on student success (QFE.13). During Opening Day, held on August 27, 2015, the president introduced the QFE outline to faculty and staff and the faculty accreditation coordinator conducted breakout sessions on the AP related to outcomes (QFE.14 and QFE.15).
Action Project One: Outcomes Assessment
Part I – Background
As the Standards co-chairs, Accreditation Steering Committee, and various campus constituencies amassed the evidence and evaluated the degree to which the College meets the Standards, some outcomes-related themes began to emerge that suggested enhancements and improvements to the College's outcomes assessment process. This improvement will be realized with the alignment of outcomes processes and procedures with the four-year integrated planning cycle adopted by the College in fall 2013.
The analysis and evaluation of the outcomes-related Standards confirms compliance but also points to the need to align all outcomes-related activity with the adopted college wide planning cycle. By integrating this alignment, the identification, assessment, analysis, and evaluation of learning and service outcomes, and the use of outcomes-related data will be systematized in a regular cycle. This will provide an institutional framework that ensures the sustainability of these processes despite internal changes. In addition, alignment of the outcomes processes promotes a culture of comprehensive assessment.
Part II – Findings from the Standards Analysis
In the 2014 Follow-Up Report, the College responded to Recommendation 2 on authentic assessment of student learning outcomes by adopting a definition of authentic assessment and integrating it in the outcomes processes and procedures (QFE.16). Through participatory governance structures under the leadership of the College Outcomes Committee (COC) in collaboration with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, the College engages in continuous dialogue relating to all aspects of outcomes assessment. Learning outcomes are identified and assessed at the course, program, and institutional level for instructional programs and for student learning and support programs. The College has clarified the scope of general education learning outcomes (GELOs) and has reinstituted and expanded the institutional learning outcomes (ILOs). The recent adoption of a dynamic outcomes database client, eLumen, allows the College to centralize outcomes information not only from academic programs but for student services programs and administrative services units. The new database also allows for easy mapping of course, to program, to institutional outcomes; and, facilitates cross-referenced outcomes assessment. An important step to leverage the new assessment tool is the adoption of the comprehensive assessment, which yields realistic and authentic data for all the student populations (Standards I.B.1; I.B.2; I.B.4; I.B.5; I.B.6; II.A.3; II.A.6; II.B.3; II.C.2).
The effectiveness of the processes and practices in the context of the Standards above revealed that they were created and implemented in response to various internal and external expectations over three accreditation cycles. As such, the outcomes processes and practices were effective in addressing discrete, isolated requirements over specific periods of time as the College moved towards reaching the outcomes proficiency level, which the institution documented in spring 2013 (QFE.17). Close examination of these practices, with a focus on continuous quality improvement, yielded that some areas require further refinement, expansion, and integration into the comprehensive evaluation and planning cycles of the College. For instance, the dialogue on authentic assessment needs to be expanded from the course level to the program and institutional levels and the process and procedures for making changes to program learning outcomes will be re-examined and improved upon for all units of the College.
In terms of outcomes assessment and analysis, evidence available in the two outcomes databases shows that course student learning outcomes (SLOs) are regularly assessed and analyzed and that there are processes and procedures for regular assessment of program learning outcomes (PLOs) for degree and certificate programs, including the general education programs. Changes in key personnel and the planning cycle of the College interrupted the assessment of the general education learning outcomes. Additionally, starting in fall 2015, Student Services will transition from evaluating service area outcomes (SAOs) to assessing and evaluating SLOs. This shift represents a cultural change for the unit and involves a substantive effort for all student services areas to identify SLOs, as well as the methods for assessment.
Part III – Timeline
Outcomes assessment planning calendar developed
GELO assessment process/cycle
Administrative Services departments and programs identify service outcomes
Action Project Two – Professional Development
Part I - Background
Professional development for faculty, staff, and administrators is supported and facilitated in a variety of ways both locally and district wide through participatory governance, collective bargaining agreements, and events, such as opening day activities and convocations. These efforts are actively in place but they are not coordinated by a single office or responsible party. On June 3, 2015, the Accreditation Steering Committee (ASC) voted to include an action project (AP) on professional development for all employees of the College as part of the QFE. The timing of this AP derives both from the analysis of the evidence in support of Standard III.A.14 and the recent establishment of a Professional Development Plan 2014-2018 (PDP), the latest addition to the integrated planning cycle of the College (QFE.18). In that sense, this professional development project is deeply integrated with the PDP goals.
In spring 2014, the College Planning Committee (CPC) established a task force to develop a professional development plan aligned with the Strategic Master Plan 2013-2017 and integrated in the planning cycle of the College. This task force included representation from all constituencies (QFE.19). The plan was vetted to the CPC on May 21, 2015, and to PCC on May 28, 2015 (QFE.19). Prior to approving the PCC recommendation, the president met with the task force to ensure there was broad support for the plan. After this consultation, she communicated her decision to approve the PDP and the task force was disbanded (QFE.20 and QFE.21). The approval of the PDP put in motion the implementation of two of the plan's goals: the establishment of an Office of Professional Development headed by a director, and the formation of a college wide committee to provide input on professional development for all employees (QFE.18). Both of these goals are in progress as of the writing of this report. To establish an Office of Professional Development, the College requested a new job classification for a professional development coordinator. The Personnel Commission drafted a job description, which was approved at their September 22, 2015 meeting (QFE.22 and QFE.23). However, due to concerns regarding broad consultation, the position was pulled off the governing board agenda on October 7, 2015 and is being reconsidered (QFE.24). A new task force was formed to discuss a college wide professional development committee and to draft its charter. This task force met twice in September and agreed on the name, purpose, and membership for the new committee. Discussion on the committee's relationship with the Senate's Professional Development Committee has not been finalized (QFE.25).
Part II – Findings from the Standards Analysis
The evaluation of the evidence related to III.A.14 concluded that the greatest share of professional development goes to the faculty as part of their flexible calendar obligation. Additionally, the Standard includes evidence that the College is moving forward with dedicating resources to extend comparable professional development opportunities for classified staff and administrators. The establishment of the PDP signifies the first step in the integration of professional development into the strategic planning cycle of the College. This action project (AP) delineates the effective integration of professional development efforts into the College's integrated planning cycle in a coordinated approach to enhanced student success and completion.
Action Project Three – College Information Technology Improvements
Part I – Background
On June 3, 2015, the Accreditation Steering Committee (ASC) voted to include an action project to improve the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure in the quality focus essay. This action project seeks to provide a timeline to improve campus infrastructure in support of its educational mission. As indicated in the analysis and evaluation of Standard III.C.1, the capital construction projects did not incorporate a holistic view of an interconnected college wide technology network. In addition, investment of infrastructure was not sufficiently prioritized to maintain its technology edge (Standard III.C.2).
Over the past few years, students and employees at the College have increasingly experienced service outages and or limited computing services. While the technology services are adequate and appropriate to support the mission of the College and confirm compliance with the Standards as it relates to the operations, academic programs, learning and support services (Standard III.C.1), the increased service outages point to the existence of systemic problems related to stability. These system-wide, IT-related service interruptions are due to a combination of factors, including increased demand for computing services, wireless access, ongoing campus renovation efforts; and, construction phasing and delays, which could impact future operational efficiency.
As a result, the Pierce College Academic Senate and Pierce College Council unanimously supported the expenditure of funds towards obtaining an independent assessment with recommendations. Since the college IT infrastructure is not only ancillary to our educational process and completely integrated into our academic environment, and the College is in the midst of construction, the need to direct our available resources toward correcting these service outages and limited computing services is crucial.
Part II - Findings from the Standards Analysis
Over the past 14 years, general obligation bond funds were used to finance construction and upgrade technology on the campus. These funds were allocated to construct buildings and their related technology based on the particular needs of each building. As buildings were constructed, with the first buildings being finished in 2003, the resulting phased approach created a collection of discrete technology within each of the buildings (Standard III.C.1). In 2013, the College began planning a more coordinated approach by focusing on how to bundle a comprehensive information technology deliverable, such as the fiber optic replacement plan. This project was the first of its kind at the College to design a system that fully incorporated a functional requirements based on standardized needs versus piecemeal funding. As a result, the College has embarked on an ambitious analysis to create a comprehensive technology plan that will embrace the primary aspects of the College's IT infrastructure using a coordinated project design approach.
As user demand for the network increases, the College, through the Technology Committee, initiated an IT Task Force to review connectivity growth issues in conjunction with the Information Technology Services Group (ITSG). In December 2014, the IT Task Force developed a proposal to issue a contract for an external assessment to determine how best to improve the connectivity and capacity of the entire network. Through our public bidding process, a national IT company, Burwood Group Incorporated, was selected to perform the assessment. As indicated in the contract, this company will also be used to assist the College in implementing the findings of its assessment. As of September 2015, the Burwood Group has finalized and released the IT assessment, which details and recommends changes to strengthen the technology environment.
The Burwood Group assessment has revealed a significant number of potential delivery gaps which require considerable IT planning and investment. During the summer of 2015, the College experienced frequent connectivity issues (Standard III.C.3). These incidents illustrated the severity of the IT gaps and immediate action began with the direct assistance of the Burwood Group to upgrade and configure the network. The work required in the phase one improvements is necessary to stabilize college systems and create a more reliable and secure environment. As a result, Burwood Group will be implementing corrections to the IT infrastructure beginning in late October 2015. These changes include remediation of the wireless environment (Standard I.B.9), configuration of the virtual servers, and upgrades to the firewall.
As part of the assessment, the College is considering reconfiguration and migration of the email system to a cloud-based platform called Microsoft Office 365. This action will free up a considerable amount of college IT labor resources allowing a more focused approach to maintaining the core functions within the academic environment. Other immediate plans include a review of the entire architecture of the enterprise network; initiating a review of the server virtualization, including physical hardware, maintenance, growth, backup, and, recovery methods. It is anticipated that these actions will begin to occur within the next two to four months with completion scheduled for the end of February 2017. These corrections will impact all areas of the College (Standard II.B.1).
As part of the College's Technology Master Plan 2014-2018 (TMP) and its related technology implementation grid, the College is starting a technology refresh cycle to upgrade desktop computers. Commencing in the 2015-2016 academic year, one-third of office computers will be replaced every year on a three-year cycle (Standard III.C.2). By establishing a comprehensive technology-related desktop computer replacement cycle, the College is responding to connectivity issues in support of its mission, programs, and services.
As of September 2015, the College has taken steps to begin hiring additional employees for the ITSG, including hiring provisional IT employees to assist permanent staff in making improvements. With the approval of the Professional Development Plan in August 2015 (Standard III.A.14), professional development opportunities for IT personnel will increase and be more systematic and formalized (Standards III.C.2 and III.C.4).
All of these corrective actions, which are aligned with the goals of the TMP, will improve and strengthen the way technology resources are distributed in support of the academic programs and other critical College services.
Contract with Burwood Group Incorporated to conduct an IT assessment of the existing network infrastructure, including evaluating 100 percent of:
Completion of reported findings to the College as contracted (QFE.26 and QFE.27).
TMP Goal 2
TMP Goal 4
1. Migrate to Office 365 for all employees.
TMP Goal 5
1. Replace all computers on the campus in a phased sequence of at least one-third replacements each year for the next three years.
TMP Goal 8
1. Engage Burwood consultants to follow through with the findings as they pertain to upgrading to most recent versions of software.
TMP Goal 6
1. Establish standardized equipment for all classrooms using identical software and user interfaces. 2. Repair all smart classroom devices so that they can be included into a yearly maintenance contract. 3. Install software to manage and provide reports for all smart classroom devices. 4. Install network switches within each classroom so that they are connected to the main servers. 5. Provide training for the IT staff to provide first level of support.
6. Provide training for end users on a regular basis.
TMP Goal 1 1. Reviewing and as necessary reorganizing IT to allow for help desk services.
2. Improve flow of work ticket processing to include an efficient; escalation, assignment, monitoring, notification, and reporting processes are established.
Achievement of the College's Technology Implementation Grid, Objective 6.1 (QFE.28)
1. Initial goal: 60% of work requests assigned in order they are received.
2. Secondary goal: 80% of work requests assigned in order they are received.
3. Specifications of what constitutes: routine service requests, special service requests, and projects to be written and posted on IT department web site and Technology committee web site.
4. New work order software selected by IT department procured and implemented.
Quality Focus Essay Evidence List
QFE.1 ASC Minutes, January 28, 2015 - pshare ID 840
QFE.2 ASC Minutes, February 4, 2015 - pshare ID 841
QFE.3 ASC Minutes, March 11, 2015 - pshare ID 842
QFE.4 ASC Minutes, March 25, 2015 - pshare ID 843
QFE.5 ASC Minutes, May 20, 2015 - pshare ID 844
QFE.6 Action Project Template - pshare ID852
QFE.7 ASC Minutes, May 27, 2015 - pshare ID 845
QFE.8 ASC Minutes, June 3, 2015 - pshare ID 846
QFE.9 Item VI.B, PCC Minutes, June 25, 2015 - pshare ID 847
QFE.10 Item III.A, PCC Minutes, July 23, 2015 - pshare ID 848
QFE.11 ASC Minutes, August 16, 2015 - pshare ID 853
QFE.12 Leadership Retreat Agenda, August 21, 2015 - pshare ID 838
QFE.13 From Division to Collaboration: The Quality Focus Essay - pshare ID 849
QFE.14 Opening Day 2015 Faculty Letter (better, KFB's presentation) - pshare ID 839
QFE.15 2015-16 Opening Day Breakout Sessions Program - pshare ID 851
QFE.16 2013 Convocation Agenda - pshare ID 354
QFE.17 2013 Annual Report to ACCCJ – SLO Proficiency - pshare ID 1096
QFE.18 Professional Development Plan 2014-2018 – pshare ID 770
QFE.19 CPC minutes, April 22, 2014 - pshare ID 1094
QFE.20 PCC Action Item 45 - pshare ID 1095
QFE.21 PCC Minutes, May 28 2015 - pshare ID 1094
QFE.22 Personnel Commission Agenda September 22, 2015 –pshare ID 1121
QFE.23 Personnel Commission Minutes September 22, 2015 –pshare ID 1133
QFE.24 LACCD Board Meeting Agenda October 7, 2015 –pshare ID 1134
QFE.25 Academic Senate Minutes, September 28, 2015 - pshare ID 1099
QFE.26 Burwood Assessment Shared Document – pshare ID 1101
QFE.27 RFP 15-01 Technology Assessment for Pierce – pshare ID 1103
QFE.28 Burwood Implementation Phase I – pshare ID 1102
QFE.29 Technology Implementation Grid version 1.45 – pshare ID 1100