Guidelines for Preparing Academic Learning Compacts

These Guidelines provide instructions for complying with UCF’s Policies and Procedures for Implementing Academic Learning Compacts in ways that are consistent with the requirements articulated in Policy Guideline #PG 05.02.15 issued by the Chancellor of the State University System.


What are ALCs and why are we doing them? In recent years, there has been increased emphasis on the identification and assessment of core student learning outcomes in higher education. The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) has articulated the importance of student achievement in its strategic planning and accountability processes. Simultaneously, the Board has placed more emphasis on institutional accountability while permitting campus-level decisions about implementation details.

Accordingly, the Board has determined that universities will develop Academic Learning Compacts and related processes to ensure student achievement in baccalaureate degree programs in the State University System. These Compacts must include learning objectives in three areas (communication, critical thinking, and knowledge and skills of the discipline,), and are to be made readily available to prospective and enrolled students.

At UCF, the BOG mandate will be met by incorporating the Academic Learning Compacts (ALCs) into the existing Institutional Effectiveness (IE) assessment process. UCF’s assessment efforts measure and document student learning outcomes, a process that ensures continuous program improvement. Including ALCs in this process will require for many programs substantial improvements in both defining and measuring student learning outcomes. Where appropriate, the ALCs will use learning objectives from accreditation responses to avoid unnecessary duplication. By including the ALC in our IE process we will ensure that each program is documenting its effectiveness in each of the three required areas. The granting of a degree will certify that each baccalaureate graduate has completed a program with clearly articulated core student learning expectations and corresponding robust and effective assessment mechanisms.

What is new or different from what I already do for Institutional Effectiveness Assessment? The most significant difference between the ALC and the current IE assessment process is that the ALC requires a complete list of student learning outcomes for the academic program. In the past, each program was required to define three or more outcomes, rather than a complete list. UCF is recommending 8-12 student learning outcomes as sufficient to adequately address the three ALC areas, although a program may choose to include more than 12 outcomes. The ALC mandate requires assessment of student performance on these outcomes; this is already required in UCF’s assessment process. The BOG guidelines also state that the ALCs should be concise, user-friendly, and jargon free in order to make them useful to students. This will require rewriting of some existing objectives. As with the current assessment process, the learning outcomes, types of measurement, and the results and the types of changes made or interventions taken in relation to the results are initiated by the program faculty and overseen by college Divisional Review Committees and the University Assessment Committee.

What does the BOG expect? The state requires that for 2005-2006 all undergraduate programs prepare a comprehensive list of learning outcomes and associated measures, specifying how the student learning outcomes address the three required areas. In addition, each program or college must indicate how they will make these materials available to all current and prospective students; e.g., paper copy available in department, email electronic version upon request, web site, etc. The submission must demonstrate that the program has satisfied the communication content, the critical thinking content, and the discipline-specific content required of the Academic Learning Compact.

When is it due? Departments will participate in the normal assessment tasks and follow the usual time lines, through the established processes and committees - the Divisional Review Committees and University Assessment Committee. The list of student learning outcomes for each program must be submitted by your college representative to the University Assessment Committee by November 17. Colleges will set their own deadlines for submission to their Divisional Review Committees. The University Assessment Committee will review and submit the ALCs to Academic Affairs, which will then submit the full report for all undergraduate degree programs to the BOG.

Guidelines for Core Student Learning Outcomes Required for the ALCs

The Academic Learning Compact for each baccalaureate degree program will include concise statements of core learning outcomes that are requirements for that program. They will identify the corresponding assessment processes used to measure student achievement on each of the core student learning outcomes for the program. These statements will articulate, at minimum, the communication skills, critical thinking skills, and content/discipline knowledge and skills appropriate for students who will receive a baccalaureate degree from that program. Student learning outcomes will be assessed annually. For general guidelines on the assessment process and establishing an assessment plan, the Assessment Handbook is available electronically. In addition, technical assistance is available through the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) and Operational Excellence and Assessment Support (OEAS). In relation to the three areas of the ALC, the following definitions may help UCF’s department chairs, program directors, and faculty when developing outcome statements appropriate for each baccalaureate degree program. Each definition also provides suggestions for some assessment processes that may be used to measure student achievement.

Guidelines for Assessment Processes Used to Measure Student Achievement

Academic Learning Compacts for each baccalaureate degree program will identify the assessment processes used to measure student achievement on each of the core student learning outcomes for the program. These assessment processes will specify all of the following: (a) the required courses or other academic equivalents through which all students pursuing the baccalaureate degree are assessed on each outcome, (b) the assessments used in those courses or academic equivalents that correspond to each outcome, and (c) the standards used during the assessments to determine if student work matches the expectations articulated for each outcome. UCF’s faculty, department chairs and program directors will refer to the following guidelines when developing statements of the assessment processes appropriate for each baccalaureate degree program.

There are many kinds of assessment options. The best assessments are direct measures of student learning. Direct measures may include, but are not limited to:

Indirect measures, such as surveys, can be used to add students' perception of what they have learned to the information obtained from direct measures of student learning. Indirect measures must not be used without direct measures for assessing student learning outcomes.

Guidelines for Review Processes for Refining Components of the Academic Learning Compact

Academic Learning Compacts as part of the IE effort are reviewed by college Divisional Review Committees and the University Assessment Committee each year. These groups make suggestions for changes, recommend revisions, and evaluate each program’s efforts. In addition, as is the current practice with IE plans, faculty, department chairs and program directors will conduct periodic review for the purpose of refining the Academic Learning Compact, the assessment process, and the evaluation systems, as appropriate. ALCs may be revised annually through the IE process.

The Program Review process provides an additional opportunity to evaluate the program's Academic Learning Compact. When a program conducts a Program Review, their external consultant will be asked to review the program’s Academic Learning Compact in terms of its appropriateness for the program.

Related Links

Academic Learning Compacts
ALC Direct Measures
Sample Academic Learning Compacts


BOG Directive
Academic Handbook
Program Assessment ALCs Presentation