Everything a Higher Education Institute Should Know About Assurance of Learning

Everything a Higher Education Institute Should Know About Assurance of Learning

Every accreditation agency that ranks higher education institutes measures the quality of education based on the Assurance of Learning (AoL) assessment. The purpose of this post is to acquaint the higher education leaders with AoL, how it works and how they can guarantee Assurance of Learning in their institute while also ensuring continuous quality improvement for the educational programs offered by them. We’ll also explore how to establish systematic processes and conducting suitable assessments in a timely manner to help institutes achieve Assurance of Learning. Let’s begin with understanding what’s AoL.

What’s Assurance of Learning?

Assurance of Learning (AoL) is a system of quality assessment of higher education programs. For a higher education institute, AoL involves developing an empirical structure with the following objectives:

  1. Assigning learning goals to an educational program
  2. Designing metrics to test if these goals have been met
  3. Identifying areas of improvement in the curricula, program and pedagogy
While the wide purpose of AoL is to have a standardised framework to gauge the quality of programs offered by an institute, it has proven to be immensely beneficial for institutes in advancing the learning outcomes of their programs as well. The impact of any educational program is based on its quality. There are several criteria based on which the quality standards of a program are determined. Even though every accreditation agency defines AoL in their own way, the underlying principles remain the same when it comes to gauging quality parameters of a higher education program. The 4 tenets that are closely connected with AoL are as follows:
  • Learning Outcomes Management
  • Assessments of Pedagogy and Instructional Content
  • Curriculum Design
  • Continuous Quality Improvement

Why AoL?

As a higher education institute that aspires to be recognised by accreditation agencies, you are expected to provide evidence that your institute delivers what you promise to deliver. In United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by the year 2030, SDG# 4 is — Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. AoL aligns strongly with this goal in that, it advocates and ensures highest quality of education. As AoL is an evidence based metric, it’s largely based on assessment-related processes. It’s a set of quantitative and qualitative assessments to measure student learning and capability. The results of this assessment will help you understand where you stand and how to improve teaching and build a conducive learning environment for students, both of which lead to improvement in the student learning outcomes. The process involves mapping the learning outcomes against the learning goals, assessing the pedagogy, instructional content and the curricula. AoL is divorced from number-based metrics such as faculty to student ratio, size of the classrooms and campuses etc. It’s a measuring system that seeks to measure the retained knowledge and skills gained by students during the course of the program, and therefore, is a far better indicator of an institute’s quality of education. The objective of AoL is to encourage educational institutes to not get complacent, and to periodically perform self-assessments to check their performance and what changes need to be introduced to improve the quality of academic programs.

Key benefits of AoL

  • Ensure continual improvement of higher education
  • Set up tasks and goals to improve student learning outcomes based on the results of assessments
  • Encourage institutes to be transparent in stating the learning outcomes
  • Build a system of accountability with students, parents and employers

How Institutes Can Satisfy AoL Requirements

The most widely recognised accreditation agency for business education is The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) founded in 1916. Here’s the list of guidelines stated by AACSB to ensure Assurance of Learning by higher education institutes.

  1. A well-documented process
  2. A systematic process that involves faculty and stakeholder involvement
  3. Demonstration that degree learning goals have been met, or in cases where learning goals are not being met, efforts to eliminate the discrepancy
  4. Learning goals that are consonant with the school’s mission, expected outcomes, and strategies
  5. Curriculum improvement based on the assurance of learning process
  6. Learning goals established for each degree program, including conceptual and operational definitions
  7. Curriculum maps showing where learning goals are assessed
  8. Direct assessment of student learning is required (indirect allowed as supporting evidence)
  9. An assessment schedule showing regular assessment
In consonance of this, and based on the understanding that many accreditation agencies follow similar pattern of measuring AoL or student learning outcomes, here’s a cyclic structural workflow that higher education schools can adopt to ensure Assurance of Learning.

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