Student success is a high priority for the vast majority of universities and colleges, and regular assessment is a great way to measure associated risk. According to a recent UB survey, 84 of 100 university presidents, chancellors and provosts considered student success to be among the top four leadership priorities in 2016. Taking action on this priority requires cross-campus changes. Risk assessment tools can help in both the initial gap analysis and ongoing measurement of both program effectiveness and areas of risk.
Student Success Initiatives
Pressure from rising education costs, economic conditions and demographic shifts have pushed institutions of higher education to consider more closely the relationship of education to career and life goals. New student success initiatives are meant to help students:
- Find their purpose
- Gain relevant work experience
- Apply their education to real-world problems
- Build support communities
- Leverage technology
- Obtain a solid return on investment from their years of higher education
Risk assessment tools are vital in determining whether the initiatives are actually working. Initial risk assessment provides a gap analysis (i.e., the distance between actual and desired) and ongoing risk audits provide a regular measurement of progress and continued risks to mitigate. There is a lot at stake. State and federal interest in quality, affordable education is growing, and along with that comes significant oversight and regulations.
Technology Risk Assessment
Technology has changed the face of higher education. Students are more connected than ever, using mobile devices for messaging, photo sharing, networking, note taking, class work and more. Meanwhile, educators are integrating technology into the classroom, blending online and in-person instruction. In addition, universities and colleges are modifying living and learning spaces to include huddle rooms, digital whiteboarding and other new technologies in support of group interaction.
From a risk management perspective, new technologies introduce new potential threats. Policies must be in place to ensure that student information is not compromised. According to an EdTech magazine report, 1.35 million personal identities were exposed to hackers in the education sector in 2015.Codes of conduct must be enforced when students use university resources. Risk managers use regular risk assessments to identify gaps. As technology evolves, so should risk assessment. Risk assessment software can make it easier to adjust to new initiatives and the shifting emphasis on student success.
Living/Learning Communities Risk Assessment
Living/learning communities (LLC) are a key focal point in student success initiatives. They help students thrive as a whole student—in their classroom and home. Risk assessments help risk managers ensure that these communities are safe and effective for all students.
Applied Learning Experience Risk Assessment
Applied learning experiences give students a way to put classroom instruction to use in a real-world environment. Universities coordinate the programs and any risks associated with them can be measured through an on-going risk audit process. As programs evolve to better match student need, assessments must also evolve.
Safety & Security Risk Assessment
Universities and colleges strive to keep their students safe on campus and off, through a combination of counseling, policing and policies. They provide mental and physical health services. Local, state and federal rules and regulations also apply, requiring schools to maintain a safe learning environment. Student success depends on student safety, and regular risk assessments that seek in detail to identify risks and gaps are essential.
The increasing popularity of study abroad programs has challenged institutions of higher learning to protect students half a world away. Virginia Tech recently made changes to global travel policy to improve security for travelers affiliated with the institution. The new policy, effective as of June 2016, calls for better communication between travelers and Virginia Tech, according to President Timothy Sands. The organization also invested in travel safety by hiring an assistant director for global safety and risk management in the summer of 2015. The story was reported in a Collegiate Times article in September 2016.
Risk Assessment Tools for Higher Education
Risk assessments are critical for measuring the risks associated with student success initiatives. Compliance and risk managers may need to make significant changes to their current assessments to get a true situational analysis. Changes to policies and procedures have the potential to create new risks, which must be regularly assessed for effective mitigation.
Compliance and risk managers in higher education must be responsive to new initiatives. Risk assessment tools are a great aid in ensuring agility in updating and conducting regular assessments. Some key characteristics to look for in risk assessment tools are:
- Easy customization of assessment content
- Support for multiple-choice, rating scale, yes/no, and free form answers
- Question weighting to represent relative significance of each risk area
- Conditional questions, which only appear when a particular answer is selected in a previous question
- Targeted digital distribution, which routes assessments (or sub-sections) to specific individuals for response
- Real-time reporting, allowing administrators and risk managers to review answers as they arrive, in aggregate or individually
- Workflow to govern the assessment creation, review, approval and distribution processes, ensuring that risk managers support shared governance
- Dashboard showing key metrics in aggregate and allowing drill down to detail
Armed with these capabilities, risk managers can be ready to modify and deploy risk assessments that can measure potential risks and provide the feedback required to improve student success.