Using Course-Level Outcomes Data
Course-level outcomes data can be used to identify needs, strengths, and opportunities within your program, which can guide your plans to implement changes and to evaluate the efficacy of the changes you implement. This can include identifying equity gaps and measuring progress toward equity.
What are course-level outcomes data?
Course-level outcomes data are the
- Enrollment data for each course, including disaggregated demographic data, such as the percentage of enrolled students who identify as belonging to demographic groups by race and ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and disability status;
- "Success" data for each course, including disaggregated demographic data, such as the percentage of students who earned a grade of C or higher in each course, by race and ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and disability status;
- Progression data for degree programs, including disaggregated demographic data, such as the percentage of students who enroll in the next course of a program or course sequence, by race and ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and disability status.
At some institutions, these data are already available to you through a data dashboard. If you do not have direct access to these data, you can request them from your college's Institutional Research office for the courses you teach.
Why use course-level outcomes data?
Having the answers to these questions allows you to focus your energy where it can do the most good. If your course enrollments are significantly less diverse than your institution's student body, ask yourself how you can attract a more diverse group of students to take your courses. If you have a diverse student population enrolled in your introductory-level courses, but success rates vary significantly by demographic groups, ask yourself what you can do to support student success in your courses. If a diverse student population succeeds in your introductory-level courses, but a less diverse subset continues into your degree programs or subsequent courses, ask yourself what you and your colleagues can do to attract and support a more diverse population of students to persist in geoscience.
Once you have begun making changes to your courses and/or programs, you can use course-level outcomes data to look for trends over time. Are your recruitment efforts changing student enrollment demographics? Are the strategies you implement, such as active learning and metacognitive strategies, improving student success overall? Are they closing or narrowing student success equity gaps? Do your efforts to make your department spaces explicitly welcoming and inclusive to a diverse student population lead to changes in the demographics of your majors?
Specific questions you can answer using course-level outcomes data
- Are you attracting a representative cross-section of your institution's students to your courses? How do the demographics of the students enrolled in your courses compare to the demographics of the student population at your institution? Institutional demographics are available from NCES, the National Center for Educational Statistics.
- Are your students representative of your campus/community?
- If not, who is underrepresented?
- Does it vary by course? If so, how?
- Are your students representative of your campus/community?
- Do students succeed at similar rates in all of your courses?
- If not, which courses present substantial barriers to success?
- Do the students enrolled in your courses succeed at equitable rates across demographic groups? What are the success rates for students enrolled in each of your courses, in aggregate and disaggregated by demographics such as race and ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and any other factors you or your department is interested in?
- What are student success rates in each of your courses?
- Are some populations more successful in particular courses?
- Do particular courses present a barrier to diversifying your student population?
- What do success rates look like for demographic groups for each of your required courses?
- What are the completion rates for students enrolled in degree and certificate programs in your department, in aggregate and disaggregated by demographics?
- How many students finish degree programs? certificate programs?
- Are inequities or bottlenecks apparent?
- In sequential courses, are there differences in student demographics between those finishing the first course and enrolling or completing later courses?
- Are there trends in the enrollment, success, and degree completion data over time?
- For specific demographic groups?
How do you obtain course-level outcomes data from your institution?
- You may already have access to these data via an institutional data dashboard. If so, start there.
- Work with your Institutional Research Office. If you have a template ready to use that will put your disaggregated data in a format that is helpful for understanding your program, sharing this with your Institutional Research Office will make it easier for them to provide you with the data you need. You can use or adapt the SAGE 2YC course-level outcomes data template.xlsx (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 110kB Jan14 21), developed for the SAGE 2YC project by Debra Bragg and Cari Bishop.
- Consider contacting an administrator, such as your Dean or a Vice President of Instruction, to let them know you're requesting the data and to request their support. In your communications, include an explanation of how you plan to use the data. In general, we have found that institutions of higher education are extremely supportive of efforts to support student success, to close equity gaps in participation and success, and to use data-driven approaches to achieve these goals.
- SAGE 2YC course-level outcomes data template.xlsx (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 110kB Jan14 21)
- Supporting the academic success of all students
- Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Facilitating students' professional pathways
- Supporting 2YC-4YCU transfer
Bensimon, E. M., Dowd, A. C., & Witham, K. (2016). Five Principles for Enacting Equity by Design. Retrieved December 7, 2020, from https://www.aacu.org/diversitydemocracy/2016/winter/bensimon.
Bragg, D., Bennett, S., & McCambly, H. (2016). Introduction to Pathways to Results. (Rev. ed.). Champaign, IL: Office of Community College Research and Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Bragg, D., Eddy, P., Iverson, E. R., Hao, Y., & O'Connell, K. (2020). The Final Report for Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education in Two-Year Colleges (SAGE 2YC): Lessons from a major NSF investment in geoscience education (Acrobat (PDF) 6.5MB Oct26 20).
Harris, F. III & Bensimon, E. M. (2007). Responding to the realities of race on campus: New Directions for Student Services, 120, 77-84.