Frequently Asked Questions - Assessment

Why general education assessment?

The University of Kentucky is committed to ongoing improvement of student learning and effective teaching/learning approaches. Assessment of student learning at both the course and program level provides an opportunity to understand how the general education curriculum and the learning environment are influencing student learning and development. Reflection and analysis of assessment results help us to continuously improve the educational experience for UK students. With that said, there also remains the need to demonstrate compliance with accreditation expectations that were established in the mid- to late-80s when the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) integrated the concept of institutional effectiveness into its requirements and standards. Specifically for general education, the current standard states:

3.5.1 The institution identifies college-level general education competencies and the extent to which graduates have attained them. (College-level competencies) Since the late 80s, discussions on best practices in assessment have become part of the culture of campuses across the southern region and the nation.

Furthermore, in 2008 the UK Senate Council approved the Design Principles for UK’s new general education curriculum.  Design Principle Seven states, “The curriculum will specify learning outcomes and the processes for both the systematic assessment of those learning outcomes and ongoing curricular improvement.” General Education assessment is occurring at the University of Kentucky because we are truly committed to continuous improvement of student learning and demonstrating our commitment to SACS and other key stakeholders.

How is General Education Assessment different from Departmental Program Assessment?

General Education Assessment encompasses all of the General Education classes offered at UK. These classes are offered by numerous departments across campus. The results of this assessment are used to evaluate the effectiveness of the General Education program, not the effectiveness of the individual faculty and departments that offer the different courses.
Departmental Program Assessment is restricted to the departmental degree program(s). This assessment can include the General Education courses offered by the program, but must include those courses restricted to the major. This type of assessment is intended to evaluate the effectiveness and achievement of the degree program(s).

How will assessment information be used?

Upon approval of General Education courses, assessable artifacts (i.e., assignments) are identified by the course designer through the course syllabus and the Office of Undergraduate Education provides this information to the Office of Assessment. The Office of Assessment uses the information to identify the assignment and the date of completion within the Bb Outcomes system. Artifacts will be gathered using the Blackboard (Bb) Outcomes system. For all General Education courses, an assessable artifact is to be submitted via Blackboard’s assignment function. This information is then used by the Bb Outcomes system to harvest and archive artifacts for assessment purposes.
Data gathered through Bb Outcomes during assessment is analyzed and reported to faculty and other constituencies for use in planning and budgeting improvements in student learning at the institutional and program levels. The Office of Assessment will coordinate any special analysis as requested by the faculty for further investigation.
When the Bb reporting system is fully implemented, reports will be available at the college and department level for use in planning and budgeting improvements in student learning at all levels. In addition to being available at the college and departmental levels, assessment information will be available to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the University Senate, the Interim General Education Oversight Committee (IGEOC), the University Assessment Council (UAC) and to other constituencies as requested.

What is an assessable artifact?

An assessable artifact is simply a graded assignment in the course that addresses one or more of the General Education Student Learning Outcomes. This must be a graded assignment to ensure that students take it seriously. And, by using assignments from the class for assessment, you, the instructor, do not have to design any other kind of assessable material. By using materials designed by faculty for assessing individual performance in the class, we also then have an artifact that can be used in program assessment.

What types of assignments can I use as the assessable artifact?

UK Core courses need to be designed so that at least one assignment will be used for General Education assessment. This assignment can be of many different formats: papers, speeches, posters, group project, performances, etc. These assignments should be easy to evaluate against a general rubric for the General Education Learning Outcome that the course addresses. Essentially, it is up to the faculty member to decide what type(s) of assignments best demonstrate the students’ ability to meet the General Education Learning Outcome. And, since this is a graded assignment, the student should be motivated to do his or her best work. (Please note: Assignments created in Blackboard as "Safe Assignments" cannot be used at this time. Please visit the Blackboard Support page for assitance on handling these type of assignments.)

How is assessment information collected?

Each course must be designed to include at least one assessable artifact (assignment). The student must upload this artifact via Blackboard for assessment purposes. Uploading assignments into Blackboard is easy to do and provides a direct way to provide assessable materials to the Office of Assessment for Gen Ed assessment. Once the artifact is loaded into Blackboard, the system will harvest that artifact, and file it according to its associated General Education outcome(s). When it is time to begin the evaluation process, the computer will collect a sample of the stored artifacts.

Blackboard Instructions for Faculty -
Blackboard Instructions for Students -

Why is UK using Blackboard for General Education Assessment?

Blackboard was chosen to be the evaluation software used for assessment at the University of Kentucky and has been designated by Provost Subbaswamy as our means of collecting assessment data. The system was chosen for the following reasons: 1) it is already widely in use at the University; 2) the Blackboard system allows for a uniform process to upload and store assessable artifacts; and 3) provides an environment for evaluation and reporting of assessment. All artifacts loaded into Blackboard will maintain valuable demographic information about the students (i.e. race, sex, age, socio-economic data, class, etc.).

Can I use a system other than Blackboard?

At this time, it is not possible to use a different system than Blackboard for General Education assessment.

Do we have to use Blackboard?

Yes. In order for artifacts to be evaluated, they must be placed into the Blackboard system. Documents housed outside of Blackboard cannot be assessed using the evaluation tools within Blackboard.

Can I just provide pdfs, assignment hard copies, or emails to the Office of Assessment?

In short, no. There are a variety of reasons why these types of documents cannot be added to the General Education assessment process. First, evaluation rubrics in Blackboard only work if an assignment is attached to that rubric. A document that is housed outside of Blackboard cannot be assessed using the evaluation tools. Second, one of the primary benefits of using Blackboard to evaluate artifacts is that the system can maintain some very useful demographic information about the student, while allowing for a blind review. Using PDFs, hard copies, or other forms of artifacts would eliminate the ability to gather the important demographic information associated with the artifact, while still allowing for student and instructor anonymity.

How is assessment affected if I choose not to use Blackboard?

If the assessable artifact is not loaded to the Blackboard system, then it cannot and will not be assessed. As a result, assessment information may not be accurate. Assessable artifacts are to be submitted through Blackboard.

What assignments should I use as the assessable artifact?

Each course has been designed so that at least one assignment will be used for General Education assessment. This result of this assignment should be the creation of an artifact (paper, speech, poster, project, etc) that best demonstrates the students’ ability to meet whichever General Education outcome the course addresses. Ideally, this assignment will motivate the student to do his/her best work. Generally, this means the assignment will be graded by the instructor. (Please note: Assignments created in Blackboard as "Safe Assignments" cannot be used at this time. Please visit the Blackboard Support page for assitance on handling these type of assignments.)

What types of artifacts can be loaded into the Bb system?

PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Plain Text, Mathematical files, Maple, audio, video and image files can be loaded into Bb. When uploading media files such as audio, video or images, there is a 200mb limit for each file. There is not a restriction on file types, only on the size. However, the instructor needs to be able to open the file, so they need to determine what file types they want to accept and tell the students. (Please note: Assignments created in Blackboard as "Safe Assignments" cannot be used at this time. Please visit the Blackboard Support page for assistance on handling these type of assignments.)

What information is derived from the assessment information being collected?

Blackboard enables us to maintain trend data over time in addition to useful demographic information. For example, we will be able to disaggregate our results by sex and student geographic location. This data will then be used for continuous improvement of the General Education Program. A designee of the General Education faculty committee(s) will be assigned to submit the improvement action plan to the Bb Outcomes System by October 31st of each year, making the plan readily available to the Provost, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, the Office of Assessment, the University Assessment Committee, and other faculty as designated by the faculty committee(s). Information will also be utilized in order to provide the student support programs and the colleges on campus with information on how to best support student learning.

Will student demographics be reported by individual student to the University or SACS?

No. Individual records will remain confidential. However, these demographics will allow aggregate analysis of the effectiveness of General Education by sub-populations of students.

Where can I find additional resources on General Education assessment?

General Education Website: 
General Education Assessment plan:/ukcore/sites/
Evaluation Results:
General Education Learning Outcomes:
Blackboard Assistance: 
Link to OA Website:
UK’S SACS Reaffirmation of Accreditation:
SACS Website:

Questions or comments related to the UK Core can be directed to:

Joanie Ett‐Mims
Office of the Senate Council
University of Kentucky
203 Main Building
Lexington, KY 40506‐0032
(859)257‐5871 |