Course, instructional program and support program assessments are critical to ensure student success. OPPA provides training, workshops and individual support with respect to course and program assessment. We help with the development of learning and service area outcomes and the development and maintenance of a campus assessment management system. We provide technical assistance with learning and service area outcome analysis and course evaluation design.

Assessment is an ongoing process. It requires establishing clear and measurable outcomes. It requires systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine course, program or unit effectiveness and then using this information for continuous improvement.

Student Learning Outcome (SLO)

SLOs (also known as Course Learning Outcomes - CLO) are the cornerstones of course design and assessment. They help faculty and students have a common understanding of the purpose and goals of a course. By providing clear and comprehensive learning outcomes, faculty begin to provide a transparent and inclusive pathway for student success. Furthermore, SLOs clearly communicate students’ skill level upon course completion, facilitating their success in future courses and employment.

Program Learning Outcomes (PLO)

PLOs describe what students will know or be able to do upon completion of degree or certificate. They provide campus departments and programs information for continuous curricular improvement. Like SLOs, PLOs clearly communicate students’ skill level upon graduation, facilitating their success in future degree programs and employment.

Service Area Outcomes (SAO)

SAOs (also known as measurable program goals) describe what students, faculty, staff or community members will receive or experience from a given campus support service. All units on campus directly or indirectly support student learning and success be it the Copy Center, Cashier’s Office, or Janitorial Services. SAOs provide campus support services with information on meeting the needs of those they serve and thus ultimately meeting student success.

Difference Between Assessment and Grading

Grades focus on individual students, while assessment focuses on entire cohorts of students. Grades alone are insufficient evidence of student learning for several reasons:

  • Grades do not always tell us exactly what students have and have not learned. For example, a “B” in a course does not tell us which concepts have or have not been mastered.
  • Grading may be based, in part, on attendance, class participation and late work, which have nothing to do with the actual skills or concepts that students have or have not mastered.
  • Instructors teaching sections of the same course may grade differently and give different grades for the same student work on the same assignment.
  • Grades do not reflect all learning experiences including key competencies, such as critical thinking or writing skills across an entire degree or certificate program.

For more information about or assistance with SLO, PLO, or SAO development and assessment, contact Adam Halemano, Institutional Assessment Specialist at or 808-455-0572.