Eidos System instrumental in helping Fairfield University faculty

Eidos System instrumental in helping Fairfield University faculty

One of the biggest challenges facing faculty at any college is assessing how well students are learning what professors are aiming to teach them. The task of examining student work and assignments and linking that work back to learning objectives defined by faculty isn't an easy one. Doing this job 'by hand' with printed copies of student papers can be time-consuming, let alone labor intensive.

Enter Fairfield University faculty members who saw this challenge as an opportunity. Curtis R. Naser, Ph. D., associate professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, was asked by the Charles F. Dolan School of Business to develop his existing online course management system to facilitate the assessment process. Dean Norm Solomon, Ph.D., Roselie M. McDevitt, Sc. D., assistant professor of accounting, and Michael T. Tucker, D.B.A., professor of finance, guided the project. Dr. Naser said, "Our Dolan School of Business thought that this task was ideally suited to an online course management system, but existing software was not flexible enough to meet the assessment tasks. Thus we designed our own."

Called Eidos (the Greek word for 'idea'), it's a web-based tool that has built into it a variety of features designed to assist individual instructors, departments and schools in the process of assessing how well students are learning what is being taught. The faculty members recently made a presentation about the Eidos program at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International 'Emerging Curricula' Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Professors Naser and McDevitt also presented on Eidos at the New England Educational Assessment Network Conference at College of the Holy Cross, and Professor Naser presented on Eidos at the New England Association for Institutional Research Conference in Philadelphia.

The School of Engineering will start using Eidos as an instructor-student communication tool, while a copy of the Eidos program was developed for Phoenix Academy, a local private K-8 school in Easton. Fairfield University is currently hosting this application for the school as a pilot project.

At the heart of it, the idea behind Eidos is quite straightforward: instructors post their assignments online. When they post these assignments, they check off from a list of programmatically defined learning objectives that apply to that specific assignment. When appropriate, students submit their work electronically to the Eidos system. They login, select their course and navigate to the assignments page. They simply upload their electronic file, whether it is a word processing document, spreadsheet, or slide presentation, for instance. The instructor then can grade these submissions and return them electronically.

The Eidos program then gives the Dolan School's Continuous Improvement & Assessment Committee an interface by which it can randomly sample electronically submitted student work, according to Dr. Naser. They select the particular learning objective that they want to examine, determine the population of students they want to include and the courses from which they wish to select student work. Eidos combs its database and randomly selects a predetermined number of student submissions to assess. The assessment committee creates a rubric with which to assess the student work (basically a list of traits that make up the various dimensions of the learning objective and a scale to score how well students perform on each trait). An electronic copy of this rubric is then used to score each selected student paper. When the committee has finished scoring the student submissions, Eidos instantly sums up the scores and allows the assessment committee to view how the selected student submissions scored on average on each of the traits. This gives the committee and the school's faculty feedback on what the students are doing well at and what they need to improve.

Dr. Naser said computing and network services, and Don Adams, assistant vice president and director of computing and network services, have been very helpful in providing the hardware support services necessary to run this system.

In addition to program assessment, Eidos employs the same structure of applying learning objectives and associated rubrics at the course level. Individual instructors can define their own course learning objectives in addition to those defined at the program level. They can then define their own scoring rubric and use the rubric to grade their students' work. When using a grading rubric, the scores a student receives on each trait are summed to produce a total score that becomes the basis of their grade on that assignment. Eidos does this work automatically. But at the same time, the instructor can get immediate feedback on the performance of the whole class on each of the traits. Eidos does this simply by averaging the scores of each student on each trait. Thus, the instructor gets an immediate assessment of what the students are doing well at and what they need to improve upon. This is "classroom" assessment.

What Eidos does for both classroom and programmatic assessment is handle all the logistics, from collecting and keeping track of student work, to recording and calculating grades, facilitating assessment and summarizing assessment results. The Eidos system is very active. In two full semesters of operation, Eidos has already collected more than 10,000 student files. Dr. Naser said, "The School of Engineering has just started to use Eidos as a communication tool for their courses and we will be looking to tailor Eidos' assessment functions to their needs as well."

Eidos gets its class rosters and course definitions directly from the university intranet Banner system, and every course in the university is populated in Eidos, available to be used by any instructor. It runs more than 150 courses with more than 1,000 students. It is capable of running any course in the university.

Posted On: 12-06-2006 10:12 AM

Volume: 39 Number: 102