The EvoLLLution (Evo): What is the Diagnostic Assessment and Achievement of College Skills (DAACS)?
Jason Bryer (JB): The DAACS is a low-stakes formative assessment designed to give students and academic advisors a sense of a student’s strengths and weaknesses. We came to this by looking at placement exams. At one point, at Excelsior College in particular, we were trying to evaluate what we know about students when they enter the college. Students bring a great deal of transcripts with them when they enter the college, in pursuit of transfer credit and prior learning assessment, but some of those transfer credits can be fairly old. This creates an issue for us that many other institutions run into, which is, “What does the student actually need to prove knowledge?”
Until recently, the answer was a placement exam, but that’s not really in line with the college’s mission or philosophy. We don’t want to track students into remedial courses, but we still want to have some valuable information about students’ preparedness. We wanted to fix what was wrong, but keep what’s right, with placement exams.
One of the things that’s wrong with them is that they’re high stakes. If you look at the literature base, students who are identified as unprepared tend to, at best, delay graduation. At worst, they eventually withdraw form the institution without ever having begun credit-bearing activities.
DAACS is going to be module-based, in the version we will be making available, with a focus on reading, writing and math because those are core areas in which we assume students have some background knowledge when they enroll in a credit course. The innovative piece, though, will be on the non-academic side where they will receive constant feedback about their performance. We’re going to help students understand their strengths and how to play to their strengths, but and also identify their weaknesses and direct them toward resources that help them to shore up those deficiencies.
How do institutions benefit from implementing systems like DAACS?
DAACS tools help to improve the efficacy and accuracy of our predictive models….