Outcomes are statements that specifically describe the end result or desired effect of the program. Outcomes are specific and measurable: they describe what you will be able to observe and measure to determine if the program has been successful. It is worth noting that the terms outcomes, competencies, objectives, etc. are sometimes used interchangeably or with distinctions specified by a professional association. The term outcomes will be used across UND and within the training materials provided.
Outcomes usually fall within two categories: learning outcomes or program outcomes.
Student learning outcomes (SLOs) identify core skills and knowledge that students are expected to demonstrate upon successful completion of a learning experience (e.g., course, program, degree).
- Course-level SLOs are relatively narrow in scope, articulating what students are expected to achieve as they complete a course.
- Program-level SLOs are broader in scope, articulating what students are expected to achieve as they complete a program (e.g., core courses and electives for the major).
- Institutional-level SLOs are very broad in scope. Students are expected to achieve these learning outcomes as they complete a bachelor’s degree (e.g., Essential Studies + the major).
While faculty provide students with SLOs at multiple levels, this webpage and its resources are focused on program-level SLOs. For more information about course-level SLOs, which are required on course syllabi at UND, see Writing a Syllabus (TTaDA). For more information about UND’s Essential Studies Goals of Undergraduate Education see the Essential Studies website.
Program outcomes, also called success or operational outcomes, describe what the program, process, or service will achieve. These are not focused on participant learning. Examples of program outcomes include attendance, retention, and satisfaction.
Value of Program-level SLOs
An effective degree program or major is more than a collection of courses. Program-level SLOs should guide an intentional curriculum designed to foster student achievement of those SLOs. In this context, program-level SLOs serve several important purposes and audiences, as they can:
- Make clear what students should expect from their educational experience
- Help students learn more effectively by explicitly stating what a student needs to know and do, contributing to student success and educational equity
- Help faculty plan a coherent undergraduate educational experience in the degree program and design courses and curricula to systematically advance a program’s SLOs
- Allow faculty to assess student learning and gauge the effectiveness of a curriculum, informing adjustments to courses, curriculum, and instruction
- Communicate the intent of the degree program to prospective students, employers, and the public
- Support university accreditation, and specialized professional accreditation where applicable
Program-level SLOs at UND
All UND programs (curricular and co-curricular) are responsible for developing and regularly updating program-level outcomess that capture what program leads most want students to learn through their experience. As a good practice, program leads will apply their expertise to determine program-level SLOs that are specific and critical to the program.
At UND, we aspire for all programs to have outcomes that are SMART:
- Specific - each outcome should focus on only one idea or expected behavior
- Measurable - action verbs are used in the outcome to describe the metrics that will be used (i.e. Bloom's Taxonomy)
- Achievable - motivational yet attainable for the program
- Realistic - align with the University mission, college/division outcomes, and/or external accrediation (if applicable)
- Time-Bound - adheres to a timeline so progress can be tracked throughout the process
Resources for Writing Outcomes
How to Write Learning Outcomes worksheet, Campus Labs
Bloom's Taxonomy, Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
Writing Effective Learning Objectives, UND TTaDA
The Essential Guide to Assessment Strategy, [pg. 2-4] Watermark
Learning Outcomes vs. Success Outcomes, Watermark
Moore, B.D. (2020). Designing & aligning learning outcome assessments for academic programs: Proficiencies that students are expected to demonstrate- Learning institutions are expected to authenticate. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).
Planning & Self Study Tutorials