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Online assessments: Planning for ease, efficiency, and integrity.

Assessments can be stressful for both teachers and students, and the transition to virtual education has added to the complexity of creating experiences that allow students to demonstrate their strengths while maintaining evaluation integrity. 

To assist educators as the school year begins, WGU Vice President of Evaluation Operations Maureen O’Brien and her colleagues will present a four-part online seminar entitled “Online Assessments: Planning for Ease, Efficiency, and Integrity.”

Presenter bios.

A passionate educator, Maureen O’Brien joined the evaluation faculty at Western Governors University in 2009. She has been instrumental in the development of the evaluation and assessment processes required to serve the growing WGU student population (currently more than 123,000 students), focusing on secure, valid, and reliable verification of competency. She currently serves as vice president of Evaluation Operations, working with more than 1,300 faculty members who are responsible for delivering 1.6 million faculty-scored assessments and 1.4 million computer-scored assessments annually. Prior to WGU, Maureen worked 15 years in the telecom industry and managed a consulting company. She was a strategic contributor when the AT&T Power Systems Business Unit earned the 1994 Deming Prize, and uses systemic quality improvement as a cornerstone approach to leadership.

Hilary Simon joined WGU in January 2019 as the senior social and emotional learning analyst on the Student Experience team. Prior to joining WGU, Hilary gained 20 years’ experience in K–12 education, ranging from designing and delivering individualized interventions for neurodiverse students to guiding large-scale implementations of culturally responsive social and emotional learning (SEL) initiatives in urban school districts. She co-founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing SEL professional development for educators. She has also served as an SEL specialist, mindfulness for teens instructor, autism specialist, and behavior analyst, and taught in elementary grades. She holds two master's degrees in education. When she isn’t hatching up new ways to advocate for SEL, she’s playing with her two children in Austin, Texas.

Carissa Pittsenberger holds an M.S. in special education, a B.A. in sociology, and has more than 19 years of experience in K–12 and higher education. After 10 years as a K–12 education specialist and department chair, she joined WGU in July 2011 as a part-time content evaluator in the Teachers College. In October 2012, she moved into a full-time position as an academic authenticity specialist and currently serves as senior manager of authenticity and integrity services. As senior manager, her responsibilities include overseeing and further developing the academic authenticity, assessment security, and professional communication teams, as well as working with cross-functional teams of WGU faculty and staff. In addition, she collaborates with outside organizations and universities in the promotion of integrity in online education. Carissa lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband, two kids, and three dogs. Whenever she can, she takes time out to travel to the beach, read a good book, and relax with her family.

Jen Simonds joined University of Maryland Global Campus in August, 2019. She is the Assistant Vice President in charge of the Office of Academic Integrity and Accountability (OAIA), an office that was new upon her arrival at UMGC and is now fully staffed and operational with case managers and an analyst investigator. Housed in Academic Affairs, the OAIA promotes integrity through collaborations with UMGC’s faculty and course development units and handles academic misconduct using UMGC’s learning-focused philosophy of academic integrity.

Jen earned an M.A. in education from Seattle University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in developmental and personality psychology from the University of Oregon with a sub-specialty of measurement theory. Prior to joining UMGC, Jen was a professor of psychology and a department chair at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, where she served as a mentor in the McNair Scholars program and developed an academic integrity training and certification program. 

Kelly Lockwood is the Associate Director of Dispute Resolution, Student Conduct, and Academic Integrity at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), overseeing a team of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Managers who investigate and adjudicate violations of SNHU’s Student Code of Conduct and Academic Integrity policies as well as moderating disciplinary hearings.

Kelly also sits on SNHU’s Academic Integrity Working Group, a cross-functional team of stakeholders from throughout the university dedicated to promoting a culture focused on academic integrity to students, faculty, and staff. In addition, Kelly oversees SNHU’s Dispute Resolution Analyst team which investigates and resolves student initiated disputes, including Title IX and Title VII concerns, and allegations of ADA/504 violations  and is a member of SNHU’s Risk Assessment Team.

Kelly holds a BA in English and Secondary Education and an MA in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology, both from Boston College, and a graduate certificate in Leadership of Not-for-Profit Organizations from SNHU. Prior to her work in higher education, Kelly served two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer, taught high school English, and served as a case manager and life skills educator for out-of-school youth. Kelly lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, with her husband and their two-year-old daughter.

Maureen O'Brien Maureen O'Brien
Kelly Lockwood Kelly Lockwood
Hilary Simon Hilary Simon
Jen Simonds Jen Simonds

Session 1: Designing a positive assessment experience.

Showing what you know is essential in both academic and professional settings. But testing anxiety or technical issues can interfere with a student’s ability to demonstrate competency, and these issues are heightened in an online, remote assessment environment. This session includes suggestions on how to improve the validity of an assessment by creating a supportive environment, reducing the possibility of technical issues, and ensuring that each student brings their best to the test. The presenters provided an in-depth look into current practices at WGU. 

Session 1 recording | Session 1 takeaways

Session 2: Academic integrity guardians and guides.

Educating students on the importance of academic authenticity is central to creating a culture of integrity. This session showed how a cycle of education, deterrence, and detection is key to systemically reinforcing integrity in an academic setting. The team shared best practices for identity verification, proctoring, author verification on written submissions, student interventions, and approaches to student awareness and education. 

Session 2 recording | Session 2 takeaways

Session 3: WGU’s approach to verification of competency.

Western Governors University has been verifying competency at scale since 1997. Last year, more than 1.6 million student submissions were evaluated by more than 1,200 faculty evaluators. Learn how we establish competency standards, calibrate a large faculty, and provide a consistent approach to the student experience. Takeaways will include thoughts on how to use these approaches in a classroom setting.  

Session 3 recording

Session 4: Panel discussion on academic integrity.

How do we build a community of accredited, online institutions focused on promoting academic integrity? What is the best way to educate and protect every student and the value of each degree, certification, license, and/or credential? Explore these questions with panelists from WGU, Southern New Hampshire University, and University of Maryland Global Campus.

Session 4 recording


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