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Sarah DeMark

Sarah DeMark

Vice President, Program Development | Western Governors University

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Sarah DeMark serves as Vice President of Academic Programs at Western Governors University.

Areas of Expertise: 

Innovative Learning and Assessment Models, Competency-based Education, Strategic & Analytical Leadership, and Driver of Learning & Business Outcomes


Arizona State University: Ph.D., Educational Psychology  2002

Vanderbilt University: B.A., Education, Psychology  1995

Social:   TwitterLinkedIn


Sarah DeMark serves as Vice President of Academic Programs at Western Governors University, where she has worked since September 2014. She helps keep WGU at the forefront of competency-based education by directing the university’s academic portfolio strategy as well as program design and development, with a portfolio of more than 60 degrees, 600 courses, and 1,000 assessments.

Prior to WGU, DeMark spent more than 15 years at leading IT companies, serving in various leadership roles where she oversaw the strategy and execution of the design, development, and deployment of innovative, large-scale curriculum and assessment portfolios. Previously, she was an independent consultant working with state and local school districts, as well as working with The College Board on SAT and AP program evaluation.

DeMark also served on ANSI’s Personnel Certification Accreditation Committee, which serves to validate whether certification programs adhere to standards.




American Educational Research Association (AERA)

American Psychological Association (APA)

American Statistical Association (ASA)

Association of Test Publishers (ATP)

IT Certification Council (ITCC) 

Selected media appearances and articles.

Micro-credentials offer quick educational advances for some Nevadans

Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2019-09-06

“For a bachelor’s degree, it’s usually four years, and if you stop out, you’re stopping out with nothing other than potentially student debt,” said Sarah DeMark, vice president of programming at Western Governors University, an online college based in Salt Lake City. “Having the micro-credentials gives students more seamless on-ramps and off-ramps.”

Uncharted Territory: A Guide to Reimagining Higher Education

Stanford University, 2019-10

An exploration of how institutions, including WGU, are charting new paths and designing for the student experience in higher ed.

'One-and-done' model of higher ed is in the past

Education Dive, 2018-03-05

Sarah DeMark, vice president of program development at Western Governors University, told Education Dive that given how quickly jobs are changing, there is a need for higher ed to think more broadly about what students are coming to campus to achieve. “No longer is it this one-and-done model where you get your bachelor’s degree and you’re set for your career,” she said, noting a need to think of the traditional college or university as “more of a continuing education model.” ​

What can data do for students?

Education Dive, 2018-01-29

Experts say newer learning analytics are at the beginning stages of predicting when and where students will have problems, therefore creating the space for educators intervene before a student falls behind.

“We also leverage data to do real-time intervention with students. If we see that a student might be struggling in a particular area, then a mentor will see that and they’’ know that that’s a student they need to reach out to, said Sarah DeMark, Western Governors University Vice President of Program Development.

Western Governors University's assessment quality rubrics: high standards for assessments in CBE programs

The Journal of Competency-Based Education
Sarah DeMark

All students deserve high‐quality assessments that are balanced and reliable. For CBE programs in particular, assessments serve a key function in enabling students to demonstrate their competence and thereby advance through a curriculum at their own pace.

Design Rationale for a Complex Performance Assessment

International Journal of Testing
David M. Williamson , Malcolm Bauer , Linda S. Steinberg , Robert J. Mislevy , John T. Behrens & Sarah F. DeMark

In computer-based interactive environments meant to support learning, students must bring a wide range of relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities to bear jointly as they solve meaningful problems in a learning domain. To function effectively as an assessment, a computer system must additionally be able to evoke and interpret observable evidence about targeted knowledge in a manner that is principled, defensible, and suited to the purpose at hand (e.g., licensure, achievement testing, coached practice). This article describes the foundations for the design of an interactive computer-based assessment of design, implementation, and troubleshooting in the domain of computer networking. 

Using Statistical Natural Language Processing for Understanding Complex Responses to Free-Response Tasks

Journal of Testing
Sarah F. DeMark & John T. Behrens

Whereas great advances have been made in the statistical sophistication of assessments in terms of evidence accumulation and task selection, relatively little statistical work has explored the possibility of applying statistical techniques to data for the purposes of determining appropriate domain understanding and to generate task-level scoring rules. Now that complex tasks are becoming increasingly prevalent, the inattention to item-level scoring is becoming more problematic. This study utilizes exploratory techniques to examine the differences between experts and novices in command usage and troubleshooting strategies in the field of computer networking.

The Seven C's of Comprehensive Online Assessment: Lessons Learned from 36 Million Classroom Assessments in the Cisco Networking Academy Program

Online Assessment and Measurement: Case Studies from Higher Education, K-12 and Corporate
John T. Behrens (Cisco Systems, USA), Tara A. Collison (Cisco Systems, USA) and Sarah DeMark (Cisco Systems, USA)

During the last 6 years, the Cisco Networking Academy™Program has delivered online curricula and over 36 million online assessments to support instructors and schools teaching computer networking skills to students. This chapter describes the context of this work and lessons learned from this endeavor. 

Event Appearances.

WGU: 20 Years of Experience Bringing Competency-Based Education to Scale
ELI Annual Meeting  New Orleans, Louisiana