Assessment Tools

Assessment Tools

Advanced Standing

Advanced standing is a requirement that all undergraduates must meet in order to take upper division classes. While there have been slight changes in the requirement over the years, it has been in effect for over a decade. The advanced standing requirement serves as one of the major assessment and quality management tools of the program. It has three components, a coursework requirement; a GPA (Grade Point Average) requirement; and an examination requirement.

Coursework and GPA Requirements

The coursework requirement for advanced standing is comprised of computer science and mathematics classes as required for the different emphases in the undergraduate major. Students must receive a grade of at least C- in each course. The GPA requirement is a minimum of 2.0. This GPA requirement applies to both the advanced standing requirement, and the student’s overall GPA. The advanced standing GPA is computed using courses taken at USU and those specific courses transferred for advanced standing classes. The overall GPA is computed using only the USU GPA.

Advanced Standing Exams

The advanced standing exams associated with this requirement must all be passed in order to receive advanced standing and thus enroll in upper division classes. These exams are given as part of the sophomore seminar class (CS3000). All students must pass the three exams comprising the ASE. These exams assess a student’s understanding of the material presented in the core computer science courses of their first two years in the program. In order to enroll in junior level classes (above 3000-level), all three exams must be passed, along with all other requirements for Advanced Standing. The three exams cover the areas of algorithms and data structures, computer organization, and software engineering. One of the assessment improvements made in the last few years was to automate the exams and deliver them using inetTest. InetTest is a USU developed assessment tool. It not only automates the process of test delivery and grading, but also allows for a detailed examination of performance in specific test areas.

Alumni Newsletter (feedback)

Since 2000, the department has mailed a newsletter to its alumni on a regular basis (twice yearly). Included with this newsletter is a request for information about their lives since graduation. While such information is anecdotal, it does represent one more data point for assessment purposes. In general, to date, the responses have been positive about the program and the preparation students are being given for their careers. Also, periodically, the department performs a survey of its alumni to address the question of the long term educational quality of the program.

Alumni Survey 

In 2000 and 2005, alumni from the department were surveyed. In the 2000 survey, the questions were fairly general. In the 2005 survey, a more detailed survey form was developed and sent. In general, both surveys indicate satisfaction with the program and the preparation received by students for their careers. The next survey will be held in 2012.

Capstone Class

The department provides multiple upper-division courses that satisfy the capstone class requirement. Each of these courses have a significant project component. In these courses, the student will be expected to exhibit the following technical and communication skills.

Technical skills which should be exhibited in a capstone project

  • Programming skills (from CS 1700 & 1720: persistent stores, classes, objects, etc.)
  • Use of data structures (from CS 2200: trees, queues, hashing, etc.)
  • Software engineering principles (CS 2370: planning, analysis, design, user interface, implement, testing, documentation)
  • Machine architecture (CS 2550 & 2650: assembly language, data representations)
  • Operating system / network knowledge (CS 3100: concurrency, scheduling, memory management, interrupt servicing, communications, etc.)
  • Programming language concepts (CS 4700: parsing, language representation, finite automata, etc.)

Communication skills which should be exhibited in a capstone project

Written communication via the following kinds of documents: 

  • User guide
  • Project Plan
  • Requirements Definition
  • System Design Document
  • Implementation Documentation
  • Testing Plan and Results

Oral presentation

An oral presentation of the project is required.

Course Examinations and Homeworks

To a large extent, the content of an examination is the responsibility of the instructor. The department does not give common exams. Examinations and homework assignments represent an important assessment tool for all courses. Examples of exams and homework assignments for all computer Science courses are maintained in the department office are made available for the ABET review process. These items are central to each instructor’s self-assessment of their course. They also have a significant impact on the grade students receive in a class and thus impact advanced standing. Faculty course self-assessment results are significantly influenced by the performance of students on exams and homework.

Department Faculty Meetings

A very important assessment tool is the discussions that take place during monthly faculty meetings and the yearly department retreat. In fact, while the data may come from other sources, all issues concerning the program are discussed during these meetings and it is in these meetings that decisions are made. Copies of department meeting minutes are maintained in the department office and are available to the ABET review team.

Department Head Exit Survey 

Each year the department head interviews the graduating seniors. This process is a requirement for graduating seniors. The main purpose of the survey is to give students the opportunity to self-asses in terms of the department’s expected outcomes. Additionally there are questions on issues such as the quality of advising, plans for the future, and interests in other courses. The data from these exit surveys are maintained in the department and made available upon request.

Faculty Course Self-Assessments 

While faculty have always performed an informal self-assessment of their courses, this process was not formalized until Fall 2005. It is now required that all faculty assess every class every semester. The assessment is done in terms of the goals or Student outcomes for each class. This material is maintained in the department office.

Industrial Advisory Board  

On a regular basis the department meets with industry representatives, graduates of our program, and graduate school representatives. During these meetings, discussions are held about our program, the curriculum, graduate goals, etc.

Course Evaluations 

Department and University policy requires that student evaluations be given for every course, every semester. While there is little information to be acquired from the evaluations with respect to department student outcomes, there is feedback given on the quality of the instruction. Quality teaching is an important element of the department's mission statement. As such, these evaluations represent an important data point or indicator of the quality of instruction in a class. Teacher evaluations are reviewed each semester by the class instructor and by the department head.