Data Patterns of Love

T.G.I.F. y’all. Enjoy these “Mathematically Verifiable tips for Love” – brought to you by Hannah Fry, Prezi and TED.

math of loveLook through Hannah’s Prezi too. Very cool!

Data-dive into Memorial Day

Alright you assessment lovers it’s Memorial Day. We all serve veterans as students on our campuses in some form. Today I hope you remember the fallen, thank a veteran, and, perhaps, eat a hot dog (or portobello pup). Here is a brief look at some information (and fun facts!) about this day of remembrance:

Ten Things You Should Know About Today’s Student Veteran – by Alison Lighthall (2012, via the NEA). In my quest to raise my own awareness of the student veteran population and their needs, this provided an enlightening overview.

How Countries Around the World Celebrate Memorial Day – TIME Magazine looks at how other countries celebrate their take on Memorial Day. New Zealand’s commemoration involves gambling. Fun. Watch the video on the history of Memorial Day too.

Memorial Day Weekend Traffic, Sales, & More, by the NumbersMONEY Magazine reviews the stats from Memorial Day weekend. This number…WOW!

hot dog

Memorial Day Weekend By the NumbersTravel + Leisure gives an interesting run down; watch your speed and avoid the zoo!


Take a quiet moment to honor the veterans in your life. The National Moment of Remembrance is 3:00pm today.

 Thank you to those who’ve served our country, past and present. 


Friday Standup

It’s Friday! and this bit is from one of my favorites, Steve Martin. Enjoy!

The Kennesaw State Advisor Incident

exterior_image2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-mark3Every once in a while I come across a story that buzzes so close to my job or my values that I feel compelled to talk about it. A few weeks ago articles blaming over-sized administration for tuition increases got me thinking about where that rise might come from. This week, it’s an article about academic advising.

Last week, Kennesaw State student, Kevin Bruce, paid a visit to his advising office and was asked to leave — well, he was actually threatened with campus security. Rather than recap the story, I’ll pause for a minute to give you a chance to read it for yourself here or here. If you want to just skip to the video, see below.

Once this student posts the video, it takes off a little; makes its way onto the Huffington Post and other sites. The twitter-verse bounces it around. This is where I start to lose track of what’s going on. Reading through his twitter feed, the #ItsBiggerThanKSU hashtag gets some steam. Is race a factor here? Given the racism systemic to our nation, race often plays a factor at some level. But it seems to me the point he’s trying to make is that many students at Kennesaw are not graduating in 4 years and he’s implying that student affairs offices are core part of a student’s ability to make that achievement.

I’m with you Kevin, advising is important. And we need more (and apparently better) of it.

If you dig a little — and I mean just a little — you’ll come across very mean words directed at both Abby Dawson and at KSU. Are they are fault here? To some extent, sure. But let’s not forget a few core values of higher education (get ready, I’m going to speak for an entire industry here): learning and development. If every doofus-moment led to fired employees, we’d end up in a world filled with doofuses and nobody actually working. If her supervisor and the human resources department are not in the process of a performance improvement plan with Ms. Dawson, now’s probably a good time to make that happen. If incidents like this continue to happen, it might be time to look into termination of employment.

For anyone who’s not an advisor, the end of the term is when we are bombarded with student questions. This makes sense; courses fill and students need help finding resolved schedules which move them toward graduation. Some students are persistent with their questions. Often, students will reach out their advisor without consulting online documents at all. I hope that this was just a bad day for her. I hope that in the vast majority of her conversations with students, she’s pleasant. I hope. Regardless of whether the criticisms are justified, you can bet she’s had an awful week. Social media leaves little time for due process.

Fellow higher ed professionals, and everyone else, this is a reality of our lives now. In a moment’s notice, someone might be recording us at work. Is this inconvenient? Yes. Let’s try to remember that everyone we’re interacting with is also a person (and that our students are paying thousands to attend our institutions). Even though when we’re having a bad day, we want to ensure everyone around us is also having a bad day, and even though we sometimes try to pretend our busy times are “learning opportunities” for our students, it’s worth taking a second, minding our tone, and saying: “Hey man. I am so sorry, I can’t help you right now. Can you e-mail this to me and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can?”

Zero to Assessment

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-mark3As you know, it’s Make Assessment Easy Month here at Oh No. In the Engineering Advising Center, we recently (last year) re-vamped our office assessment(s), and I’ve learned oodles in the process. Whether you’re creating an office-wide strategy, or a strategy to measure the success of a specific program owned by your office, these four steps  (which I picked up from Nacada’s 2014 Assessment Institute) can help you get from nothing to a simple, focused, and effective strategy. Most of the links to which I’m referencing come from NACADA, though the concepts are applicable to more than just advising.

Step 1, Create Learning Outcomes: NACADA recommends that learning outcomes focus on what we want students to know, do, and value (see last paragraph in Concept of Academic Advising). It’s good to keep this list short. We have 8 outcomes we focus on in our office. The longer your list, the longer (and more boring) your report of results. If your colleagues fall asleep while you’re discussing the results, you may have too many outcomes.

Step 2, Opportunities for Students to Achieve Outcome: It’s good to have a plan for when (e.g., workshops, advising appointments, etc.) we want students to achieve our desired outcomes. This portion might include workshops, advising appointments, tutorials, etcetera. In most cases, this is what you’re already doing! Hopefully.

Step 3, By What Time Should Learning Occur? This step helps you indicate when you’d like students to achieve your outcomes. For example, if you’re a career services office and you want students to have created a resume, you probably want that to happen sometime before they’re job searching. We often use student academic years/terms for this. For the resume example, your deadline might be by the end of their first year*.

*Originally I put “junior year” here. Abby’s response gave me the sense that career services folks would riot in the streets if this didn’t happen until the junior year. My sincere apologies! Feel free to pretend this deadline is anytime you see fit…

Step 4, How Will You Know if the Outcome Has Been Met? We use this step to determine when we’re going to make a measurement. It helps to limit yourself to just a few surveys or queries a year — this keeps your process sustainable. Common times to collect data are at the end of orientation, fall, and spring term.

In the end, you will have a table, with the learning outcomes as rows and each step as a column.


This system works whether you’re creating an assessment for the entire office or if you’re just trying to assess one program. I’m using this process to assess our training and development of our orientation leaders this summer.

I hope you found this table useful. As you start to dive into the process of creating an assessment, you will come across questions that the table does not address (e.g., should we use surveys or focus groups or some combination of the two? Is our data valid? etc.). Just remember the KISS rule of thumb: Keep It Simple Steve. You may want to replace “Steve” with your name. The assessment does not have to be perfect. It should be simple enough for you (or someone else) to explain and follow through.

Assessment Life: Assessment People are People Too

Assessment is not just for “numbers” people; it’s for you. I’m not a numbers person, but I am an assessment person. And so are you. Here are a few other images from an assessment person’s (i.e., me, in this case) life.Found on phone

I saw this on my commute to work. It infuriated me. Right, because the message here is: asking for help is stupid?? Arg!IMAG0442

Minneapolis’ famed Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden (my favorite site in my home city!) featured this relevant quote in one of its pieces Selections from the Living Series by Jenny Holzer:IMAG0461

(In case you can’t read it: “Affluent college-bound students face the real prospect of downward mobility. Feelings of entitlement clash with the awareness of imminent scarcity. There is resentment at growing up at the end of an era of plenty coupled with reassessment of conventional measures of success.“)

See you Monday!

My Favorite Commencement Speeches

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3It’s that time of year where I obsessively listen to the season’s best commencement speeches. I. love. them. Almost as much as I love the Olympics (OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE THE OLYMPICS!), but that’s whole a different post.

ANYWAY, every year, I eagerly search online for who’s going to speak where – the one I’m most excited about this season is First Lady Michelle Obama’s Tuskegee University speech. Wow – personal, smart, raw, relevant, a call to action – I was so moved by it that I’ve already listened to it multiple times.

And one of my all-time favorite commencement speeches is Conan O’Brien’s 2011 Dartmouth College speech – funny, smart, and honest. I re-watch it every year.

You can look over a larger list of this year’s line up on Graduation Wisdom. And NPR pulled together some of The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever – you could fill your whole summer with speeches. You’re welcome!

What are your favorite commencement addresses? Which should I add to my queue?

Writing Assessment Questions: Keep It Simple

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3The month of May at Oh no is focusing on making assessment easy. I mean, that’s always our focus but we’re really honing in this month. Today I want to bring all of Mark and I’s theoretical musings on assessment and its purpose down to some tangible basics.

In my office (Career Center! woot! woot! ) we have nine career learning outcomes toward which we hope, in working with us, students make significant learning progress by the end of their four years at Carleton. And our purpose for having these learning outcomes is fourfold:

[1] to be transparent with students (and families and the College community too) about what students will learn/be able to do by interacting with the Career Center, so that students can be partners with us in driving their learning,

[2] to hold ourselves accountable to offer programs and services that help students progress in this learning, being intentional to make sure our programs and services serve the purpose of helping students learn,

[3] to hold students accountable to be the drivers of their learning and career development because I can’t get the job for you and more than that, I can’t decide for you which career is going to help you pursue your meaningful life, and

[4] to show the value/impact of working with the Career Center.

Here’s a sampling of some of the learning outcomes:

  1. Understand how to work through a process of self-assessment and be able to identify their transferable and work-related skills.
  2. Learn about a wide variety of career fields and opportunities.
  3. Be able to market themselves through written communication to prospective employers and networks.

So if you’ve written some learning outcomes (hooray!) then at this point, how do you write your assessment questions to assess if the students learned them or not???

An easy way is…brace yourself…to just ask them if they learned it. Revolutionary, I know. Well worth reading this blog, huh? ;-P Here’s what I mean. If my learning outcomes is:

Be able to market themselves through written communication to prospective employers and networks.

Then ask:

Indicate how much you [i.e., the student] agree or disagree with the following statements about the [insert program/service].

After attending the [insert program/service], I am able to market myself through oral communication to prospective employers and networks.

Strongly Agree | Agree | Neither Agree nor Disagree | Disagree | Strongly Disagree


Now, some of you assessment scholars (who I’m sure have nothing better to do than read this blog full of Sailor Moon gifs and Mark’s jokes ;-P), might say that using solely this kind of assessment is too shallow and wouldn’t hold up in a journal article. And to that I say, this would be only one part of a more rigorous methodology for publishing an article. BUT, I’m guessing most of you aren’t reading Oh no because you’re trying to publish, but rather to better your current practice/office initiatives. And as we’ve mentioned before, there is value is using student-reported data (especially when it’s benchmarked in one year and then measure again the next). Assessing your services will not only keep your initiatives in line with the mission of your office/institution and the learning environment, it’ll also give greater purpose and structure to the work you do.

There is so much more to say on this topic, but for now, I wanted to give a very specific, practical, simple, “you could implement this minute” tip. What are some tips you might have for keeping assessment questions simple?

It’s Friday: Numbers Don’t Lie

Numbers. So clean. So straightforward.

Never trust the 4.

…but the 5 seems honest.

Yik Yak: A Space for Good?

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-mark3Finals week just ended for the University of Michigan. Finals is the time of year when student lives seem to pause and much of their attention focuses on exams and grades. With so much of our students’ grades hinging on the last few weeks of the term, this is a period when stress spikes.

Last fall, I learned of a new phone app becoming popular with our students. The app, called Yik Yak, allows users to post short bursts of text. What makes this app unique is that the posts are entirely anonymous. For those of you not familiar with Yik Yak, see the short overview at the very bottom of this post.

In my continuous quest to keep abreast of the lives of our students, I downloaded Yik Yak. I check the app every once in a while. Posts tend to fall into one of a handful of categories before getting buried by other posts and eventually expiring. Students post one-line jokes (often about college life), complaints about their courses or other students, pledges to reach out to their “crush,” even a few offers and requests for sex, etcetera.

Then I stumbled on this conversation — which I’ve included in its entirety at the bottom of this post. Go ahead, if you haven’t already, scroll through the conversation….

I see a variety of things here. I see a student who’s stressed and not sure how to cope. I see a conversation about suicide. I also see a community converging to support someone with whom they have just one thing in common, they’re UofM students.

Yik Yak has seen bad press since its creation. The critics claiming that it’s rife with bullying and a breeding ground for bigotry. Sure, many of the posts on Yik Yak are not contributing to a better world, but I don’t know that the space created by the app makes it a worse place. Whether we like it or not, we (higher ed professionals) have no say in how our students are using the internet. The largest role we can play is to help them make sense of what they see out there.

From what I gather, this student did not follow through with the suicide — though, of course, who knows. The group did gather on the diag.

I’m not sure how to close this post. I wanted to share the example of Yik Yak being used for good, but I don’t know that the experience has changed the way I go about my work. Yik Yak is neither inherently good nor bad, but regardless, social media apps are here to stay. Students are stressed and sometimes that leads to thoughts of suicide.  I’m glad that one person’s cry for help not only led to community support for that individual, but also raised awareness of suicide. I suppose the message is to keep on keeping on, and sometimes… often even… our students will surprise us.

Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-08-18[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-08-26[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-08-41[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-08-47[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-08-54[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-00[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-06[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-12[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-17[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-23[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-29[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-35[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-41[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-52[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-09-59[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-04[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-09[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-15[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-21[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-27[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-33[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-39[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-45[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-51[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-10-57[1] Screenshot_2015-04-26-10-19-21[1]

YIK YAK OVERVIEW: The app works much like twitter, where users post short bursts of text and content is viewed as a list, with the most recent posts at the top — though you are able to reply to posts, thus creating conversations (one of which I’ve shared below). The app only shows “yaks” occurring within a certain radius (a few miles) of you. As a result, communities of Yakkers have popped up around colleges and universities.

The yaks are completely anonymous, though the system randomly assigns a color and symbol to each user in a conversation, allowing you to keep track of who’s saying what within a conversation. In the conversation below, you’ll see a number at the right of the screen. For each post, users can choose to up-vote or down-vote the post. The number shows the count of up-votes (minus down-votes) a post has received. If you’re still confused about Yik Yak, google it — I’m sure many more have explained the app in a far more readable fashion than I just did.