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One Thousand Virtual Participants Attend New England College’s Fourth Annual Higher Education Assessment Conference

Recordings for keynote address and 22 sessions now available.

On May 12, New England College (NEC) hosted the fourth annual Higher Education Assessment Conference with the theme of “Assessment and Equity: Methods Matter.” The conference focused on student success and program improvement within higher education. Due to COVID-19, this year’s conference was presented in a virtual format, becoming one of the first full higher education assessment conferences in the country to be offered virtually.

The remote nature of this year’s conference did not deter higher education professionals from participating. In total 1,000 registrants representing 500 institutions from 48 states and 13 countries were in attendance. Registration reached capacity quickly; with all 1,000 spots filled within 14 hours, with another 700 attendees added to a waiting list.

This level of interest prompted New England College to record the sessions for higher education professionals unable to join the virtual sessions. The keynote address from Dr. Jillian Kinzie, Associate Director of the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research and the National Survey of Student Engagement Institute, and 22 break-out sessions will be posted at https://bit.ly/HEAC2020_Resources in the coming days as they are edited and embedded with closed captioning.

In her keynote address, “Equity-Minded Assessment to Advance Student Learning and Success,” Dr. Kinzie provided a foundation for this year’s conference theme. She described how assessment can be used in higher education to promote inclusivity and equitable outcomes—one of the hottest topics in higher education assessment today—and provided specific strategies to accomplish this goal.

The conference then moved to 22 break-out sessions that covered Equity and Assessment, Student Learning Assessment, Program Assessment, and General Assessment. The session topics are included in the conference program booklet at https://bit.ly/HEAC2020_Resources.

“As colleges and universities continue to cut professional development budgets, I’m very proud that this year’s conference was free for attendees. Generous sponsors covered 85 percent of the conference costs, and New England College covered the rest,” explains Gavin Henning, Professor of Higher Education at New England College and primary architect of the Higher Education Assessment Conference. “And we now know that we can present a high-quality virtual conference. In fact, other conference organizers have asked me how we did this, as they are transitioning their conferences online as well. We’re happy to share what we learned along the way.”

The new virtual format posed some technical and organizational challenges for the conference organizers, but it also offered some exciting new opportunities—for reaching wider audiences, reducing the cost of travel for conference attendees, and improving the diversity of participants from around the globe. The virtual environment allowed moderators to better control the flow of discussions and questions which proved to be more inclusive for the audience members.