01 December 2009

The Cost of Assessment: Creating a Simple Model

In preparing for a workshop at SACS, a colleague and I made a first-time addition for a conference presentation: we're going to talk dollars. The topic arose in a different venue as we discussed portfolio costs with a vendor. Afterward, we turned to our work of that day, which was to finalize the agenda for a 3-hour pre-conference workshop.

The discussion with the vendor brought us to that new idea of sharing the costs of supporting faculty in the work of outcomes assessment. Sharing workshops and materials is common in the assessment world. While vendors may not give away too much, even they invite trial uses of SaaS and products. Conference presenters from universities commonly offer their templates for widespread use and thus many institutions' instruments carry provisos such as "modified from...."

This year, we plan to add the crucial information of just how much it costs to produce those materials. We are not performing the cost analysis of salary, benefits, etc. We are using hourly and project wages that are independent of regular paychecks. So, we are outlining what it would cost an institution to hire a part-time worker to perform certain tasks. That's not necessarily what the work is worth. And it's not necessarily the reward that would satisfy faculty members who have been doing assessment "out of their hide." But it is a pragmatic measure that brings perspective to the work of assessment.

Example to support an ePortfolio in a Master's program:

A model for ePortfolio Coaches (assume two of them) to support students in a tracking ePortfolio: hourly wage of $20 for a Master's-prepared Coach with experience in using the portfolio software. Assume a ratio of 1:375, quarter-time employment, that works because the program is in its first year. The next step is to reduce the ratio to 1:250, which means bringing on a 3rd Coach. You may have already made the calculation: it's about $30,000/year (just for the support staff).

Example to facilitate a faculty group's creation of a plan:
Using a consultant model, assume $75/hr fees for assisting a faculty group in designing an assessment plan. The rest of the equation is how many hours does it take, of course. In the case of designing a plan? We have found 10 hours to be about right: 5 in facilitating meetings and 5 in creating materials. So, a program's plan may cost $750 to create.

What the examples offer:
Having a model to work from does not answer an institution's decision-making around whether to fund such a project! But it does bring into focus the real-world aspects of planning for assessment work.
Would the numbers differ from one institution to the next? Sure.

© 2009 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Email contact: bold[AT]marybold.com. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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