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Adams Hall B20
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
(815) 753-8659

The Collegiate Learning Assessment

Frequently Asked Questions for Faculty and Staff

  • Why did we conduct the CLA?
    NIU participates in an initiative called the Voluntary System of Accountability, a initiative designed to increase transparency for public 4-year institutions. Participating universities share information about their university and students in a web template titled The College Portrait.
  • Who participated in the CLA?
    With each annual administration of CLA, a minimum of 100 freshmen students and 100 seniors were sampled. Freshmen were sampled from sections of UNIV 101, while seniors were sampled from upper-division courses such as capstone courses.
  • When did CLA testing take place?
    The testing window for Spring 2013 was January 28th through February 28th. In order to accomodate every student, test sessions were made available mornings and afternoons on most weekdays. A select number of evening and Saturday sessions were also made available. Most took place in one of the ITS computer labs. Students were allowed up to 90min to complete CLA (allotted time varies depend on task assigned). Thus, faculty never had to forfeit class time for their students to take the CLA.
  • How did my students sign up to take CLA?
    Students selected from a list of scheduled times to take the CLA outside of class time. Some instructors arranged a time for their section to take CLA as a group.
  • How did CLA participation benefit students?
    Each student received an individualized score report highlighting their strengths and weaknesses in critical thinking, analytic reasoning, and written communication and comparing their performance to other NIU students and to students across the country. Students are free to highlight their participation and/or results on a resume or vita. The tasks and skills in CLA are real-world oriented and will benefit students in continued education and as they enter the workforce. By participating in a process that measures the value-added to NIU's undergraduates, students are also helping to shape the perception of what it means to have an NIU degree.
  • Can I see an example of the tasks students encounter on CLA?
    Yes. Sample tasks can be viewed here.
  • How did faculty know if their class/section was selected to be part of the sample for CLA?
    Senior-level courses were selected according to a five-year rotating cycle developed with the CLA Course Designation Forms that were submitted by department chairs in the summer of 2011.
  • Was CLA graded? Was it included it when calculating course grades?
    Performance on the CLA was not factored into the course grade. Instructors decided whether participation points were assigned for completing CLA. As we aimed to test the entire class/section, participation points have shown to be effective in motivating students to participate.
  • Who can I contact for more information?
    • For more information please call the Office of Assessment Services at 815-753-1197.
    • You may also visit the CLA website for more information by clicking here
  • Spring 2012 Results
  • Spring 2013 Results