Professors Mull Graduation Test

Brittany Hayes, Reporter

An online assessment for seniors in the business department is causing headaches for students and faculty alike.

Seniors are required to use a verification code to log on and complete the 120-question assessment within a two-hour time limit.

Students were under the impression they must take the assessment to graduate in May, but Dr. Zhen Ma of the business department said it is not a graduation requirement – at least not yet.

“It’s currently not tied to a capstone course, but we will [require it in the future]. We are encouraging students to take this test because better performance on this test means their degrees are worth more,” said Ma.

Ma believes that within the next few years the assessment will be tied to the capstone course and will count for possibly 10% of a student’s final grade.

“In the future even if we tie it to a capstone, it will only be a small percentage. It’s not going to fail someone if they don’t complete it,” said Ma.

Faculty members currently use the assessment to collect data and to help with accreditation.

“Accreditation is a quality assurance process to ensure that the business department or business school is doing what it is supposed to do. Our department voluntarily undergoes an independent appraisal for accreditation. We’ve been doing this for four years. We have been accumulating data so we can use the data to assess our program delivery,” said Ma.

Ma said the test will prove to parents and potential students that a business degree from MU is worthwhile.

“Accreditation of our department means that we are delivery high quality education. We are assuring students’ parents and other stake holders that we are providing good quality business education. It’s also a commitment to continuous improvement because accreditation has to be done every seven years,” said Ma.

Faculty have received data, which have helped to reshape business courses.

Ma said that the two weakest areas in the assessment are marketing and the quantitative methods or statistics portions. Most students perform highest in the ethics portion because the department incorporates ethics into every business class.

“We are not sure why we are weak in marketing. We under- stand the quantitative, because the only core students take is the core math 115, and retentive knowledge is a problem. With these 100 level courses, by the time they graduate they probably forget 50% of the stuff so we understand that, but we don’t understand why marketing is such a weak area,” said Ma.

The business department created a course last semester called Quantitative Methods I to help raise students’ scores. Ma said that there are talks of adding a Quantitative Methods II course within the upcoming years to ensure students are well versed in the subject, but it would be offered as an elective.

“That course will not be for everyone,” said Ma.

Ma said the online assessment is open and will be for about two weeks. Students can complete the exam at their leisure, but he said some students are taking shortcuts.

“So what a student could do is open the test, click finish, and get a zero or they take some random guesses. If the exam is multiple choice, they can hit around 25%. If the score is too low, below 20-25, their performance is not counted because we don’t believe that they actually took the exam. I’m very happy that our students are not doing much of that,” said Ma.
Ma said he has received backlash in the form of an email sent by a student who was concerned about the test.

“To be honest with you, I just got an email from a student because this is not a requirement for graduation and it currently won’t have any bearing on their degrees, but the email said, ‘Does my score on this exam have anything to do with me receiving my degree? It’s inconvenient and I could have spent my time on something more productive. I wasn’t told to take this exam when I got into this program.’ So I’m actually replying to this person right now,” said Ma.

Sophomore Rachel Barnhart, who is a business and health care management major, was dumbfounded by talk of the assessment in one of her classes.

“One of my professors asked a graduating senior in my class about if they had received the code yet. I think they need to be more clear and tell you about it because when I started at Misericordia, I had no idea that I would have to take any sort of assessment,” said Barnhart.

Barnhart was also under the impression that the assessment was the capstone requirement for the business department.

Barnhart said when the time comes, she will take the exam, but if it is not a requirement for graduation then she won’t put as much effort into it as she would for any regular exam.

Ma said faculty will review data from this round of assessment to- wards the end of the semester, but he said scores look good so far.

“I think the overall performance is fine. They are especially good in business ethics. We are emphasizing this in almost everyone business course. Also it’s easier to retain knowledge about business ethics than it is quantitative stuff or principled courses,” said Ma.

Ma said he will compare scores with those of other business schools to see how MU measures up.

Barnhart believes her peers will show relatively good scores on the exam due to the quality of teaching.

“I believe students will do well because the business department professors know what they are doing and are passionate about it so that translates into the classroom,” said Barnhart.

Ma said the assessment helps him to fully understand students’ learning outcomes.

“The assessment is based on the student’s learning outcome so we need an independent external assessment of our program’s delivery and learning outcomes. That is why we are doing these assessment tests,” said Ma.

Ma said the data will be used for accreditation.

“Accreditation has to be done every seven years, and last semester in November the team came and the visit lasted for three days, and they were very satisfied with our work and they were positive that we were doing well,” said Ma.

The University is footing the bill for registration for all business students regardless of whether they complete the test or not.

“Currently we are doing registration for the students. We are paying $50 per registration whether or not the student actually takes the exam,” he said.

Ma said many students don’t realize the importance of the exam, and he hopes they give it a chance.

Ma said the exam may also be tied to the MBA program.

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