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Glossary of Terms

Academic and Student Support ServicesPrograms and services that are consistent with the institution’s mission, which aims to enhance the educational and personal development of all students, to contribute to the achievement of teaching and learning outcomes, to ensure students meet program goals, and to provide various support services and programs to students at all locations.

Acceptable ThresholdThe minimum expected level of achievement; units will demonstrate its effectiveness by establishing acceptable thresholds for each target.

AccreditationAccreditation helps determine if an institution meets or exceeds minimum standards of quality, assists students in determining acceptable institutions for enrollment, and assists institutions in determining acceptability of transfer credits.

Action PlanUnits will create actions for improvement based on the results to increase effectiveness. Plans must focus on increasing the unit’s quality and effectiveness as well as making sure outcomes are consistent with the institution’s mission.

Administrative UnitsUnits led by Vice Presidents. Administrative Units comprise the following: Office of the President, Academic Affairs, Administrative Services, Finance, Institutional Effectiveness and Student Success, College Computing, Strategic Partnerships and Workforce Innovation, and Student Services.

Annual Planning and Evaluation Report (APER)A compilation of administrative and campus units’ reports that demonstrate to SACS institutional effectiveness and continuous improvement. Units report on expected outcomes, measures, targets, acceptable thresholds, justifications for thresholds, results, use of results, and actions for improvement in order to be effective.

AssessmentThe collection, review, and use of data to aid in the improvement of administrative and campus units. Assessment is a process that includes developing expected outcomes, finding appropriate measures and materials that fit the outcomes, and determining how well the outcomes have been met based upon data collected via the measures used.

Campus UnitsUnits led by Provosts. Campus units comprise the following: Office of the Provost, Campus Operations, Campus Community Relations, Campus Academic Divisions, Learning and Technology Resources, and Student Services.

Direct MeasureAssessment of information based on actual performance or direct demonstration of efficacy. Direct measures for administrative or campus units include quantitative reports, performance evaluations/appraisals, or financial reports.

Expected OutcomeWhat a unit expects to achieve to be effective. Most outcomes will remain consistent for the length of NOVA’s strategic plan. Expected outcomes can be further categorized as learning or operational (see below for definitions of each). Regardless of the type of outcome the unit uses, outcomes should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART).

Expected Learning OutcomeOutcomes that units expect students, faculty, or staff to learn. Clear learning outcomes answer questions such as: What does it look like? What will the student/faculty/staff be able to do?

Expected Operational OutcomeOutcomes that units expect to achieve. Clear operational outcomes answer questions such as: What aspects of the unit are functioning well? What does it look like?

ImprovementUnits will describe areas that did not meet the target or acceptable threshold.

Indirect Measure – Assessment of information that is based on perceived efficacy versus direct demonstration. Indirect measures for administrative or campus units include focus group discussions, job satisfaction surveys, meeting discussions.

IPASS Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (IPASS) is an integrative approach to student success that promotes shared ownership for educational progress among students, faculty, and staff. See also VIP-PASS.

Justification of ThresholdAn explanation describing how the acceptable threshold was set. Examples include: Benchmark based on last year’s data; benchmark based on national data; data will be collected this year to establish a benchmark.

MeasureTools units use to determine if the expected outcome is achieved. Measures include surveys, rubrics, quantitative reports, performance evaluation, focus group discussions, etc. Measures can be either direct or indirect.

Mission StatementA statement in which all aspects of the institution’s functions are stated. The mission statement serves as a basis for evaluating institutional effectiveness.

NOVA Mission StatementWith commitment to the principles of access, opportunity, student success, and excellence, the mission of Northern Virginia Community College is to deliver world-class in-person and online post-secondary teaching, learning, and workforce development to ensure our region and the Commonwealth of Virginia have an educated population and globally competitive workforce.

PlanningAspect of the planning and evaluation process that includes developing expected outcomes and finding appropriate measures and materials that fit the outcomes.

Previous ActionsBrief description of actions the unit has implemented prior to the current evaluation. Includes when (semester/year) the previous action was implemented and who (position) implemented it.

Public AccountabilityThe obligation to become more transparent to the general public (e.g. students and families) about cost, price, student success outcomes, and administrative and campus unit effectiveness.

Purpose StatementDescribes how the program or unit will advance NOVA’s mission and strategic plan, reflects the fundamental reasons a unit exists, outlines its values and functions, and identifies key stakeholders and constituents.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)The accrediting body of Northern Virginia Community College that allows our institution to award associate degrees. When an institution has earned accreditation by SACSCOC, it signifies that it has “a purpose appropriate to higher education and has resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain that purpose.” In order to be accredited, institutions have to prove its continuous improvement of effectiveness, its enhancement of educational quality, and meet other standards set by SACSCOC.

SACSCOC Principle 7.3The institution identifies expected outcomes of its administrative support services and demonstrates the extent to which the outcomes are achieved (Administrative effectiveness)

SACSCOC Principle 8.2.cThe institution identifies expected outcomes, assesses the extent to which it achieves those outcomes, and provides evidence of seeking improvement based on analysis of the results for academic and student services that support student success. (Student outcomes: academic and student services)

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV)The state-level regulatory body of institutions of higher education, SCHEV is responsible for determining educational goals/policies for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Northern Virginia Community College is approved to operate as an institution of higher education in the State of Virginia by SCHEV.

Strategic Plan ObjectiveNOVA’s Strategic Plan includes the following nine objectives:

  1. Student Advising Support
  3. Informed Pathways for Seamless Transitions
  4. Effective Processes/Protocols
  5. Align for Accountability with College Mission
  6. Workforce Development/Community Prosperity
  7. IT and Cyber Programs
  8. Re-envision Workforce Strategies
  9. Healthcare, Biotech, and Future Programs

Expected outcomes are mapped to one or more of the objectives in NOVA’s Strategic Plan.

TargetA specific percentage, number, or data point that the unit hopes to achieve.

Use of ResultsWhat the unit has been doing based on previous results and what the unit will do based on current results to improve unit effectiveness.

VIP-PASS Virginia Integrated Program of Planning and Advising for Student Success. See also IPASS.

Virginia’s Community Colleges / Virginia Community College System (VCCS)Oversees a network of 23 community colleges in Virginia, which serve residents of Virginia and provide two-year degrees and various specialty training and certifications.