Justin Bitner started his academic career as an English major, but his role as the new director of Webster’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) will involve a lot more statistics.
Bitner has been with Webster for six years, serving as interim director since last July.
The OIE centers on five functions: institutional accreditation, student learning outcome assessment, institutional research, data reporting and data management.
Provost Julian Schuster said the OIE is like a clearinghouse for the university. Long-term data reflecting the operations and evolution of the institution are compiled and preserved by the office.
Vice Provost Nancy Hellerud said she works with Bitner looking for trends in the data that they will then prepare in a presentation and report to the deans of each school about their student outcomes.
“[Bitner] is the main supplier of data to the leadership teams who want to both know how they’re doing at things and make good decisions,” Hellerud said.
Bitner received his bachelor’s degree in English from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and his master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Loyola University in Chicago.
Webster’s main accreditation is from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which accredits colleges in 19 states. Each year, the faculty in each department do a report on the student learning outcomes in their department.
“The process of reaccreditation is also the process of introspection; [it] gives us an ability to see things which we sometimes take for granted,” Schuster said. “This is going to be a good thing to see what are we doing, what are we doing well, and what we can do better.”
Schuster said the university is getting everything in order and what is needed in order to go through the process of reaccreditation for 2018.
Hellerud also works with the academic resource center and said they have a tutoring program that can use that data to see the top 10 courses at Webster in which students have a D or lower.
“What we report to the [HLC], what we report to IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System), is all vetted through the [OIE],” Schuster said.
Hellerud said it is a continuous process of tracking what is happening with not just students, but faculty as well.
“The effectiveness is not really with the OIE, it’s probably with the groups that are wanting to achieve these recognitions,” Hellerud said.
Bitner declined to comment to The Journal.