This Shared Glossary is designed to provide standardized terminology definitions for our work toward providing student-centered education and the best learning experiences we can for our Students!

Contributions are open for all NTC Faculty and Staff to request changes of any terms to be defined. Definitions will be reviewed and they are open for question and modification at any time through open discussion and shared communications. These are not intended to be the finalized or absolute meaning we apply to terms we use. How and why we use words is in every way a dynamic and always growing process. This is simply a guide to understanding the broad terminology, acronyms, or other subjects that we all need to be familiar with or have reference to daily. Definitions are added as they apply to NTC policy and practice and are written based on each employees recommendations.

This page is created by the Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment Coordinator, Paula DeMars. Feel free to contact Paula with any requests for additions, clarifications, or deletions as needed. You can also contact the Web Team to request a change to website content.

Let’s try to keep this in alphabetical order or alpha-numeric as needed:

Academic Program    Review also referred to as “3-Year Review”

The purpose of Academic Program Review is to reflect upon the Academic Program as a whole in relation to student achievement, program improvement, and consider advances in the field that can support program success.

The Academic Program Review is performed by each program every three (3) years and is documented in policy series 3075 Academic Program Review (3075-1- 01).

  • The 3-year Review process incorporates results from the Annual Program Student Learning Outcome Improvement Plan and Report process.
  • Summary Annual Improvement Reports (Form 3115-4-02) from the previous three (3) years are included as supporting documentation in the 3-year Review.
  • The Academic Program Review takes a broader assessment of Program student achievement, efforts of Program improvement, cost-benefit analyses, retention/graduation/placement and other factors that influence Program success.
  • Academic Program Review encompasses alignment between courses, course student learning outcomes and the Program and program student learning outcomes as an effective teaching and learning process toward student achievement.
  • Academic Program Review includes a quantitative and qualitative data review
Academic Affairs and Standards Council – AASC

The Academic Affairs and Standards Council is charged with providing faculty guidance and direction to the college president or designee in “all proposals regarding academic affairs and standards”, including course outlines, academic standards, course and program components and the inventory of course and program offerings.

The Academic Affairs and Standards Council is a faculty led committee established for the purpose of reviewing curriculum, academic standards and providing peer feedback and approval of curriculum modifications and new programs or courses for the institution. Their purpose is to advance program success across all college divisions.

Academic Affairs and Standards Council annually receives and reviews the Summary Program Improvement Report (Form 3115-4-02)  for each Program to assess effective participation in Improvement Planning and Reporting and may provide summary recommendations or comments to any program as needed.

Policies related to Assessment

(Academic Policy explanation of coding)

Academic policies fall in the 3xxx range of policy numbers. The identification of policy development numbers is as follows:
  • A “range” number is a set of policies falling under a general topical subject (range) and listed by a 4-digit numerical number identified by the first digit indicating the subject (i.e., 3xxx are Academic policies)
  • A “series” of policies is a group of policies, processes, procedures, and forms sharing the same topic, such as Series 3115 is a reference to Annual Student Outcome Assessment series.
    • Policies are numbered with a “1” after the range number, i.e., 3115-1-xx is a Policy.
    • Processes are numbered with a “2” after the range number, i.e., 3115-2-xx is a Process.
    • Procedures are Individualized Instructions numbered with a “3” after the range number, i.e., 3115-3-xx is an Individualized Instruction.
    • Individualized instruction itemizes the responsibilities one person has to the policy being implemented, performed or validated – as in the responsibilities of individual Faculty, or a Division Dean.
    • Forms are numbered with a “4” after the range number, i.e., 3115-4-xx is a form to be used in performing responsibilities for documentation to the 3115 series of policies.
  • The final two digits in a policy number are numerical form entries providing independent identification of each Form, i.e., 3115-4-03 is a Form (4) and the 3rd numbered (“03”) in the 3115 series; 3115-2-02 is a Process (2) and the 2nd number (“02”) in the 3115 series; and so on.
  • There is one oddity in numbering of Policies which happens very infrequently. This is the extra decimal and numerical designation of a sub-process to an existing Process within a Series. The only example is 3115-2-01.1 which identifies the Process for Creating Program Outcomes for New Programs, under the process 3115-2-01 which is for Validating Program Student Learning Outcomes.
    • The special sub-process is set apart due to the uniquely required approval process for Program Student Learning Outcomes, necessitating a review and “validation” by the Program’s Advisory Committee prior to submitting to the Division Dean and the Academic Affairs and Standards Council for approval. This special circumstance is only used for a set of new student learning outcomes for a new program.
Alignment Alignment ensures that course instruction, assessments and course learning outcomes support (align with) the program learning outcomes in guiding students’ developing knowledge and an instructor’s teaching goals.
Annual Program Student Learning Outcome Assessment Plan and Report

The purpose of the Annual Program Student Learning Outcome Assessment Plan and Report is to assess student achievement of program student learning outcomes as a method of understanding where teaching and learning can be improved to increase student success.

The Annual Program Student Learning Outcome Assessment encompasses the completion of the following forms:

  1. Annual Program Student Learning Outcome Improvement Plan (i.e., Program Improvement Plan, form 3115-4-02)
  2. Annual Program Student Learning Outcome Improvement Report (i.e., Program Improvement Report, form 3115-4-04)
  3. Validation of Student Learning Outcomes (form 3115-4-01)
  4. Minutes of the meeting of the Advisory Committee reviewing the Student Learning Outcomes

Supplementary and supporting information documenting improvement/program modification or upon request of the Division Dean.

Award The completion of the program required, and elective courses, which offers an award of a certificate, a diploma or a degree of Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science.
Co-curricular Learning activities, programs and experiences that reinforce the institution’s mission and values and complement the formal curriculum. Examples include student-faculty research experiences, service learning, professional clubs or organizations, honor societies, career services, internships. HLC website definition and information.
Cohort A group of students, who begin a program at the same time, and whose progress is followed and measured at different points in time throughout their program of study.
Common Course Outline The official document approved by the college to communicate information about college courses. Common course outlines are required to be posted on the college website. Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. 2020. System Procedure 3.22.1: Course Outlines and Course Syllabi. Last Review 8/10/20.
Curriculum Map

Identifies the intersection of program student learning outcomes with courses and course student learning outcomes. Through the alignment of courses, which by virtue of their course learning outcomes, meet specific program outcomes to illustrate the teaching and learning plan for a program of study. A curriculum map must list course numbers with the course title to be an effective tool.

A full curriculum map includes where certain critical concepts of the program learning outcomes are introduced, reinforced or mastered within the program. The map illustrates a balance in the teaching process by highlighting gaps in curriculum, needs for modification at either the course or program level, and provides opportunities to visually acknowledge where assessments are best placed.

A partial curriculum map, illustrating only the mastery level of program student learning outcome assessment, is the level required by the Annual Student Outcome Assessment process.

Distance Education – new Federal definition

Education that uses on or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor or instructors and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor or instructors, either synchronously or asynchronously.

“HLC: Substantive Change: Distance or Correspondence Education”. In January 2021, the U.S. Department of Education informed accreditors and institutions that it rescinded Dear Colleague Letter-06-17. Definition: “distance education programs were not required to be evaluated or approved by an accrediting agency if the institution did not offer more than 50% of its courses via distance education, have more than 50% of its students enrolled in distance education, or offer more than 50% of an educational program via distance education”

In effect, this change means that if an institution offers any program in whole or in part through distance education—even as little as one distance education course in an otherwise in-person program—it must be evaluated and approved to offer distance education programs by its accreditor. HLC webpage definition.

Graduation rate Officially, the graduation rate of an institution is the percentage of first-time, first-year undergraduate students who complete their program within 150% of the published time for the program.
  • For a two-year program, the graduation rate is counted for those who complete their program within 3 years.
  • For a 1-year program, the graduation rate is counted for those who complete their program within 1.5 years.
Interim Report To the Higher Learning Commission: A report filed by an institution to provide updates to HLC on progress in addressing a serious issue at the institution, the resolution of which is relevant to the institution’s future complains with, or improvement regarding, the Criteria for Accreditation. HLC glossary definition.
Key Performance Indicators (KPI) Also called “benchmarking” Indicators are designed to measure a students’ ability to directly demonstrate knowledge and skills; further used to compare performance, processes, or practices with peers. They are standards by which a students’ performance is evaluated. Performance criteria help faculty maintain objectivity and provide students with important information about expectations.
Likert scale A measure of response based on a numerical scale representing a measurement of a response to a statement. A Likert scale can represent few to many levels of a response and puts a numerical measurement to a qualitative response for purposes of evaluation.
NESS Law NESS law (MN Statute 136F.32) provides that you cannot have a technical course in a diploma or certificate program which is not also in a degree program.
Performance-based Assessment A test of the ability to apply knowledge in a real-life setting. Assessment of performance is done using a rubric, or analytic scoring guide to aid in objectivity.
Placement rate A placement rate is the measurement of graduates employed in the careers for which they were trained. Placement rates are published by Career Services annually. They include student achievement results from graduates biennially – 2 years behind the current academic year.
Program advisory committee

A group of representatives from business and industry who provide input and feedback for technical programs to ensure up- to-date curriculum, suggest innovative and new technologies, give input on recommended equipment for use in lab courses, and offer general feedback on the impact of the program.

Required by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Policy 3.30 and Minnesota Statutes (§3505.1400 Local Advisory Committee) governed by the Office of Higher Education.

Qualitative data Data that does not lend itself to numerical measurement but rather to interpretive criteria. Often used to enhance the relativity of quantitative data in understanding effective or ineffective practices. Performance based assessment takes interpretation of performance and measures against specific expectations in a rubric to convert the performance (or interpretation) into quantifiable (quantitative) data as in a Likert scale.
Quantitative data Data that can be analyzed using measurements of data against KPI. Enables results to be compared across similar units and time. Quantitative data is always summative.
Regular interaction

An institution ensures regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors by, prior to the student’s completion of a course:

1.     Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency; and

2.     Monitoring the student’s academic engagement and success and ensuring that an instructor is responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with the student when needed on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student. See substantive interaction below.

Retention rate

The “official definition” of retention rate is the percentage of first-time, first-year undergraduate students who continue into the next year.

Retention rates are calculated within programs by taking the total number of students registered at the 30-day mark in the first semester, subtracting the number of students who withdraw after the 30-day mark, followed by the number of students in that program who graduate after the initial semester total, then dividing that number by the total number of students at the 30-day mark of the semester following the first semester.

Rubric Defined as a tool that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing criteria, and for each criterion, describing levels of quality of performance to be met for that criterion. Rubrics are markers of quality that provide a clear idea about what must be done to demonstrate a level of mastery, understanding, and proficiency in evaluating a performance-based assignment.
Stacked programs/Nested Programs built with increasing subjects of study and credit hours leading to higher degree awards; with certificate(s) and/or diploma(s) that are optional subsets of a larger diploma or a degree award.
Substantive Interaction

Engaging students in teaching, learning and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least two of the following:

1. Providing direct instruction

2. Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s coursework

3. Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency

4. Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency; or

5. Other instructional activities approved by HLC or the program’s accrediting agency.

From: Higher Learning Commission website glossary: “regular and substantive interaction”.

Syllabi (plural), syllabus (singular)

Syllabi are based upon the official Course Outline listed on the Course Descriptions & Outlines webpage. Course Outlines are required by Minnesota State State Colleges and Universities, Policy 3.22 Course Outlines and Course Syllabi along with Procedure 3.22.1 of the same title, to be available publicly. Syllabi must include all information provided on the Course Outline, then be tailored to the individual instructor with the instructor’s name, contact information, and office hours, and it must include a week-by-week description of course subjects for study, assignment, and exam dates.

Syllabi are considered intellectual property of the instructor by state statute; however, the college maintains the right to file a copy each semester for each course being taught (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Policy 3.26 Intellectual Property).