UCCS is rewarding students who take standardized tests with Amazon gift cards.
Students will receive a $10 Amazon gift card per assessment and be entered into a raffle to win a $50 Amazon gift card, which is up to $60 for about 30 minutes of test-taking.
The three tests being offered are proficiency profile tests for freshmen and seniors and a civic competency and engagement test for seniors. Seniors must have 90 or more credit hours to take the assessments.
More information on student assessments, including eligibility and how to take them, can be found on the Student Assessment page.
Phillip Haisley, assistant director of UCCS compass general education curriculum, said the tests are meant to measure how much students learn during their time at UCCS.
“What we’re trying to do, especially with the proficiency profiles, is look at what kinds of basic knowledge and skills our freshmen come in with, and then see if we see any improvement with those basic knowledges and skills,” Haisley said.
The data from the proficiency profiles is then used to compare UCCS’ test results to other universities and identify changes that should be made to UCCS’ curriculum.
Student assessments are also essential to accreditation, a review process that determines if educational programs meet quality standards. UCCS must demonstrate student achievements to the Higher Learning Commission to be accredited as a university with the right to grant degrees.
The civic competency and engagement test measures the quality of UCCS’ civics education across all majors.
The test includes survey questions that measure how competent a student feels in a particular area on a scale of one to five, alongside multiple-choice questions similar to the SAT or ACT.
“This benefits future students. It benefits your professors and UCCS as a whole … It keeps UCCS open and accredited … It makes your degree matter more,” Haisley said.
According to Haisley, the test will likely be replaced with a different test to assess other areas of UCCS general education in future years.
Haisley said student assessments are voluntary because UCCS doesn’t have the budget to test all of its students, and it would be unreasonable to ask all students to take the assessments without better compensation.
UCCS typically looks for a sample size of about 200 students for each test. When Haisley sees that 200 students have taken a test, he will close it to make sure compass general education isn’t going above their allotted budget for assessments.
Although Haisley believes the way student assessments are conducted is what’s best for UCCS, he is aware of the problems with this mode of data-gathering.
With any sample made up of volunteers, there is a risk of over- or under-representing certain populations. “The thing that’s most important for me is that we get representation from across all the different majors and colleges,” Haisley said.
The tests are also not tied to student grades or GPA, which may pose problems for test results.
“I think any kind of test that you give that people don’t have an incentive to do well on … the reliability of those numbers is somewhat suspect,” Haisley said, “I like to think that this test is simple enough that people will answer honestly and take the time to answer correctly, especially since they know they’re going to be rewarded.”
UCCS does check to make sure the tests are fully completed before giving students gift cards, but students can still breeze through the test to get it done as soon as possible.
“I know that this is not a thing that people enjoy — just taking tests for the sake of taking tests — but the data that we collect is valuable and is used to make decisions, and we hope to incentivize you guys and reward you for your time by offering those gift cards to you,” Haisley said.
Student assessments offered by UCCS. Photo by Meghan Germain.