About Us

Journalism & Digital Communication Assessment Plan


The Department of Journalism and Digital Communication at the University of South Florida assesses student learning through a variety of formal and informal methods. We monitor student performance on direct and indirect measurements and make changes to our curricula to enhance learning outcomes. Curricular changes based on assessment results include adjustments to critical course assignments, new modules, new instructional methods, new courses and even new degree programs.

Our assessment plan was first conceived in 2002. The latest iteration of the plan, adopted in fall 2022, reflects our current practices around the measurement of student achievement. In our 2009 accreditation report, we were found to be out of compliance on Standard 9, Assessment of Learning Outcomes. Accordingly, we have taken a number of important steps to enhance our evaluation efforts. Revisions to the plan in 2012 and 2015 reflect these changes and are documented herein. Subsequently, we were found in compliance in our 2016 accreditation report. Since then, we have continued to invest in tools to track student learning, making assessment more seamless and, in consequence, more comprehensive.


Assessment has been an important part of Journalism and Digital Communication since the program’s inception in 1991. In 2002, the Department began formalizing its approach to assessment.

Now, assessment occurs both formally and informally. Various technical and nontechnical systems have been developed to incorporate assessment throughout the Department’s activities. Our assessment plan incorporates four core tenets:

  1. Assessment is central to our work. We strive to make assessment a natural part of learning instead of a separate undertaking. This has allowed us to invest heavily in assessment, without diverting time and resources away from our teaching.
  2. Assessment informs curricular planning. We use assessment results to drive curricular changes at both the course and program level. We also rely on assessment data as one important guide in the formation of our long-term strategic plans.
  3. Assessment is comprehensive. Every faculty member, including all adjunct faculty, participates in the assessment process, and all students are assessed in multiple ways at various points in their studies. While input from all faculty are integral to our assessment plan, we especially value the professional insights our adjunct faculty bring to their evaluation of student work.
  4. Assessment is practical. We measure student learning relative to the skills and values that will matter most in their professional careers. We use ACEJMC’s core competencies as a guidepost and supplement as necessary. We acknowledge that the focus of assessment must shift as industry changes emphasize certain competencies over others, with the goal of helping our students meet industry needs


The Department fully embraces the 11 learning competencies defined by ACEJMC. We believe these competencies address skills and values critical to journalists and other professional communicators.

To keep our curricula in sync with industry trends, we have identified two additional competencies to augment those defined by ACEJMC. In 2012, we adopted the Department-specific competencies of business and entrepreneurship and visual literacy. We see understanding the emerging business models and entrepreneurial skills related to changes in the business of journalism as critical for any journalism or mass communication graduate. Given our heavy emphasis on visual communication, including various courses in photojournalism and video storytelling, the adoption of visual literacy is important.

Most classes in our programs touch on most or all the ACEJMC competencies, along with the competencies adopted by the Department in 2012. We believe journalism is best taught by drawing connections among the profession's core skills and values. Rather than isolate competencies, we seek to integrate them.


Consistent with the Department's mission and the overarching strategic goals of the University, we have also identified several high-priority competencies. These include diversity (demonstrate culturally proficient communication that empowers those traditionally disenfranchised in society, especially as grounded in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and ability, domestically and globally, across communication and media contexts) and technology (apply tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work). We believe that these competencies best encapsulate both the skills and values at the core of our programs, and we place special emphasis on class discussions and activities that explore these topics.

Journalism remains in a state of constant flux. Accordingly, we continue to monitor the competencies we address and would consider, as a faculty, the addition or modification of competencies based on the trends that we see.


Beginning in spring 2012, the Department began formally mapping competencies to courses in each of our programs.

We have now identified two critical competencies for each class — whether required and elective — offered by the Department. These competencies are included on every syllabus. They have been selected to ensure students in each of our programs are assessed on all essential knowledge and skills, as defined by ACEJMC.

We use an online database to assign and monitor competencies across our programs. Individual faculty select competencies based on recommendations established at the Departmental level. Such recommendations are periodically reviewed to ensure coverage across the curriculum.

The following table shows the distribution of competencies across our programs. Numbers in parentheses indicate tallies for core/required courses.

Competency Undergraduate Program Graduate Program
Applying Tools & Technologies^ 4 (2) 3 (1)
Business & Entrepreneurship** 2 (0) 3 (0)
Contributing to Knowledge* - 1 (1)
Critical Evaluation 4 (2) 2 (1)
Critical Thinking Skills 3 (2) 3 (1)
Diversity & Cultural Proficiency 3 (2) 3 (1)
Ethical Principles 2 (2) 2 (1)
Freedom of Speech / The Press 2 (2) 1 (1)
Multicultural History 3 (2) 3 (1)
Numerical & Statistical Concepts 4 (2) 3 (1)
Presenting Images & Information 4 (2) 2 (1)
Visual Literacy** 2 (0) 3 (0)
Writing 4 (2) 3 (1)

* This competency applies specifically to the graduate program
** These competencies were added to ACEJMC’s list by the Department in 2012.
^ These are considered high-priority competencies given our mission and strategic plan.


Across our programs, we have identified a critical assessment that measures learning for every competency assigned to each course. These assessments form the basis of our data collection efforts.

At the end of each semester, faculty submit raw scores for each critical assessment for their courses. Faculty also reflect on what the results say about student learning and report on what course changes might make sense given the results. This information is entered and stored in a Departmental database. All Department faculty, including adjuncts, participate in this process.

Individual entries are compiled into Academic Learning Compacts (ALCs) -- state-mandated annual reports that summarize student learning in five critical areas. We have brought our ACEJMC competencies in alignment with ALCs by assigning each of the 12 competencies we track to an ALC category. The following table shows this mapping:

Academic Learning Compact Category ACEJMC/Department Competency
Content/Discipline Skills

Applying Tools & Technologies
Ethical Principles
Freedom of Speech / The Press
Presenting Images & Information

Communication Skills

Critical Evaluation
Numerical & Statistical Concepts
Visual Literacy

Critical Thinking Skills

Contributing to Knowledge
Critical Thinking Skills

Civic Engagement Business & Entrepreneurship
Multiculturalism / Diversity Diversity & Cultural Proficiency

We have adopted an 80% standard for mastery. If a student achieves a score of at least 80% on a critical assessment, they are assumed to have achieved mastery on the related competency.


Journalism and Digital Communication believes that, to be useful, assessment must inform how we teach our students and run our Department. We look for multiple opportunities to “close the loop,” using assessment results to change what and how we teach.

  • As part of the data collection process, faculty reflect on their courses and interpret student performance on critical assignments.
  • Beginning in spring 2015, faculty began holding an end-of-semester meeting to discuss assessment results and changes to curricula.



Senior Capstone Seminar: The Department  requires all students to take a capstone course, Senior Seminar. 

Student Outcomes in Core & Elective Classes: Each faculty member assesses each course in terms of how students meet requirements involving two competencies. This constitutes the bulk of the Department's assessment in terms of teaching effectiveness and measurement of learning at the student level.

The Department maintains an Academic Learning Compact, in which more general assessments occur at the assignment level, measuring effectiveness of teaching and learning of Departmental objectives, most of which are part of the 12 competencies.

Graduate Students’ Culminating Projects: Graduate students complete a thesis or applied research project, both of which indicate effectiveness of teaching/learning in general and specific knowledge, ability to apply concepts, diversity and multiculturalism, and other areas of our mission and the competencies.

Internships: The Department keeps records of student placement in internships, including evaluations from site supervisors.


Curriculum & Program Review: Faculty discuss program direction formally and informally with one another, with professionals and with students. Email correspondence within the Department frequently includes attached articles and blogs about changes, trends, innovations and ideas in journalism and media. Faculty members talk with students in and out of the classroom and they talk with graduate assistants, who talk to undergraduates. The Department has, since its inception, been highly communicative and open and this indirect means of assessing our curriculum has proven effective.

Student Performance in Local, Regional & National Contests: The Department monitors students’ success in contests.

Student Surveys, Student Exit Interviews & Alumni Surveys: The Department conducts student surveys and alumni surveys to determine employment and other post-graduation activities and to determine satisfaction with and value of the program.


Assessment for our Department has become highly formalized. We have developed technical and nontechnical assessment to monitor student learning in an ongoing, consistent fashion. We look for opportunities to adjust our curricula at both the course and program level in light of student performance. And we continue to seek feedback through informal channels.

Despite the ways we have standardized our approach, we also look for ways to further streamline and improve our methods. One important initiative that we believe will have important effects on how we assess student learning is the development of a new syllabus template project. This web-based tool will help us construct consistent syllabi across our programs. It will provide faculty with a standard interface with which to build their syllabi and make it easier to track critical assessments. It will also provide insight into how our courses and curricula evolve over time.