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Robert Kelly of Sacramento City College at the Common Assessment Platform Work Group meeting in Sacramento, Sept. 14, 2015.With just two meetings completed, the California Community Colleges (CCC) Common Assessment Initiative (CAI) Platform & Administration Work Group—comprised of more than two dozen participants—is fully engaged.


The team of college IT and assessment experts is working closely with software vendor Unicon to custom design a high-quality systemwide assessment tool that can be used to effectively place students in CCC courses.

“Everyone in the work group is passionate about what they do for their students,” said John Hadad, CAI Product Manager. “Together, they’ve become a cohesive group committed to successfully building a platform that will work for faculty, staff and students at campuses across the state.”

The workgroup has several projects underway:

  • Research current assessment systems to determine what works well and what could be different in the new system to make it more functional.
  • Provide feedback on prototypes of user interface systems as they are developed and refined.
  • Identify all types of student populations and college environments to consider specialized needs.
  • Collect a list of desired features and functions.
  • Prioritize what must be included in a “minimum viable product” to establish a solid foundation that is fully functional.
  • Plan ahead for features and functionality that can be added in a 2.0 release.

Prototypes Examined

At the first meeting, held in August, the work group walked through two prototypes developed by Unicon. “We had a really great discussion about how the system interacts with users,” Hadad said. “The development team benefited from the feedback.”

Seeing the prototypes and hearing the issues proved to be very helpful, according to Hadad. Work group members got a better idea what information to gather from their campuses and bring back to the group.

“Seeing concrete examples increased everyone’s understanding of the project, and reinforced the importance of guiding the process and making the outcome a reality,” he said.

Building A Foundation

Platform Work Group members (left to right) Sharlene Tran and Irina Marsant, both of Sacramento City College, William Duxler of Los Angeles Community College District and Dr. Patricia Banday of West Los Angeles College.During the September meeting, the work group came up with a long list of great ideas to enhance the assessment tool, noted Jennifer Coleman, CAI Statewide Program Director.

“We know that we can’t roll out everything initially,” Coleman explained. “The group developed the mindset to select the most critical components with the goal of defining the ‘minimum viable product.’ All the functions that would be nice to have are being captured and may be included when we are ready to plan version 2.0.”

The group was asked to consider what were necessary features and functions for a high-quality assessment tool that supports student placement.

“We want to be sure that we build a solid foundation that addresses needs for placement in the first phase,” Coleman said. “It is better to focus our energy on building a quality tool that works well. Then we can add on the extras later.”

User Research Planned

To further guide the development of the platform, Hadad has scheduled campus site visits to see demonstrations of current assessment processes. “Observing assessments being conducted in a variety of college environments and speaking with staff will further expand my understanding of the needs in the field,” he said.

In addition, Hadad will be conducting mini-focus groups with those who interact at any stage in the assessment process. “I want to know what they like, what could work better and what the ideal tool would look like from many perspectives,” he said.

Uncovering Unique Needs

The CAI Platform & Administration Work Group is seeking additional input from campuses that have unique environments for conducting assessments. Additionally, the assessment tool is being designed to be inclusive and CAI is interested in identifying any specific student populations that may have unique needs.

If your college assessment program has specialized requirements, please contact John Hadad at 530-413-8583 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The next CAI Platform & Administration Work Group meetings are scheduled on Oct. 14 in Sacramento and Nov. 16 in Irvine. Learn more about CAI at

Karen Fraser-Middleton is a marketing consultant for the
California Community Colleges Common Assessment Initiative