AMS FAQs and Basic Navigation

Here are answers to some of the most common AMS questions along with a walkthrough video of Basic Navigation in AMS:


Basic Navigation in AMS (~10 minutes)

Click the expand icon on the video's lower right side for larger and fullscreen viewing.




What is AMS?

Who are AMS users and what do they do in AMS?

What is a workspace?

What is a participating area?

What is an institutional hierarchy (aka: institutional structure)?

What kinds of data can I (as a user) enter in AMS?

Can I get my data out of AMS?

Who can see the data I enter in AMS?

Will I receive feedback on my inputted data?

Can you provide examples of workspaces?

Can I run reports?

Can I run aggregated reports to include other participating areas?

What else can I do in AMS?

What is the Message Center?


1. What is AMS?

AMS, the Accountability Management System, was developed in 2009 to help partner institutions plan and organize their assessment and continuous improvement processes. The AMS platform allows administration and/or faculty to enter outcomes, measures, actions, statuses, narratives, and supporting documentation to create assessment plans
and document findings/anticipated improvements.
Clients usually use AMS for:
● Accreditation preparation
● General education/discipline-specific/non-academic assessment
● Program review
● Strategic planning

Note: AMS contains many fields for narratives, but can also accommodate document repositories, curriculum or activity maps, and alignment to standards or goal sets. It also facilitates collaboration between colleagues because many users can be enrolled in and edit one participating area’s workspace(s).


2. Who are AMS users and what do they do in AMS?

An "AMS user" is usually a faculty member, staff member, and/or data entry team member who has assessment responsibilities at the institution. A user's homepage will give her/him access to workspaces, which correspond to varying types of assessment (annual outcomes assessment for academic or non-academic units, strategic planning,program review, accreditation, etc.). Users respond to the workspace’s prompts for information to help plan, manage, document, and close the loop on the institution’s assessment processes.


3. What is a workspace?

A workspace is a data silo which lists prompts for information, and provides spaces for the user(s) to respond. Participating areas in the institution are enrolled into a workspace. Users affiliated with a participating area see and collaborate on entering data into the area’s instance/copy of the workspace. One participating area will not see another area’s workspace data, by default; however, this can be arranged.


4. What is a participating area?

A participating area is any part of your institutional hierarchy. A participating area can be a course, program, school, department, office, and/or other academic or non-academic division, etc.


5. What is an institutional hierarchy (aka: institutional structure)?

An institutional hierarchy and an institutional structure are the same. Your institutional lead will submit a hierarchy (template provided by AMS), which includes each unit in your organization who will manage assessment and accreditation activities in AMS. To organize your institution’s participating areas, your hierarchy will be created as a tree structure, with one or more branches. Each branch can have its own unique sub-structure and terminology.

Hierarchies consist of participating areas, which refer to your institution’s levels


6. What kinds of data can I (as a user) enter in AMS?

AMS is a flexible platform, and to respond to a prompt for info, the user can write a narrative, upload documents and/or images, upload or embed media, or respond to a custom form created by the manager. The data will live in AMS, a cloud-based platform, for the length/longevity of the institution's contract with Watermark.

7. Can I get my data out of AMS?

At any time, the user(s) and/or manager(s) can export a workspace’s inputted content to PDF, Word, or the web. If exporting to the web, the user(s) can choose to password-protect the URL or make it public.

8. Who can see the data I enter in AMS?

When a manager creates a workspace, s/he will enroll different parts of the institution in that workspace. Users, who are affiliated with the same parts of the institution, will enter data into that workspace. This means those users will not only be able to see who has responded to a prompt for info, but those users will be able to edit each other's data as well. This approach aligns with AMS' goal to foster collaboration.


9. Will I receive feedback on my inputted data?

If your manager has enabled review methods, you/your participating area's collaborators will be able to submit your data and receive a score and/or feedback within AMS.


10. Can you provide examples of workspaces?

Our most popular workspaces templates include:
● Cyclical Assessment and Planning
o This standard workspace allows users to respond to similar (or the same prompts) each cycle. Our
most popular cycle length is annual, and in this case, each yearly period is its own category
o The structure usually includes a standing requirements category (mission statement,
outcomes/objectives, curriculum/activity map) followed by cyclical categories (i.e. 2017-2018
academic cycle, 2018-2019 academic cycle, etc.) that can span any length of time
o The cyclical categories consist of the AMS core assessment processes, which are these four
▪ Assessment plan/measures
▪ Findings
▪ Operational/continuous improvement plan/actions and status updates

● Strategic Planning
o This standard workspace structure is identical to the one above; however, the requirement names are
changes to correspond to commonly-used strategic planning terminology

● Program Review
o This standard workspace structure varies widely across institutions, but includes mostly custom
requirements/narrative responses
o Workspace managers ask users to write narratives analyzing their accomplishments over a period
time and indicating their plans to improve in the future (like a SWOT analysis)
o Any part of the AMS core assessment processes may be included; however, our best practices
suggest users run reports on the AMS core assessment processes from the cyclical assessment and
planning workspaces and upload them as substantiating evidence or support for the analysis

● Accreditation
o Your AMS account is pre-populated with workspace templates created by Watermark based
on published standards for a variety of international, regional, and specialized accrediting bodies
o These templates list a requirement for each specific standard and describe the standard’s
content/description in the Directions box for the requirement
o Users respond to the standards and provide substantiating evident in the form of attachments


  • You can add new categories to the same workspace, so all historical data is housed in one area, or (as mentioned above) you can use the same template in multiple workspaces
  • Used templates cannot be deleted, but they can be archived
  • You can publish all workspaces to the web (with or without a password), to PDF, or to Word


11. Can I run reports?

Users can run reports from the homepage of their accounts. A drop-down menu appears to the right of each participating area. Choosing a report type will allow you to then filter and see the report’s output. Most reports allow you to drill down to see more granular information about your participating area.

12. Can I run aggregated reports to include other participating areas?

Only managers can run reports across (i.e. including) multiple participating areas. Depending on the workspace type, the reports can be comparative, quantitative, or qualitative. Your institutional lead can grant you the reporting permission at various levels at the institution (for the entire institution, for a college in the institution, for a department, etc.).


13. What else can I do in AMS?

● You can build webpages and distribute the URL to both AMS and non-AMS users
● You can create simple forms (for inclusion in workspaces or for public distribution)
● You can use send messages through the message center
● You can create a dialogue with your colleagues on a requirement-by-requirement basis in a workspace, by using the Discussion tab


14. What is the Message Center?

To access this tool, click Messages in your top navigation toolbar. You can then click Compose to send a message to one or more colleagues. When you click into the "To" field, your Member Locator will pop up. You can use this window to search for either a single colleague, or you can search through your organizational hierarchy in the left-hand column to send a message to all individuals affiliated with a certain Participating Area if you wanted to provide feedback just for that program or unit.
When a user receives a message from the Message Center, they will also receive an email notification of the message with its content. All records of messages are saved in a Message Center Inbox and Sent Folder, like most email, to keep track of communication with your colleagues.




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