I was pleasantly surprised to come across a great definition of academic assessment in the first Google entry from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York (http://cms.skidmore.edu/assessment/FAQ/what-is-assessment.cfm):
Tom Angelo once summarized it this way: "Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance. When it is embedded effectively within larger institutional systems, assessment can help us focus our collective attention, examine our assumptions, and create a shared academic culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education."
To bring this all back together, I will quote Dr. Angelo: “The only reason to do assessment is to improve the thing we care about.” He also mentions that assessment practices are often unsuccessful on campuses because they are piecemeal across institutions. These concepts are most certainly also applied to our online search practices. The AEFIS Team seeks to minimize these piecemeal efforts by bringing students, faculty, administrators, alumni and industry to one platform for assessment processes using the AEFIS Solution AND to bring assessment planners to one discussion through the AEFIS Assessment Collaborative.