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What is the College’s accreditation process about?
What is the College’s accreditation process about?
Each of the undergraduate degree programs in the College, with the exception of Earth System Science, is currently preparing for its regular accreditation renewal. An accredited program is one what satisfies certain criteria for program content and quality to assure that graduates from the program have a high likelihood of successfully practicing their chosen professions. The engineering programs submitted their self-study reports to the accreditation agency in the summer of 2009. Representatives of the agency visited the college in fall 2009 to learn more about each of the programs. Computer Science submitted its report in the summer 2010 and is having the site visit this fall. A program-specific accreditation process does not yet exist for Earth System Science.
Doesn’t the University have its own accreditation process?
Yes, the University is currently preparing for its accreditation visit in 2010 by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. That agency determines if the University is meeting its educational objectives and has a process for assessment and continuous improvement of its programs. Nevertheless, accreditation of programs in the College is more focused on the particular characteristics of the degree program and the needs of the profession. Other professional programs at the University, including Business, Education, Nursing, Law, also have their own accreditation agencies and processes.
Who sets the criteria to determine if the College’s programs should be accredited?
Our accreditation is provided by ABET. ABET consists of volunteers from academia and the professions who are dedicated to assuring that our degree programs meet the standards of content and quality required by the professions today. The various professional societies have a major stake in the accreditation process. For instance, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) writes program-specific criteria for the Civil Engineering and the Architectural Engineering degree programs.
What is the basis for accreditation?
In the year 2000, ABET introduced a new concept known as “outcomes-based” assessment into its accreditation process. Outcomes-based assessment means simply that a program is evaluated by its achievements (its objective and outcomes). In the past, the assessment process involved mainly an accounting of program inputs (such as the size of the program’s budget, the number of laboratory courses, and the number of credit hours in math, science, and engineering design). The outcomes-based process shifts the emphasis from inputs to objectives and outcomes.
The assessment process consists of a cycle of continuous improvement. With input from our constituents, we establish objectives and outcomes, design the curriculum, establish course learning objectives, collect evidence related to outcomes, determine if we have achieved our outcomes via the course objectives, and then make modifications as needed. The cycle is illustrated in the accompanying figure.
What are Objectives and Outcomes?
Objectives and outcomes are measurable characteristics of the graduates of a program. ABET defines program educational objectives as broad statements that describe the career and professional accomplishments that the program is preparing graduates to achieve. The programs in the College establish their objectives based on the skills, capabilities, and accomplishments of its graduates three to six years after graduation. We assess achievement of program educational objectives through indirect means, such as surveys of our graduates and interviews with our constituents (employers, graduates, advisory board members).
ABET defines program outcomes as narrower statements that describe what students are expected to know and be able to do by the time of graduation. These relate to the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that students acquire in their matriculation through the program. The College’s programs assess their outcomes by both direct and indirect means. Direct assessment consists of examination of student work; indirect assessment includes surveys and interviews as performed for objectives.
Objectives and outcomes are action-oriented statements of knowledge or ability that can then be measured through the assessment process. The objectives and outcomes for each program are posted on their respective web sites>
Why is accreditation important?
Accreditation demonstrates that an institution or a program values quality and is willing to subject itself to external examination and judgement. Accreditation provides assurance that the program contains the elements deemed essential for success in the profession and that the program is dedicated to continuous improvement to remain relevant to society’s needs. Graduation from an accredited program is essential for those who wish to
Do students have a role in the accreditation process?
Absolutely! Students play a vital role in accreditation, principally because they are the primary beneficiaries of accreditation. Students provide their work product (homework, exams, reports, projects, etc.) for assessment by faculty. They also provide input for course evaluations each semester and respond to a detailed survey when they are ready to graduate. Our ABET visitors will want to visit with students to learn more about the program from the student perspective.
Students can learn more about accreditation and the upcoming ABET visit from their advisors and any of the faculty in the College.