As the University continues to prepare its Year 7 Accreditation self-study, lessons learned from other institutions have divulged the key to a successful packet submission: readability, accuracy, and evidence.
- The 2014 Year 6/7 evaluation required two people to physically lift and move the self-study report and supporting documents. When printed, the report and supporting documents were 3 ½ inches thick, and the visiting evaluation team required seven notebooks. In 2020, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), ISU’s accreditor, updated its accreditation standards and submission requirements to a digital format. This year, ISU will submit our Year 6/7 report and all of our supporting documents digitally. Another significant change is the NWCCU focus on brevity and preciseness. This year, reports are to be only 50-60 pages each.
- A further key to ISU’s success throughout the accreditation process is ensuring accuracy and candor in the report. As Joanne Tokle, Vice Provost and Accreditation Liaison Officer, states, “Universities aren’t expected to be perfect. These reports help us identify our shortcomings. The NWCCU expects that we accurately and truthfully report our findings, identify a plan to address those shortcomings, and then follow through.”
These changes will help the accreditation team focus on the overarching “why” and decision-making processes and to view links supporting documents to explain further the “what” and “how.” The biggest concern with this new submission method is broken links to supporting documents. The accreditation team will need to check all links in our report at least every two weeks to ensure broken links are repaired promptly.
One of the ways that ISU is applying this philosophy is within our assessment program. The General Education Requirements Committee (GERC) has worked diligently for the last six years to establish student learning assessment criteria and report the outcomes. Some shortfalls have been identified when preparing the Year 7 report, which is not unexpected with 155 courses involved. While the shortfalls can’t be ignored in the report, the way to address these shortfalls is to identify corrective courses of action and ensure follow-through in future years.
- Providing evidence is essential to supporting the narratives within our Year 6 and 7 reports. Using quantitative and qualitative data and analysis, the accreditation team must demonstrate how the University attains mission fulfillment; the faculty use assessment reports to improve student learning outcomes; and the effectiveness of ISU’s planning process aligns the strategic plan, project charters, and budget procedures. These are only a few examples the accreditation team will provide evidence throughout the two reports. This data comes from multiple inputs, including Banner, the colleges, departments, programs, and other University systems.