Streamlining Accreditation Preparation with Program Review

Regional accreditation is a quality assurance process in which most degree-granting institutions participate regularly. The accreditation process is an in-depth one, involving considerable documentation from the institution undergoing accreditation. Whether an institution's upcoming accreditation occurs in the next year or the next several years, it is something for which many in the institution are actively preparing. QM Program Certification via QM Program Review streamlines the accreditation process by providing a framework for the collection and analysis of evidence related to an institution's online programs - the same evidence that can be used to support accreditation. Conversely, evidence and the accompanying documentation gathered for accreditation purposes can also be used to support QM Program Certification.

The categories and tables below show how the evidence required for QM Program Certification overlaps with that required for regional accreditation using the Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) (2011).

Overlaps of Evidence Required for C-RAC Guidelines and QM Program Certification

Click on the headings to see a tablular comparison for each category.

  • C-RAC Guideline 1: Vision and Mission & QM Program Certification
    C-RAC Guideline 1: Vision and Mission QM Program Certification
    Online learning is appropriate to the institution's mission and purposes. Online learning must have been determined as appropriate to the institution’s mission and purpose prior to online programs from the institution engaging in a QM Program Review.

    Analysis/Evidence

    • As appropriate, the institution incorporates into its online learning programs methods of meeting the stated institutional goals for the student experience at the institution
    • Senior administrators and staff can articulate how online learning is consonant with the institution’s mission and goals

    (Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    Evidence that online learning is appropriate to the institution’s mission and purposes may be demonstrated in a broad, institution-level review process such as UPCEA’s Hallmark Review.
  • C-RAC Guideline 2: Planning and Maintenance & QM Program Certification
    C-RAC Guideline 2: Planning and Maintenance QM Program Certification
    The institution’s plans for developing, sustaining, and if appropriate, expanding online learning offerings are integrated into its regular planning and evaluation processes. Institutional plans for online learning must have been integrated into the regular planning and evaluation process prior to online programs from the institution engaging in a QM Program Review.

    Analysis/Evidence

    • Development and ownership of plans for online learning extend beyond the administrators directly responsible for it and the programs directly using it
    • Plans for online learning are linked effectively to budget and technology planning to ensure adequate support for current and future offerings
    • The institution and its online learning programs have a track record of conducting needs analysis and of supporting programs

    (Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    Evidence that online learning has been integrated into the regular planning process of the institution may be demonstrated in a broad, institution-level review process such as UPCEA’s Hallmark Review.
  • C-RAC Guideline 3: Collaboration & QM Program Certification: Learner Success Criterion 2
    C-RAC Guideline 3: Collaboration QM Program Certification: Learner Success Criterion 2
    Online learning is incorporated into the institution’s systems of governance and academic oversight. Identify 3-5 measures based on hard data and/or surveys that demonstrate the extent to which learners are succeeding according to the adopted definition of learner success.

    Analysis/Evidence

    Online learning courses and programs are evaluated on a periodic basis.

    (Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    1. Identify each indicator and
    2. The source of data to measure the extent of learner success, based on that indicator.
    3. Explain how each of the measures is related to the definition of learner success.
    4. Present a minimum of three consecutive years of data for each indicator, and
    5. Explain how the data are being interpreted (e.g., what percentage of learners are expected to meet each measure and to what extent), and how they relate to established benchmarks (e.g., national data and research findings).

    Examples of measurable outcomes that might be considered are:

    • Retention
    • Course completion
    • Graduation rates
    • Capstone assessments
    • Summative assessments
    • Learning outcomes
    • Alumni survey reports
    • Employment data
  • C-RAC Guideline 4: Academic Rigor & QM Program Certification: Program Design Criteria
    C-RAC Guideline 4: Academic Rigor QM Program Review: Program Design Criteria
    Curricula for the institution’s online learning offerings are coherent, cohesive, and comparable in academic rigor to programs offered in traditional formats.
    1. Measurable learning objectives, outcomes, or competencies.
    2. Alignment of course learning objectives, outcomes, or competencies with program learning objectives, outcomes, or competencies.
    3. Courses designed by faculty and staff who have completed QM Professional Development.
    4. Alignment of the courses in the program with the QM Rubric.

    Analysis/Evidence

    • The curricular goals and course objectives show that the institution or program has knowledge of the best uses of online learning in different disciplines and settings
    • Curricula delivered through online learning are benchmarked against on-ground courses and programs, if provided by the institution, or those provided by traditional institutions
    • The curriculum is coherent in its content and sequencing of courses and is effectively defined in easily available documents including course syllabi and program descriptions
    • Scheduling of online learning courses and programs provides students with a dependable pathway to ensure timely completion of degrees
    • The institution or program has established and enforces a policy on online learning course enrollments to ensure faculty capacity to work appropriately with students
    • Expectations for any required face-to-face, on-ground work
      (e.g., internships, specialized laboratory work)
      are stated clearly
    • Course design and delivery supports student-student and faculty-student interaction
    • Curriculum design and the course management system enable active faculty contribution to the learning environment
    • Course and program structures provide schedule and support known to be effective in helping online learning students persist and succeed

    (Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    1. A list of program learning objectives with an assessment of how many of them are measurable along with an alignment map mapping course objectives to program objectives. (Access to a number of representative courses must be provided to reviewers to confirm the relationship between course and program objectives.)
    2. Documentation that those who develop online courses have had professional development to prepare them for doing so
    3. Documentation that courses within the program(s) meet QM Standards
    4. Meeting QM Higher Education Rubric, Fifth Edition, Specific Review Standard 5.2 (opportunities for interaction), 5.3 (instructor responsiveness), and 5.4 (requirements for learner interaction)
  • C-RAC Guideline 5: Evaluation & QM Program Certification (various criteria)
    C-RAC Guideline 5: Evaluation

    QM Program Certification (various criteria)

    The institution evaluates the effectiveness of its online learning offerings, including the extent to which online learning goals are achieved, and uses the results of its evaluations to enhance the attainment of the goals.

    Program Design Criterion 1

    Measurable learning objectives, outcomes, or competencies

    Learner Support Criterion 2

    A robust process to collect and use learner feedback to improve learner support

    Learner Success Criterion 2

    3-5 measures based on hard data and/or surveys that demonstrate the extent to which learners are succeeding

    Analysis/Evidence

    • Assessment of student learning follows processes used in onsite courses or programs and/or reflects good practice in assessment methods
    • Student course evaluations are routinely taken and an analysis of them contributes to strategies for course improvements
    • The institution regularly evaluates the effectiveness of the academic and support services provided to students in online courses and uses the results for improvement
    • The institution documents its successes in implementing changes informed by its programs of assessment and evaluation
    • The institution provides examples of student work and student interactions among themselves and with faculty
    • The institution sets appropriate goals for the retention/persistence of students using online learning, assesses its achievement of these goals, and uses the results for improvement

    (Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    1. A list of program learning objectives with an assessment of how many of them are measurable.
    2. A description of data collected and use of that data to improve learner support processes and policies along with documentation of changes in policies.
    3. Three years of data on measurable outcomes with an explanation of relevance to successful program learning outcomes and interpretation of data. Examples of measurable outcomes that might be considered are:
      • Retention
      • Course completion
      • Graduation rates
      • Capstone assessments
      • Summative assessments
      • Learning outcomes
      • Alumni survey reports
      • Employment data
  • C-RAC Guideline 6: Faculty & QM Program Certification (various criteria)
    C-RAC Guideline 6: Faculty

    QM Program Review: Program Design Criterion 3

     

    Faculty responsible for delivering the online learning curricula and evaluating student success in achieving the online learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported.

    Program Design Criterion 3

    Courses designed by faculty and staff who have completed QM Professional Development.

     

    Teaching Support Criteria 1-4

    1. Professional development in online teaching for instructors in the program prior to their teaching online.
    2. Provisions for ongoing pedagogical support or mentoring of instructors in the program.
    3. Encouragement and provision of ongoing professional development for instructors in the program.
    4. Robust process to collect and use learner feedback to inform teaching practices.

    Analysis/Evidence

    • Online learning faculties are carefully selected, appropriately trained, frequently evaluated, and are marked by an acceptable level of turnover
    • The institution's training program for online learning faculty is periodic, incorporates tested good practices in online learning pedagogy, and ensures competency with the range of software products used by the institution
    • Faculty are proficient and effectively supported in using the course management system
    • The office or persons responsible for online learning training programs are clearly identified and have the competencies to accomplish the tasks, including knowledge of the specialized resources and technical support available to support course development and delivery
    • Students express satisfaction with the quality of the instruction provided by online learning faculty members

    (Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    1. Documentation as to those who develop online courses and their preparation for doing so.
    2. The policy on preparation for instructors who teach online, along with a report spanning three years on instructors who have successfully completed the required professional development and the syllabi of instructors teaching online courses in the program.
    3. Documentation showing the program’s encouragement of continued professional development and three years of numbers/rates of participation in this professional development.
    4. A description of program policy regarding ongoing support for online instructors and three years of evidence as to how this policy is being implemented.
    5. The policy on faculty availability and responsiveness to learners along with three years of data on student satisfaction with faculty availability and responsiveness and examples of reforms adopted.
  • C-RAC Guideline 7: Student Services & QM Program Certification: Learner Support Criteria
    C-RAC Guideline 7: Student Services QM Program Review: Learner Support Criteria
    The institution provides effective student and academic services to support students enrolled in online learning offerings.
    1. Support of learners via remote access to a full range of learner support services:
      • Orientation to online study
      • Technical support
      • Academic advising
      • Proctoring and student authentication
      • Tutoring
      • Grade appeals
      • Remote library access
      • Accessibility services
      • Records and registration
      • Financial Aid services
      • Billing
      • Institutional & Student Policies
    2. A robust process to collect and use learner feedback to improve learner support.

    Analysis/Evidence

    • The institution's admissions program for online learning provides good web-based information to students about the nature of the online learning environment, and assists them in determining if they possess the skills important to success in online learning.
    • The institution provides an online learning orientation program.
    • The institution provides support services to students in formats appropriate to the delivery of the online learning program.
    • Students in online learning programs have adequate access to student services, including financial aid, course registration, and career and placement counseling.
    • Students in online learning programs have ready access to 24/7 tech support.
    • Students using online learning have adequate access to learning resources, including library, information resources, laboratories, and equipment and tracking systems.
    • Student complaint processes are clearly defined and can be used electronically.
    • Students are provided with reasonable and cost-effective ways to participate in the institution's system of student authentication.

    (Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    1. A list of links to the services, along with an explanation of how each supports online learners and a plan to address gaps in service.
    2. Three years of data on student satisfaction with learner support services, including a description of the data collection process and how the data has shaped improvement of learner support policies and services.
  • C-RAC Guideline 8: Resources & QM Program Certification
    C-RAC Guideline 8: Resources QM Program Certification
    The institution provides sufficient resources to support and, if appropriate, expand its online learning offerings. Sufficient resources for online learning must have been provided to support the institution’s online learning offerings prior to online programs from the institution engaging in a QM Program Review.

    (Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    Evidence that sufficient resources for online learning have been provided may be demonstrated in a broad, institution-level review process such as  UPCEA’s Hallmark Review.
  • C-RAC Guideline 9: Integrity & QM Course Program Certification
    C-RAC Guideline 9: Integrity QM Program Certification
    The institution assures integrity of its online offerings. The institution must assure the integrity of its online offerings prior to online programs from the institution engaging in a QM Program Review.

    (Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions [C-RAC] [2011])

    Evidence

    Evidence that the institution’s online offerings have academic integrity may be demonstrated in a broad, institution-level review process such as UPCEA’s Hallmark Review.

Contact Barbra Burch for a spreadsheet aligning the evidence for the C-RAC Guidelines and the QM Program Certification Criteria used in Program Reviews.

Date Published