Accreditation renewal uses

A new component of the reaffirmation of accreditation process has given Northern Kentucky University students the power to change the way they learn on campus.

With the implementation of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) as part of NKU’s reaffirmation of the accreditation process, every student suggestion to help improve learning on campus is considered as a possible focus of improvement, according to Dr. Sam Zachary, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students will have a direct impact on the QEP because it is “built from the ground up, using student ideas,” Zachary said.

The QEP is a new requirement of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaffirmation of accreditation process.The process, which takes place every 10 years, previously consisted of only one component; a compliance certification in which faculty credentials and course syllabi were analyzed, along with an assessment of procedures that outlined “the basic criteria of quality,” Vice Provost Pat Moynahan said.

In 1998, accreditation shifted from a “one-size-fits-all approach,” said Dr. Michael Turney, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and faculty coordinator for SACS reaffirmation. He said SACS began making changes once it recognized most universities attract students by distinguishing what makes them different.

Proper procedures are still a significant part of the compliance certification, but the focus has moved to the assessment of learning outcomes for each program. “Grades alone are not a good indicator of what students have learned,” Moynahan said. He said by measuring outcomes, SACS will be able to determine how much knowledge students are actually acquiring in the classroom.

SACS added the QEP as the second component of accreditation so universities would have the opportunity to focus on progress based on individual goals and mission statements, according to Turney.

“The QEP will help us zero in on areas that need improvement at NKU,” Moynahan said. He said the topic could be broad, such as internationalizing the campus and include several components, or the plan could focus on something more specific, such as improving students’ writing skills.

Although the QEP is a relatively new part of the accreditation process, area universities, such as Eastern Kentucky University, have already identified plans to improve student learning. Faculty, staff and students at EKU identified three areas in need of improvement critical thinking, communication and diversity. Using its vision, “Holding national distinction as a leading, comprehensive university focused on student learning,” as a guide, EKU ultimately chose its QEP theme as “the development of students who use higher-order thinking skills to explore, evaluate, expand and express ideas,” according to EKU’s QEP homepage.

Zachary has appointed several committees to solicit as many ideas as possible from students, faculty and staff for NKU’s QEP. He said at the end of March, the committees will narrow down the best ideas to about a dozen, chosen based on need, common theme and adherence to the university mission statement. The committees will then present the final ideas during two days of open forum for students, faculty and staff.

“The number one thing we need most at NKU is to make learning better for students,” Zachary said. “Each idea must relate to learning