Accreditation matters. That’s the phrase that keeps running through our heads as we sit down to reflect on the ASPA Fall Conference we attended earlier this week. We always love going to ASPA events, as they give us the opportunity to connect with our customers and friends in the accreditation community while taking deep dives into the issues that confront them every day.
If we could offer just one takeaway, it would be this: Accreditation matters, and accreditors across the spectrum are completely committed to their craft. The best thing that industry can do is align behind the accreditation community and support the great work they’re already doing. In ARMATURE’s case, that support comes in the form of software tools that are purpose-built to make life easier for the accreditors who use them.
We live-tweeted the conference to capture the insights as they arrived. Here are some of the themes and takeaways that emerged @ ASPA Fall Conference 2017.
Diversity: More than Just a Head Count
The diversity discussion exemplifies what we love about accreditors. The conversation was thoughtful and reflective, and it was clear that the accreditation community understands that diversity is about so much more than counting heads and checking boxes. Here are some of our favorite insights from the diversity discussion:
Two panel discussions on Monday morning tackled the issue of diversity. During the cultural competence session, panelists Rajade Berry-James, Stacey Borasky, and Crystal Calarusse discussed ways in which cultural competence in standards for accreditation can be met through structural, curricular, and institutional dimensions. The panel consisted of two programmatic accreditors and a professor of public and international affairs, and the combination of perspectives made for a lively and productive discussion. The second diversity panel took on the issue from a legal perspective and demonstrated the importance of connecting your diversity goals to your broader institutional mission. By weaving diversity into every aspect of the curriculum, and connecting the dots between diversity and success, institutions are better able to succeed–and help their students succeed–while meeting diversity requirements.
Standards Revision: Keeping Standards Fresh & Relevant
Because standards revision was the theme of the conference, we had the opportunity to explore the process from multiple angles and perspectives. Mollie Mulvanity from CEPH kicked things off by encouraging accreditors to view their standards through the lenses of reliability and validity, and she provided tools and examples to illustrate her point. The panel that followed addressed data collection for standards revision, and we were struck by how useful ARMATURE’s accreditation management software is during this process–the version management feature makes it easy for accreditors to keep track of all of the moving parts throughout the revision process.
Communication: The Cornerstone of Effective Accreditation
The third theme that surfaced during the conference was communication. Accreditation is often maligned by the media and various stakeholders, and it’s only through effective communication that accreditors can change the narrative. On Monday morning, when Eric Kelderman from The Chronicle of Higher Education asked the audience to name the most relevant and/or accurate criticisms they’d heard about the accreditation process, the response was lively. Criticisms ranged from lack of university resource alignment to the long and confusing process, but communication is a theme that returned throughout the conference as an antidote to the complaints.
We especially loved what Charles Hickman from ABET had to say about the importance of communicating with stakeholders throughout the standards revision process. He reminded us that an agency’s stakeholder community is much bigger than its membership community, and that it’s critical to get out there and listen to your opposition, no matter how unpleasant it might be. At the end of the day, everyone needs to feel heard.
When it comes to communication, our software has built-in tools such as a complaints module, task manager, personalized dashboards, and notifications for each user. These features streamline communication with all stakeholders and keep everyone on the same page throughout the accreditation and standards revision process.
But face time has its place. That’s why we enjoyed our time at ASPA so much! Here’s to the bright future of accreditation.