Reaffirmation of Accreditation: Pre-visit forums for faculty and staff

Feb. 12, 2018

Reaffirmation of HLC Accreditation: Pre-visit forums for faculty and staff
Webster has been accredited by HLC since 1925.

To prepare the community for the comprehensive visit by the Higher Learning Commission's peer review team on March 19-20, Webster University's working group will host two pre-visit forums geared primarily toward faculty and staff.

Colleagues will provide an overview of this Reaffirmation of Accreditation process -- including the involvement and contributions of faculty, staff and students throughout the campus network over the past two years -- what to expect from the HLC peer review team visit, its importance, and how each member of our community can help through the final steps of this 10-year cycle.

Join members of the working group for presentations and questions Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. CST or March 7 at 9 a.m. CST, either in Browning Hall Auditorium on the Webster Groves campus or online via WebEx. A link to the Assurance Argument will also be made available after it is submitted on Feb. 19.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2 p.m. CST, Browning Hall Auditorium | Link to WebEx
  • Wednesday, March 7, 9 a.m. CST, Browning Hall Auditorium | Link to WebEx

Background

As announced in 2016, Webster is in a 10-year program for maintaining accreditation (the last comprehensive visit was in 2007-08). The new Open Pathway program, in which Webster participates, has steps to take over the 10-year cycle leading to the comprehensive evaluation and visit. With the Open Pathway emphasis on quality improvement, one step is the submission of a Quality Initiative mid-cycle.

Webster submitted its Quality Initiative, titled Implementing the Quality Scorecard for Online Student Success, in July 2015. The project, led by the Online Learning Center, was approved by the HLC. Aimed at improving the success rate of on-ground students who take occasional online classes, the project is in progress and showing positive results thanks to the hard work of staff in the OLC and at the extended domestic campuses.

The primary documents required for Reaffirmation of Accreditation have changed since the last HLC visit. First, prior to the visit, Webster must submit an Assurance Filing, made up of an Assurance Argument and an Evidence File. The Assurance Argument addresses the five Criteria for Accreditation in a tightly written persuasive argument – the longer, more narrative self-study of the past has been eliminated. Throughout the argument, reference must be made to evidence, which is stored in an electronic Evidence File.

Second, Webster must submit materials documenting Federal Compliance, which currently includes Title IV compliance (e.g., campus crime, athletics, student outcome data) and federally-mandated items (e.g., transfer policies and practices). Due to frequent changes in federal requirements, the Federal Compliance document is drafted closer to the time of the visit.

Preparation Timeline

Here is a brief overview of the community's preparation since the core Working Group formed in January 2016:

  • Group drafted, reviewed, and revised the Assurance Argument and supporting evidence.
  • International campuses contributed examples and evidence.
  • Six focused topic sessions (a sixth was added after the initial announcement) open to community with more than 100 faculty and staff participating and providing input for the Assurance Argument.
  • Review of the argument by 20+ reviewers with experience with HLC and other accreditation visits.
  • Review of faculty qualifications policy and departmental guidelines.
  • Evidence submitted by request from every corner of the institution: schools, colleges, departments, and supporting units.
  • Invitations for third party comment distributed to public, HLC survey administered to students.

The deadline for submitting final materials to HLC and for public comment is Feb. 19, one month before the peer review team's visit.

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