Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Improving Outcome Assessment in Information Technology Program Accreditation

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Improving Outcome Assessment in Information Technology Program Accreditation

Article excerpt

Introduction

The United States Military Academy at West Point is one of five of the service academies in the United States. Founded in 1802, it is the oldest engineering school in the U.S. West Point has an undergraduate enrollment of 4400 cadets and all of its graduates serve in the U.S. Army upon graduation. West Point has 7 accredited engineering majors and 2 accredited computing majors.

According to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, "Accreditation is the educational community's means of self-regulation through quality assurance and improvement. The accrediting process is intended to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education, making it worthy of public confidence Accreditation is important to prospective college students because it is an external certification of the quality of education provided" (2010, p. 1). Schools that are not accredited may not be eligible for Federal funding. Most importantly, prospective employers and graduate schools may not recognize a non-accredited program (Articlesbase, 2009).

After piloting evaluation programs in preceding years, ABET Inc. gave approval to the criteria for accrediting computing programs (ABET Inc. CAC, 2009). These criteria include General Criteria that must be satisfied by all accredited programs in computing and specific Program. There are eight general criteria that include:

* Students

* Program objectives

* Student outcomes

* Continuous improvement

* Curriculum

* Faculty

* Facilities

* Institutional support.

The Program Criteria includes coverage of several topics specific to IT curricula. In 2009, the ABET Computing Accreditation Committee (CAC) reported that only 51% of 95 computing programs visited in 2008-2009 received favorable ratings (Kelly, Parrish, & Price, 2009). The report explained the most common causes of the low success rate:

1. Most IT programs are new and are seeking accreditation for the first time.

2. IT programs with faculty experience in accreditation are rare.

3. The boundaries of the IT discipline are still being defined.

The report also explained that the main focus in preparation for accreditation should be the development of learning objectives and outcomes and to assess the program outcomes. Students, curriculum, faculty, facilities, and institutional support are in place, as specified in the criteria, to achieve the outcomes.

Literature Overview

"Assessment of student learning outcomes plays an important role in educational effectiveness, improvement, and sustainability that is increasingly being recognized and required by accrediting bodies" (Buzzetto-More & Alade, 2006, p.1). Assessment is an integral part of assuring that an educational institution meets necessary standards, as well as a crucial means of providing the evidence necessary for seeking and maintaining accreditation (Love & Cooper, 2004).

Kellough and Kellough (1999) identified seven purposes of assessment:

1. Improve student learning;

2. Identify students' strengths and weaknesses;

3. Review, assess, and improve the effectiveness of different teaching strategies;

4. Review, assess, and improve the effectiveness of curricular programs;

5. Improve teaching effectiveness;

6. Provide useful administrative data that will expedite decision making; and

7. To communicate with stakeholders.

The most commonly used type of assessment is summative assessment, used to identify that a student has satisfied learning goals following completion of learning activities. It is an assessment of learning and summarizes the development of learners at a particular time. Formative assessment examines the development of a student during the learning process and is used in order to make adjustments. …

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