Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Share Your Voice: Online Community Building during Reaffirmation of Accreditation

Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Share Your Voice: Online Community Building during Reaffirmation of Accreditation

Article excerpt

Abstract

Walden University recently underwent a successful reaffirmation of accreditation process with The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. As part of the 3-year process, a committee, named the Education and Communication working group, was formed to inform and engage with the entire Walden community. This report describes the process and strategies this working group employed to achieve those goals in a distance learning environment.

The primary charges of the Education and Communication working group were to (1) educate stakeholders about the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the importance of accreditation, and their role in the accreditation process; (2) provide consistent and quality communication to ensure stakeholders are appropriately informed about HLC and the self-study process; and (3) create and execute an appropriate and supportive communication and education plan during the HLC self-study process. The Education and Communication working group primarily focused on internal stakeholders, including students, faculty, and staff. Additional outreach specifically addressed associated individuals, such as alumni and field site supervisors. Other institutions may define their constituencies differently but will find that the goals, plans, and strategies described here will help them to achieve involvement by their stakeholders in accreditation processes.

Keywords: Accreditation; communication; engagement; distance learning environment; online learning

Regional accreditation is vital to the well-being of any university. It provides information for both internal and external audiences about the quality and the nature of the institution. Unlike programmatic accreditation, regional accreditation looks at the health and compliance of the whole institution. It takes a meta-view of the university's operations and makes this view available to the public. It is a "watch dog" of the university's functioning and is taken very seriously by most institutions. Preparation for an accreditation visit is usually a lengthy and complex process.

Regional accrediting bodies have certain requirements of what to include in a Self-Study and how to structure the information. The Self-Study is the compilation of proof that a university has met the criteria for accreditation. It is also a repository of evidence to describe the accomplishments and challenges of the university. The Self-Study is the primary document submitted to the accrediting body. It is the result of data collected from a wide variety of the members of the university community. It is also important that those disparate parts of the university community be aware of and in agreement with what other various contributing members have submitted.

Walden University recently underwent a successful reaffirmation of accreditation process with The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The reaffirmation of accreditation at Walden University was conducted with thoroughness by the entire university. As part of the 3-year process, a committee, named the Education and Communication working group, was formed to inform and engage with the entire university community. This report describes the process and strategies this committee employed to achieve those goals in a distance learning environment. These strategies and processes may be helpful for other large institutions in identifying appropriate strategies to engage their constituents in accreditation efforts, to support community engagement with and increase community understanding about accreditation.

About the Institution

Walden University, was founded in 1970 around the idea that higher education should fulfill a higher purpose. The Walden University mission holds that knowledge should be applied to effect positive social change and promote the greater good. Walden University is a fully online university with selected face-to-face opportunities in the doctoral and master's programs. …

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