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Engineering Accreditation: Challenges and Opportunities

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Presentation on theme: "Engineering Accreditation: Challenges and Opportunities"— Presentation transcript:

1 Engineering Accreditation: Challenges and Opportunities
Moshe Kam* and Michael Lightner** *Robert Quinn Professor and Head; Electrical and Computer Engineering, Drexel University **Professor and Chair; Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder Members of ABET Board of Directors

2 Contact Information Moshe Kam Robert Quinn Professor and Head Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering 3141 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA

3 Contact Information Michael Lightner Professor and Chair Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering College of Engineering and Applied Science UCB 425 Boulder, CO

4 DISCLAIMER The issues examined in this talk have been discussed by the IEEE Educational Activities Board, but do not represent the views of IEEE or IEEE-EAB, but only those of the presenters Material is provided for illustrative purposes only Description of various rules and regulations are made in general descriptive terms and are not intended for operational or legal use Material is not purported to represent the official policy of any accrediting body or any other governmental or non-governmental agency These slides have been compiled to present a rather complete story. The talk at the conference will use a subset of these slides.

5 A Few Words about IEEE IEEE is the largest multinational professional engineering association in the world 380,000 members in 160 countries A 501(c)3 organization in incorporated in New York Originally concentrating on power engineering and communications, IEEE at present spans technical interests across the spectrum of technology From nanotechnology to oceanic engineering In many respects IEEE has become “the steward of Engineering” but especially the steward of all areas intersecting electrical, electronic, computer, communication, power and energy engineering

6 Early Presidents Alexander G. Bell Elihu Thomson Charles Steinmetz
Frank Sprague

7 Why is IEEE interested in Accreditation?
Because it is in IEEE’s stated mission Because accreditation has significant impact on the content of the curriculum in IEEE’s fields of interest And hence on the future of the profession Because IEEE’s involvement introduces the voice of the profession and its practitioners into the decision making process of educational institutions

8 Why is IEEE interested in Accreditation?
IEEE considers accreditation a strategic objective and supports accrediting bodies worldwide The IEEE BoD allocates funds and human resources to accreditation on an annual basis About 500 volunteers >$2M/year in direct expenditures in 2008

9 University Degrees Let us begin with a exploration of what it means and does not mean to get a university degree in engineering – specifically electrical

10 What Does it Mean to Get a BSEE from a University?
First – it means you were accepted into the school Around the world acceptance ranges from automatic to exceedingly difficult Second – By the standards of the university you successfully completed the requirements for gaining a degree Third – You will be associated with all the other graduates of the university and the reputation and accomplishments of the faculty and staff of the university

11 What Does it Not Mean to Get a BSEE from a University?
First – It does not necessarily mean that you are a good electrical engineer Second – It does not necessarily mean that you will be good in design Third – It does not necessarily mean you will be good in analysis Fourth – It does not necessarily mean you will be a good employee Fifth – It does not necessarily mean you are prepared for graduate education at any university other than that university – and it may not mean even that

12 “But Our University is a Great University!”
What can the previous slides mean? We know our university is a great university and has a great electrical engineering department. How do we know? From the performance of graduates From the reputation and research results of faculty and staff We do not know it is great because of accreditation

13 Outline Accreditation Myths
Accreditation in Engineering, Computing and Technology Definition, aims, uses and misuses, models Building new accrediting bodies in the early 21st Century

14 Accreditation Myths Accredited Programs produced better graduates
NO, accreditation is, often, a statement of meeting minimum requirements Accreditation does not, necessarily, address admission requirements Accreditation is/should be voluntary and excellent programs may not choose to accredited

15 Accreditation Myths Employers care whether a potential employee graduated from an accredited program I have rarely had an employer tell me this was important or ask if the department was accredited. Universities with great reputation rarely rely on accreditation as a credential

16 Accreditation means that the program is ranked highly
Accreditation Myths Accreditation means that the program is ranked highly There are 296 ABET accredited Electrical Engineering programs in the US The ranking of programs and universities is entirely separate from the accreditation process – in most of the world

17 Accreditation myths Faculty members are highly engaged in the accreditation process and are deeply honored by being part of an accredited program Rarely true Accreditation is often one more requirement on faculty time While they may care deeply about education, innovation, better teaching and support for students, accreditation is an administrative activity – often with little perceived value Accreditation has limited impact on faculty salary, research, promotion and tenure, publications, and professional reputation Sometimes accreditation leads to more resources But this is rare

18 So Why Accreditation We know the many things that accreditation is not – why do we have accreditation and what is its value? Make no mistake, accreditation is valuable

19 Outline Accreditation Myths
Accreditation in Engineering, Computing and Technology Definition, aims, uses and misuses, models Building a new accrediting body in the early 21st Century

20 A Broad Definition of Accreditation
Formal recognition of an educational program by an external body on the basis of an assessment of quality An evaluation process in which an objective group (accrediting body) examines an educational program to ensure that it is meeting minimum standards established by experts in the field The outcome of the process is binary: program is either accredited or not accredited

21 Value of Accreditation
Accreditation tells perspective students that a program meets minimum standards Financial institutions may only choose to provide student loans for study at an accredited university Students transferring between accredited programs can have some sense of equivalence – see Washington accord Students with an accredited undergraduate degree from one country may/should receive better consideration in another country than a student from an unaccredited program Accreditation provides/forces a periodic consideration of educational programs and provides outside benchmarks and evaluation

22 Professional Licensure
While accreditation concerns an educational program, licensure concerns the individual Licensure may be a legal requirement in some engineering professions and in some countries/states In many locales students who did not complete accredited programs face difficulties in getting licensed

23 Accreditation and Licensure
In the US, students graduating from an accredited program can immediately sit for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam – the first step to licensure Without an accredited degree there are work/experience requirements before an individual can sit for the beginning licensure exam This connection between accreditation and the beginning of the licensure process is of significant value in many areas of engineering. A great motivation for obtaining accreditation and graduating from a accredited program in those areas

24 Operational Definition of Accreditation by CHEA* (US)
Accreditation in higher education is defined as a collegial process based on self- and peer assessment for public accountability and improvement of academic quality [Peers = group of peer faculty and staff, professionals, and public members] Peers assess the quality of an institution or academic program and assist the faculty and staff in improvement * Council for Higher Education Accreditation

25 Three Major Activities
The faculty, administrators, and staff of the institution or academic program conduct a self-study using the accrediting organization’s set of expectations about quality (standards, criteria) as their guide A team of peers, selected by the accrediting organization, reviews the evidence, visits the campus to interview the faculty and staff, and writes a report of its assessment, including a recommendation to the commission of the accrediting organization

26 The third step… Guided by a set of expectations about quality and integrity, the commission reviews the evidence and recommendation makes a judgment communicates the decision to the institution and other constituencies if appropriate

27 Challenges to the Traditional Definition (1)
Should the accreditation be done by an “external body”? Is it possible to conduct accreditation by peer groups E.g., peer institutions This is how accreditation first started Should the result of accreditation be binary? Some groups in Europe have called for providing evaluation in four categories with respect to every criterion Fails to meet minimum requirements Meets minimum requirements Exceeds minimum requirements Excels in meeting this criterion

28 Challenges to the Traditional Definition (2)
Should we strive to meet minimum standards rather than achieving continuous improvement and excellence? Will the current system of accreditation be useful to industry in the long term? The mobility of labor has challenged traditional credentials The ECE industry had already rejected the licensing process E.g., the industrial exemption in the United States -While in most states engineers in industry are exempt from licensing laws for work done for their industrial employers, the engineer and the engineer's company may still be liable for unethical, unsafe, or illegal activities.

29 Some Clarifications In the US various professions have accrediting bodies – engineering, law, music, journalism, medicine These professional accrediting bodies look at specific programs – e.g., different engineering departments – not the entire university In the US there are regional accrediting bodies that accredit the entire university. Typically at the undergraduate level, but increasingly at the graduate level Often professional accreditation will require this regional/general university accreditation

30 Some Clarifications While, in engineering, we discuss accrediting a specific engineering program this does involve other parts of the university Teaching of mathematics, physics, chemistry, language, humanities, etc Electives in other engineering and computer science departments Availability of shared resources Computing facilities, library facilities, labs, etc As a result, where possible, engineering colleges like to have all their programs on the same accreditation cycle Simply reduces the work required

31 Looking Forward: Traditions
The trends we observe in accreditation will challenge traditional models It is unlikely that over-prescriptive accreditation models will survive It is unlikely that models that are based solely on minimum thresholds will survive

32 The Constituencies of an Educational Program
Past, present and prospective students Prospective employers Other bodies of higher education Licensing bodies Government The public at large

33 The Various Functions of Accreditation (1)
Provide constituencies of the educational program with a guarantee that an educational program… meets (minimum) standards continues to evolve in order to incorporate best practices Put a stamp of approval on graduates – they are ready to practice Raises the issue of First Professional Degree in Engineering Regardless of accreditation, this is a questionable statement to make

34 The Various Functions of Accreditation (2)
Provide educational programs with opportunities for self-definition and self-reflection and with feedback on program content and direction Provide opportunities for continuous improvement of education programs

35 Misuse of Accreditation
Coercion The process needs to be voluntary Disciplinary action Ranking and comparison of schools Controlling the school Serving the interests of one constituency on the expense of others Homogenizing higher education Control competition Limit enrollments

36 Accreditation is not indispensable…
Industry can replace accreditation by other mechanisms of quality assessment University rankings by academic bodies University rankings by the popular press Internal lists of “acceptable institutions” This is common with major US technology companies Entry exams and interviews of graduates This is common in the US, exams can be formal or informal If accreditation is to survive it should be Pertinent Transparent Fair Economical Adaptive to the business climate

37 The Basic Structure of the Process: Accrediting Body
Accrediting body defines its accreditation philosophy and publishes criteria and process Accrediting body identifies and trains program evaluators Bodies that recognize accrediting bodies require proof of decision independence The funding mechanism and accreditation decisions should be independent

38 A Word of Caution: Independence
In several instances, IEEE observed loss of independence of accrediting bodies In all of these cases, the accrediting body was discredited Schools preferred foreign accrediting bodies over the local one It is not clear whether government controlled accrediting bodies will be recognized in the future by international accords

39 The Basic Structure of the Process: Program
Program studies accrediting body literature Program collects required material and verifies presumption of accreditability Program requests an accreditation visit Program gets organized to provide information to accrediting body and visiting team Self study

40 Interaction Between Accrediting Body and Program
Mutual agreement on visiting team Agreement on dates and logistics Within published guidelines Pre-visit communications Accrediting visit and preliminary reporting Post-visit communications Report preparation and determination of outcome Post-report communications – possible appeals

41 Two important caveats The accreditation visit is supposed to provide “no surprises” All concerns that program evaluators have on the basis of submitted data are supposed to be discussed ahead of the visit On site visit focuses on the accreditation criteria and their implementation This is not the time for ‘free advice’ or planning of the program future by the visiting group

42 Looking Forward: Implementation
At present most accreditation bodies operate on 5-7 year cycles A series of “dramatic events” followed by long periods of low or no activity Elaborate visits requiring significant preparation It is possible to design a much simpler process that takes advantage of progress in information technology Information is posted and updated continually Visits are shorter focus only on the few items that do not require face to face interaction

43 Selected accrediting bodies (1)
For additional details see Selected accrediting bodies (1) Engineers Australia Engineers Ireland Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers France: Commission des Titres d'Ingénieur Germany: ASIIN Hong Kong Institution of Engineers

44 Selected accrediting bodies (2)
For additional details see Selected accrediting bodies (2) Japan: Japan Accreditation Board for Engineering Education Korea: Accreditation Board for Engineering Education of Korea Malaysia: Board of Engineers Malaysia Mexico: Council of Accreditation of the Education of Engineering New Zealand: Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand

45 Selected accrediting bodies (3)
For additional details see Selected accrediting bodies (3) Singapore: Institution of Engineers Singapore South Africa: Engineering Council of South Africa United Kingdom: Engineering Council United Kingdom United States: ABET China: Developing pilot accreditation aiming toward joining Washington Accord – organized through CAST

46 Characteristics of Accreditation (1)
Voluntary Performed by an external agency Based on the locale of the program Uses representation of all major constituencies Government inspection is not Accreditation Based on clear published standards Evaluative – not regulatory It is not the place of the visiting team to provide the visited program with detailed prescriptions and methodology

47 Characteristics of Accreditation (2)
Requires continuous maintenance Binary (at present, in most cases) Cognizant of program objectives and goals One size does not fit all Accreditation is not meant to homogenize the education system

48 What are the Factors That May be Considered?
Content of the curriculum Is there enough exposure to discrete mathematics? Size and skill base of the faculty Does a Computer Science program have individuals who are trained in Artificial Intelligence? Morale and governance of the faculty

49 Potential Consideration Factors (2)
Facilities Does the Microwave Laboratory in an EE program have a Spectrum Analyzer? Admission criteria Do the admission criteria ensure that incoming students have the basic skills required to attend the program?

50 Potential Consideration Factors (3)
Support services Do the program’s computing facilities enjoy professional system administration? Graduate placement Do the majority of the program graduates find gainful professional employment within 6 months of graduation? Budgets and expenditures

51 Looking Forward… Many of the traditional factors required a site visit for verification A model that considers most of the factors on line is now possible Accreditation may become continuous rather than a discrete event Shift from reaching the minimum to continuous improvement

52 Level of Specificity The degree to which criteria are defined in terms of numerical goals or specific coverage methodologies The degree of specificity depends on the accreditation model The general trend in the last 10 years is away from specifics

53 Level of Specificity: Examples
Non-specific A computer science program needs to show that graduates were exposed to the principles of database organization and have used this knowledge in open- ended exercises and projects Specific A computer science program will include at least 24 hours on in-class instruction on databases which includes: database models (at least 3 hours); relational models (at least 1 hour)… A minimum of two 6-hour laboratory exercises on databases must be included. These exercises include…

54 A Two-Tier Process Usually accreditation of engineering, computing and technology programs relies on a “general accreditation” of the institution Another accrediting agency ascertains compliance with laws and regulations, basic fiscal solvency, and preservation of human rights If the first tier is missing, the “technical” accreditation needs to include it This may be a challenge for new accrediting bodies

55 Most of the Work Does Not Involve the Accrediting Body
Program must establish mechanism to collect data on its activities Program must establish mechanism to use data to reaffirm or reform its activities Program must undergo a thorough self-study This is often the most important outcome of the accreditation process

56 Different Approaches and Styles of Accreditation
The Minimal Model The Regulatory Model The Outcome-Based Model The Peer-Review model The Program Club model

57 The “Minimal Model” Ascertains basic characteristics of the school and program Often numeric and law-based Does the school satisfy basic legal requirements? Does the school have enough budget, infrastructure and reserves to conduct the program? Ascertains existence of the fundamental basics in the school and program Physical conditions, size and skill base of the faculty, coverage of basic topics in the curriculum Provides a prescription for a minimal core and very general parameters for the rest of the curriculum

58 Reflections on the Minimal Model
It is easy to install and maintain as long as it adheres to the “minimal” philosophy Not a bad way to start an accrediting body Does not encourage continuous improvement The biggest danger is “mission creep” More and more requirements

59 The Regulatory Model Requires strict adherence to a core curriculum
E.g., defines the minimum requirements for a Software Engineering curriculum Specifies parameters for the rest of the curriculum E.g., at least 6 credit hours of post WWII history Often involving direct prescriptions of curriculum and faculty composition E.g., “at least three faculty in manufacturing are required if the body of students exceeds 120”

60 Reflections on the Regulatory Model
Makes the accrediting process uniform and potentially fair Criteria are unambiguous and often numeric Difficult to establish and update Leads to endless strife over what the “core” means Relatively easy to maintain The key to success is adherence to clear rules Was shown to stifle innovation and creativity in the curriculum This was the philosophy of the pre-2000 ABET model

61 The Outcome-Based Model
Prescribes a “small” core and basic requirements Prescribes basic parameters for the goals of the program But does not specify the specific goals of the program Focuses on the goals and objectives of the program E.g., to maximize the number of graduates who continue to Medical or Law school E.g., to maximize the number of graduates who become program managers in the construction industry Requires evidence of measurement of goals Requires evidence of using the measurements to feed a quality improvement process

62 Reflections on the Outcome-Based Model
Provides for significant diversity in goals and objectives Very different from the regulatory model Puts a lot of responsibility and risk in the hands of the program leaders E.g., some programs may try to achieve goals that are unattainable Sophisticated and hard to evaluate Very difficult to avoid complaints on inconsistent evaluations This is the basic philosophy of the current ABET EC2000 and TC2000 criteria Though implementation does not always follow the philosophy

63 A Word of Caution: Outcome-Based Accreditation
While outcome-based accreditation is the most popular paradigm for accreditation, it is not problem-free The prescriptive nature with respect to course content can be replaced by a prescriptive process with respect to assessments Too much data may be collected and analyzed in order to prove that methods were assessed Adherence to the process by zealous program evaluators may cause strong disagreements about methodology E.g., the debate about Direct Assessment

64 Goal Evidence Graduates are ready to enter the workforce
Collection of Data Goal Evidence Graduates are ready to enter the workforce Placement figures of recent graduates Programs develops future leaders of industry Statistically-valid evidence of leadership positions for graduates of the last 20 years Programs provides the Province with computer scientists needed to accomplish national R&D goals Evidence that graduates settle in the Province and maintain employment in Computer Science Program serves students who wish to gain engineering background before they develop careers in medicine or law Evidence that graduates turn to practice of law and medicine in statistically meaningful numbers

65 Use of Data for Improvement
Evidence Use of Evidence Employer survey indicates graduates have difficulties using modern computing tools for control Junior class in Control Systems now includes a section and lab on symbolic computation for control Percentage of students who choose graduate school is dropping Department commissions a survey of recent graduates to understand their new post-graduation profile Graduation rates are dropping; exam grades in mathematics are dropping Department institutes an “entrance exam” in mathematics. Low achievers are directed to remedial classes.

66 The Peer Review Model A coalition of schools organizes in group of peers Schools select their peers Members from other constituencies are added Government, Industry, professional associations The peer groups conduct the review in evaluator teams Model requires an arbitrator and facilitator Ideally a professional association

67 Reflections on the Peer Review Model
This is the way accreditation was done in the US in the early 20th Century E.g., Princeton and Johns Hopkins came to visit the College of Engineering at Drexel University in 1904 Difficult to organize Considered less confrontational and more collegial Risk a drift in the direction of unpublished mandates Risks clashes of philosophies and program rivalry Selection/acceptance of peers may be complicated

68 The “Program Club” Model
Group of peer institutions create a “program club” Use a common website for communication Programs that wish to join create a website with requested information Programs report continually on progress and experimentation in education New ideas are discussed and tried by members of the club Few on-site visits (possibly during an annual conference)

69 Reflections on the “Program Club” Model
Continuous accreditation model Difficult to organize Considered less confrontational and more collegial Risks clashes of philosophies and program rivalry Selection/acceptance of peers may be complicated “High maintenance”

70 Key to Success: Consistency and Transparency
Criteria need to be clear and published Ambiguities and potential for different interpretations need to be called out and addressed Terminology needs to be defined Visit and reports should follow the criteria closely Findings and conclusions should use the criteria and the established terminology

71 Accreditation and Licensing

72 Relationship Between Licensing and Accreditation
Accreditation is provided to educational programs A license is provided to individuals Graduation from an accredited program is often a condition for licensing Licensing exams are often based on model curricula of accrediting bodies Serious problem in the US since EC2000

73 Engineering and Computing Licensing in 2007…
Licensing of engineering and computing professionals is perceived to be “broken” in many countries Not a needed credential in many disciplines Poor enforcement Further weakening due to massive redistribution of labor among markets in the early 2000s One possible solution - the Canadian model Licensing = graduation from an accredited program PLUS testing on safety, professionalism and ethics NOT on school material

74 Licensing and the First Professional Degree in Engineering
At present there is debate in the US and Europe about “the first professional degree in engineering” The US National Academy of Engineering and several European organizations appears to favor a Master of Science degree In Europe this view follows adoption of the Bologna Process The NCEES* (USA) wants B.S. degree plus 30 semester credits No consensus among professional organizations *The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is a national non-profit organization composed of engineering and surveying licensing boards representing all states and U.S. territories. NCEES develops, scores, and administers the examinations used for engineering and surveying licensure through the United States.

75 Outline Purpose Accreditation in Engineering, Computing and Technology
Definition, aims, uses and misuses, models Building a new accrediting body in the Early 21st Century

76 Scope Building new accrediting bodies provides an opportunity to use about 80 years of experience with existing bodies Buy-in needed from Professional Associations and leaders of the profession Academic institutions and the faculty Industry, especially employers of engineers and technologists Governmental bodies and regulators

77 Desired Final Outcome A fully functional stable accrediting body, operating with clear rules and regulations, and with a transparent and simple structure Reputation for independence in accreditation decisions Membership of the accrediting body in the appropriate mutual recognition accords

78 Opportunities to learn from existing bodies…
Structure and basic processes Criteria Methodology especially self studies and outcome-based techniques Development of constituency coalitions Decision independence “independence from any parent entity, or sponsoring entity, for the conduct of accreditation activities and determination of accreditation status” (CHEA 2007)

79 Better use of information technology and automation
Opportunities to improve on the operations of existing accrediting bodies Better use of information technology and automation A more continuous and smooth process Experimentation with less centralized models The Peer Review and Coalitional models

80 New opportunities for accrediting bodies…
Development and provisions of tools for continuous reporting, assessment and improvement Creation and maintenance of a registries of engineers, computer scientists, and technologists

81 Who should govern the accrediting body?
Professional associations Academic institutions Industry Institutions from the three sectors should be invited to become Members of the accrediting body Voting Members in the annual/bi-annual assembly of Members Governments should be invited to observe and advise

82 Thank you! Questions or Comments?

83 Additional Sources Presentations in EAB workshops on accreditation
Esp. by Lyle Feisel, see Public domain information provided by ABET Inc., EUR-ACE, the Washington Accord website, CHEA Mostly from the organizations’ web sites J.W. Prados, G. D. Peterson, and L.R. Lattuca: “Quality Assurance of Engineering Education through Accreditation: The Impact of Engineering Criteria 2000 and Its Global Influence,” Journal of Engineering Education, pp , January 2005. Prof. Dr. Dirk Van Damme (Ghent University, Belgium). Accreditation in global higher education. The need for international information and cooperation. Outline of IAUP approach. May 2000.

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