In November 2012, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (Middle States) issued a warning to Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) in three specific areas:
- Standard 7 (Institutional Assessment)
- Standard 12 (General Education)
- Standard 14 (Assessment of Student Learning)
Additionally, the accrediting body made a recommendation for improvement in standard 4, Institutional Leadership and Governance.
The following defines each standard and the steps that have been taken by members of the College to implement, correct, or enhance our processes in organizing, documenting and sustaining our work.
Standard 4: Institutional Leadership and Governance
Middle States defines standard 4 as “the institution’s system of governance clearly defines the roles of institutional constituencies in policy development and decision-making. The governance structure includes an active governing body with sufficient autonomy to assure institutional integrity and to fulfill its responsibilities of policy and resource development, consistent with the mission of the institution.”
- By revisiting the Shared Governance Taskforce, new outcome goals were developed. To date, the taskforce has:
- Established a new process based on national best practices and a new standing Shared Governance Process Committee. The committee is a decision-making group that is made up of members of all groups at the College including: students, administrators, professionals, classified staff and faculty.
- Assigned the chief of staff to be the chairman of the committee.
- Eliminated outdated and irrelevant Administrative Policies (APs).
- Planned for a searchable, electronic employee handbook to specify procedures relevant to the above-mentioned groups.
- By establishing governance bodies, the following outcomes have resulted.
- An Administrators and Professional Organization was formed.
- The Constitution and Bylaws of the Student Governance Association was updated.
- A Shared Governance Taskforce was established.
- An Institutional Effectiveness Taskforce was assembled.
Standard 7: Institutional Assessment
Middle States defines standard 7 as “the institution has developed and implemented an assessment process that evaluates its overall effectiveness in achieving its mission and goals and its compliance with accreditation standards.”
- The Board of Trustees participated in an assessment, which resulted in an action plan and a timeline for future assessment activities.
- An Institutional Effectiveness Taskforce was established. By bringing together administrators, board of trustees, faculty, classified staff and students to participate in the taskforce, many achievements have been made.
- The taskforce has developed an Institutional Effectiveness Plan that includes a timeline for evaluating the College’s efforts. It also draws clear connections between the College’s strategic plan and plans made at campuses, in the academic departments, and other College departments, such as the Office of Finance and Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
- Leadership of the College revised the strategic plan, which resulted in a new College mission, a new vision statement and new core values (listed below). The revisions also communicated the ability to request money to complete strategic initiatives.
- Mission: Creating opportunities and transforming lives to shape the future – TOGETHER!
- Vision: HACC will be the first choice for a quality and accessible higher education opportunity.
- Core Values (“ICE T”)
Standard 12: General Education
Middle States defines standard 12 as “the institution’s curricula are designed so that students acquire and demonstrate college-level proficiency in general education and essential skills, including at least oral and written communication, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical analysis and reasoning, and technological competency.”
- General education at HACC focuses on providing students with a foundation for a common body of essential knowledge and skills (listed above), taught and reinforced through courses. The assessment of the general education has helped to shift the approach to ensure that all general education courses, regardless of the subject, assess the essential skills, such as speech and writing skills, research and analysis.
- The purchasing of TK20, a database management system, resulted in showing the connections between course learning outcomes, program capabilities and general education outcomes relating to research, speech and writing skills. It is used to document planning activities and generate assessment reports for the entire College – both academic and nonacademic departments. For example, Student Services can use TK20 to compare their unit goals to the College’s strategic plan and obtain assessment reports outlining how their goals measure against the strategic plan.
- By making sure the strategic plan aligned accordingly, a clear connection between general education assessment and the College’s strategic plan occurred.
Standard 14: Assessment of Student Learning
Middle States defines standard 14 as “assessment of student learning demonstrates that, at graduation, or other appropriate points, the institution’s students have knowledge, skills, and competencies consistent with institutional and appropriate higher education goals.”
- The work of the College Wide Assessment Committee (CWAC), which is made up of faculty from the academic departments, resulted in:
- providing the College faculty a better understanding of assessment practices.
- working with faculty to make sure that assessments were meaningful and resulted in curricular change when necessary.
- aligning with the faculty Shared Governance process (Faculty Senate).
- establishing a relationship with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.
- Establishing an assessment cycle, resulted in:
- the integration of TK20 software for monitoring and documenting our assessment work.
- assigning CWAC to the tasks of overseeing assessment work and professional development efforts. This is in consultation with the Centers for Innovation and Teaching Excellence (CITE) and units of the College that create and deliver professional development programs for faculty.
- ties to the College governance through the Faculty Senate and the Academic Council (a body comprised of academic leadership).
HACC’s Commitment to Excellence
With a commitment to educational excellence, HACC has completed the following actions.
- Restructured the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, which included the hiring of a research analyst specifically devoted to faculty assessment needs.
- Hired assessment consultants, who have provided guidance and mentoring for best practices in institutional effectiveness, and general education and student learning outcomes assessment.
- Purchased TK20 to give the College the ability to track and map objectives, outcomes and goals. It also hosts the assessment results and produces data reports on our efforts.
- Communicated assessment results more openly in an assessment showcase, both live (York, June 2013) and on the College’s website. The communication is to demonstrate HACC’s commitment to assessment and continuous improvement in every area of the College.
- Developed a new Shared Governance process to rewrite existing Administration Procedures in a streamlined way.
- Established an institutional effectiveness plan to assess both academic and non-academic (ie. finance, student affairs, Human Resources, etc.) areas and hold people accountable for established expectations.
- Empowered CWAC, which resulted in the training, mentoring, mediation and oversight of efforts related to the Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes and General Education Outcomes’ Assessment.
- Hired consultants for functional areas, which has resulted in the restructuring of Office of Information Technology and Services, Workforce Development, Security, and marketing efforts. This action has helped establish specific plans to streamline efficiencies and assess results.
- Hired an external auditor to examine the HACC Foundation’s processes and procedures. As a result, a specific action plan has been developed to correct and enhance the process.