In this post of the Accreditation Series, I will be discussing more aspects of the accreditation process, the most important of which is forming your faculty.
Many questions revolve around this topic: should you hire full-time faculty or adjunct faculty? What level of degree should your faculty members hold? Do they have to be based in the USA? If they’re not, will their foreign degrees be acceptable? Are accrediting agencies looking for a specific number of faculty members? And finally, exactly how much decision-making power should your faculty have in your institution?
These are only some of the questions that my clients ask me. This post will explore these and more, in an attempt to help you better prepare for your accreditation process.
And if there are any questions that I haven’t addressed here, feel free to ask by reaching out to me via email or phone call.
Over the past years, accrediting bodies have fully recognized academic staffing to be one of the key elements of higher-ed quality. They’ve all included language in their guidelines about graduate employees and contingent faculty. Still, many believe that accrediting agencies are ignoring the overuse and exploitation of these groups.
As a result, more tightened and explicit guidelines have been advocated for when it comes to monetary compensation and working conditions of contingent faculty members in post-secondary institutions.
As a result, standards that govern practices in this area have been established:
- The percentage of full-time faculty members to be employed: you should have an adequate core of faculty members that report back to your institution and support your offered programs. How much exactly is “an adequate core of faculty” is left for institutions to decide.
- The standards of career development opportunities and working conditions for contingent faculty: if your institution is relying on temporary, adjunct, or part-time faculty, your employment policies for these groups should be carefully planned and developed in the same fashion they would have been for full-time faculty.
- Institutions that offer graduate degrees must have the staff or faculty members in areas associated with the offered degrees: your faculty members that are responsible for graduate programs are expected to exceed scholarly requirements than those who are working on the undergraduate level.
In summary, hiring qualified faculty is the most costly investment your college or university will make. This is why it might be rational for you to consider hiring a greater ratio of adjunct faculty than full-time faculty to help reduce costs.
With that as an option, always consider how any such decision can affect the quality of teaching in the long run. And most importantly, ensure to treat your adjuncts with the same delegation as your full-time faculty.
Faculty Involvement In Accreditation
There are several ways in which your faculty members can become involved in your institution’s accreditation process. Here are some:
- Participating in the self-study/continuous improvement processes: in most institutions, accreditation involves preparing a comprehensive self-study that discusses continuous improvement. Faculty members participate in these processes to ensure their voices are heard within the institution’s acceleration journey.
- Attending an annual meeting hosted by a regional accreditor: at these meetings, your faculty will encounter the accrediting commission staff, administrative officers, as well as members of self-study committees among many other groups. These encounters will be of great value as they will produce a direct flow of helpful information in your accreditation process.
- Suggesting guidance and ideas on how to improve academic quality: when your faculty members involve themselves in improving the academic quality of your offered programs, accreditors see that. This signals that your faculty truly cares about the academic life of your institutions, and by implication, accreditation.
Get your faculty members involved in the accreditation process right from day one. Ensure they’re engaged by having them attend annual meetings hosted by regional accreditors. Make your faculty feel heard by encouraging them to express their opinions when it comes to academic quality and areas of improvement. Remember: your faculty is your most valuable asset!
Minimum Faculty Teaching Credentials
Although each type of accreditation provides different standards for faculty, some of the general guidelines to follow are:
- All instructors must possess an academic degree equivalent to their teaching program or at a higher level, except in programs for terminal degrees.
- In undergraduate programs, faculty must hold a degree at a higher level than what they’re teaching.
- In graduate programs, faculty members must hold terminal degrees and have an adequate record of research and scholarship relating to their teaching program.
- Similarly, faculty members that are teaching doctoral education must have a record of scholarship.
The key takeaway from these guidelines is that your hired faculty members must at least have a master’s degree from an accredited institution in the field of study that they will teach.
Remote Courses Taught By Faculty
The coronavirus pandemic has introduced remote teaching - making remote faculty members more on-demand than ever before. What does this mean for you?
This means the accrediting bodies now will want to see that you have an established plan for maintaining the quality of teaching both virtually (online) and in the classroom.
- The use of an appropriate online learning environment: e-learning requires several tools such as software that might not be needed in a physical classroom. This includes Learning Management System, video conferencing software, and access to high-speed internet for starters.
- Adequate faculty training for teaching online: Teaching in a classroom is different than teaching online. While your faculty members might be well accustomed to doing the former, they will need specialized training and support before making the transition to online teaching.
- A provision of library and resources with interactive tools for online teaching: It’s true. A majority of students drop off their online courses because they find them to be plain boring, in addition to feeling isolated. You can avoid this by providing your students with engaging and interactive learning materials as part of your online curriculum. Start by building a library of online teaching activities. Encourage your faculty members to add new tools and ideas to the library that could make their online classes more engaging.
In summary, don’t simply assume that a great instructor in a physical classroom will teach just as well in an online environment by default.
You must help your faculty members to transition by providing comprehensive training and support at every step of the way.
I hope this post was beneficial to you in your accreditation journey. If you have more questions about preparing your faculty for accreditation as you open your university, reach out to me for a free consultation call.