Fact: The accreditation process is difficult and tedious. All involved in the process, both educational program officials and NAACLS volunteers/staff know this well. To moderate the negative aspects, NAACLS has nurtured an underlying paradigm: To simplify and improve the process for all involved, utilizing computer technology. To accomplish this, NAACLS has been exploring the concept of an Online Accreditation Management System (OAMS) for the past several years, reviewing and evaluating competing systems and providers. At last I am happy to announce that NAACLS has contracted with Desert Rose Design to custom build an OAMS for NAACLS, an investment in the agency’s future that will revolutionize the NAACLS accreditation process. Desert Rose Design has expertise in streamlining workflow of educational program accreditation and finding ways technology can enhance symbiotic relationships between accreditors, programs and volunteers. Development of the OAMS and website re-design will be a collaborative effort between NAACLS and Desert Rose Design (DRD). In a late phase of the project, Desert Rose Design will construct a new user-friendly website for NAACLS.
The OAMS is a secure web‐based system that will serve as a database and communication portal between NAACLS, its Accredited/Approved programs, and volunteers. This will streamline the accreditation process, enabling users to edit documents, share files in a collaborative environment, track the flow of statements, and alert program directors and volunteers when action is needed or taken.
I would like to provide some ideas about how the OAMS will change NAACLS’ operations and benefit programs.
Starting the Accreditation Approval Review Process
|The process is initiated with hard copies of documents, a letter of interest, application for renewal, or a preliminary report. These hard copies require manual processing by staff (scanning and archiving documents, logging in data, emailing scanned files, or mailing hard copies back and forth to a network of volunteers, and tracking emails, or packages, and responses by logging more data into the NAACLS database.)
|After establishing initial contact with staff, programs will be granted access to the OAMS where they have the ability to complete the process online, upload documentation for review and respond to reports. Volunteers will review documentation and complete reports through the OAMS.
|The process is streamlined from a program “home page” where the program official accesses all program information, completes forms, uploads documentation, completes and files reports or responses. The information provided by the program official will be easily accessible to NAACLS’ reviewers. Elimination of the current “information shuffle” will improve the ability of program officials to track their program through the accreditation process.|
Changes in program information
|For new Program Directors, the program submits hard copy documentation; NAACLS staff then scans documents for review and manually updates the database. All other updates are accomplished by program officials submitting the forms or information to NAACLS via mail or email; staff must manually enter each of these changes into the database. Changes submitted on the annual survey are not automatically updated in the database as is usually anticipated by Program Directors. Multiple emails/letters are exchanged between programs and NAACLS to keep information current.||For new Program Directors, the program enters contact information and uploads necessary documentation directly into the OAMS. The OAMS compiles documents and notifies the appropriate Review Committee Members when it is ready for review. The OAMS then sends it to the Board Liaison and, upon approval, updates the records and notifies staff. All other changes can be made directly by program officials entering changes into OAMS.
|Programs benefit by being able to make changes and/or updates without waiting for replies from staff via mail or email. This also relieves staff of time-consuming tasks and frees time for more personal interaction with Program Directors, assisting with more complex accreditation issues.|
Entering and Tracking Assessment Data / Data Mining
|NAACLS can begin building a database for setting quality benchmarks for assessment; congregate data could be shared with public. Programs can enter and track assessment data on a regular basis and generate assessment reports for inclusion in self studies. Since all information will be stored in a searchable format, it will be possible to search for parameters that are not currently utilized.||At the September 2011 Board meeting, the Board noted that program assessment benchmarks would need to remain flexible in order to address the variety of program types and missions until a database is established. The OAMS gives NAACLS the flexibility demanded ‐‐ since entire self studies are available in a searchable format, any data within is available for use in data mining. For example, if the Board wanted to track placement rates in for‐profit programs with affiliates in multiple states, the OAMS would allow these data to be tracked and reports generated.|
Annual Reporting of Outcomes Measures
|Currently, a few outcomes measures are collected via the annual survey, but these data are not connected with the review process. With the OAMS, programs can enter and track assessment data on a regular basis and generate assessment reports for inclusion in self studies. These data can also be “flagged” if they fall outside of established parameters, to generate a request for further reporting.||The increasing role of outcomes measures in accreditation is expected to benefit NAACLS, programs, students and the public. NAACLS’ capabilities in this area are currently very limited. With an OAMS, our capabilities will expand significantly.
The NAACLS Board of Directors and staff are excited about this investment in the future of the NAACLS accreditation process and the benefits to accredited and approved programs. Streamlining and simplifying the process will help improve the quality of programs, directly benefiting students and the general public served by graduate laboratory professionals.
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By Jerry Phipps
President, Board of Directors