Accreditation is a process by which educational programs or institutions are reviewed to determine if they meet certain standards of quality. It is a type of academic quality assurance, declaring to the relevant professional community and to the world at large that a program meets the international quality standards set by the technical profession. Accreditation provides lasting benefits to students, the university or institution, employers, professions, and society as a whole. It is an assurance that the academicians and other staff of the university have a solid educational foundation, and are capable of leading the way in innovation, emerging technologies, and in anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public. Students who graduate from accredited programs have access to enhanced opportunities in employment; licensure, registration and certification; graduate education; and global mobility.
The MIE Department has established a systematic process for quality assurance of its programs and has made sure that this process also leads to accreditation of its programs, in line with the standards set forth by ABET, EAC. Formerly known as the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, ABET is a recognized and well-known world body that accredits academic programs in the areas of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. Earning a degree from an ABET-accredited program verifies that the quality of the students’ educational experience meets the standards of the profession; increases and enhances employment opportunities worldwide; permits and eases entry to higher education or a technical profession through licensure, registration, and certification; and provides world-wide recognition. The Mechanical Engineering program was substantially accredited by ABET, EAC during the 2005-2006 accreditation cycle while the Industrial Engineering and Mechatronics Engineering programs were accredited by ABET, EAC since 2007. The Mechanical program is accredited by the EAC Commission of ABET (http://www.abet.org) since 2012. Our next comprehensive review will take place in 2019.
For feedback on continuous improvement and other aspects, the MIE department has identified five constituencies: students, alumni, employers, industry, and faculty. Program Educational Objectives (PEOs) for each program have been established in line with the vision and mission of the University, the College of Engineering, and the Department, and in consultation with all constituencies. PEOs help prospective students in their decision to pursue the degree for possible careers in the different programs offered by the Dept. PEOs also provide guidance to the industry to determine whether graduates from the different programs will be adequately prepared for their respective professional careers. Procedures on how to improve the quality of the program, taking into account concerns of the various constituencies, have been clearly laid down. As a feedback for continuous improvement of the program, students’ concerns and suggestions are obtained through exit surveys, Staff-Student Liaison Committee meetings, and course evaluations. For establishment and review of PEOs, employers, alumni, and industry are involved through Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) meetings and surveys. External examiners also provide valuable feedback on PEOs and other quality and accreditation related issues.
Student Outcomes (SOs) are statements that describe what students are expected to know or be able to do by the time of graduation from the program. It was unanimously decided by the Department Curriculum and Accreditation Committee (DCAC) that student outcomes for ME and IE programs will be mostly based on the (a) through (k) student outcomes specified in the ABET, EAC Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs. A new procedure for direct assessment and evaluation of the SOs was recently adopted, based on subdivision of the SOs into Performance Indicators (PIs). The philosophy behind the new approach stems from the fact that in many cases it is difficult to assess a student outcome as a whole because it involves more than one ability or skill. To effectively assess the achievement of an outcome through a direct assessment method (homework, quiz, exam, project, term paper, etc) the student outcome needs to be subdivided into a number of performance indicators (PIs).
The continuous improvement process involves assessing the degree of attainment of the SOs and PIs, evaluating the assessment results, identifying improvement needs and opportunities, implementing these improvements, and assessing the level of improvement (closing the loop). Coordination and day-to-day running of this process is assigned to the Continuous Assessment and Improvement Committee (CAIC), who collect assessment data and initial recommendations from course Focus Groups. The Department Curriculum and Accreditation Committee (DCAC) then analyzes the available information and suggests final recommended actions for continuous improvement, to be approved by the Department Board. A three-level hierarchical structure has been incorporated for the assessment and evaluation of SOs: course level, curriculum level, and program level. This approach ensures the participation of constituencies at the appropriate levels with a sufficient scope for interactions leading to a viable and efficient assessment and evaluation process. At the end of each loop, recommendations for improvement are considered as feedback and planned for implementation for the next stage with appropriate participation of the constituencies.
For the continuous improvement of teaching method and skills, the Department has recently started a system for Peer Review of Teaching. Peer evaluation of a course (and instructor) is jointly conducted by two faculty members in the same area of specialization once a semester, through two class visits, using two detailed forms. One evaluation focuses on the quality and relevance of course content, while the other relates to instructor ability for classroom instruction and presentation, and communication and engagement of students.