Jim LenioEditor's Note: Jim Lenio has been with Walden for nearly 10 years, serving exclusively in the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, currently as the executive director. He is the chair of the Evidence Sub-Committee, co-chair of the Retention and Graduation Committee, and sits on the HLC Oversight Committee.

One of the main differences in creating the HLC Assurance Argument versus the self-study process in our 2012–2013 reaffirmation is in how evidence is presented. In the past, a large self-study document, which could be more than 150 pages, was not uncommon. Institutions were responsible for housing evidence in some way (physical evidence rooms or SharePoint, for example) so that the on-site reviewers could access the documents to verify, learn, and/or dig deeper into different areas of the self-study.

When the criteria for accreditation were updated, HLC also instituted an online Assurance System. Through this system, institutions now enter written responses for each of the five criteria, and create hyperlinks in the text to take the reviewers directly to the supporting evidence. All linked evidence must be uploaded to the Assurance System in a PDF file so that it is accessible to the reviewers. The HLC Assurance Argument is an evidence-based process and the use of linking in the Assurance System strengthens the focus on evidence. One way to think of this new format is to consider a peer-reviewed journal article, where instead of using in-text citations with an author’s last name and year of publication, the specific journal article would be available by clicking on a hyperlinked text, taking the reader to the cited article.

When citing evidence in our Assurance Argument, we are always looking for the best information to explicitly demonstrate we are meeting the accreditation criteria. Here is an example of what is meant by gathering the “best information” for evidence we have available:

To Demonstrate... Supporting Information Better Information Best Information Available
Mature assessment process Copy of the University Assessment Plan Examples of documented changes made as a result of the assessment process Examples of how changes have been assessed to determine impact and the cyclical nature of an assessment process

To help meet the challenges of collecting the best information and to support the criterion working groups, Walden’s HLC Steering Committee formed an Evidence Sub-Committee. This is a three-member sub-committee whose members are Jim Lenio (executive director, Office of Institutional Research and Assessment), Brenda Kruse (academic operations manager), and Lisa Raymond (platform manager, Center for Student Success). The responsibilities of this group include collecting evidence from across the institution, formatting finalized evidence, and organization of the assurance system evidence. To date, the Evidence Sub-Committee has collected more than 350 pieces of evidence for use in the Assurance Argument.

If you have any questions for the Evidence Sub-Committee, we encourage you to contact HLCFeedback@waldenu.edu.

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