Northark Academic Quality Improvement Program
History of AQIP at Northark
In 2005, Northark became the first Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) college in Arkansas. The college decided to pursue this reaccreditation option because it "fit" with our focus on continuous improvement.
Northark moved from a traditional model of accreditation to the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP, pronounced "a-quip"), a quality-based continuous improvement model of accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). This model is based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program and incorporates a review process designed to deliver clear, concrete and efficient feedback to participating institutions. Additionally, it provides assurance of institutional quality to NCA and other audiences and constituencies. As encouraged by NCA, the college is customizing the AQIP process to conform to its evolving culture of continuous improvement.
Northark began this journey with an NCA-facilitated Conversation Day. Northark teams refined the ideas generated during Conversation Day to develop our first 3 Action Projects. Northark has a simple yet ambitious mission: To provide high quality, affordable, convenient opportunities for learning and cultural enrichment in response to community needs. AQIP allows us to focus our energies on continual improvement of the processes needed to carry out this mission and lets us incorporate these activities into re-accreditation.
As part of the Northark AQIP Cycle we will always work on 3 Action Projects, one of which focuses on improving student learning. We also provide annual updates to the NCA about the progress of these projects, complete a comprehensive (and introspective) Systems Portfolio every 4 years, and expect a site visit from an AQIP team every 7 years. Unlike traditional accreditation, with its self-study and site visit, our re-accreditation through AQIP will result from the whole of our activities during this 7-year cycle. These activities should, and shall, reflect evidence of our commitment to continuous and ongoing quality improvement.
- Strategy Forum – This workshop provides an institution with a supportive, facilitated peer review process that will stimulate and assist it in selecting, critically examining, and committing to Action Projects that will drive quality improvement.
- Action Projects – These projects create a foundation for an institution’s improvement initiatives and demonstrate the vitality of its commitment to quality. AQIP institutions commit to three to four projects that will move it closer to being the institution it wants to be. At least one Action Project must relate directly to helping students learn.
- Action Project Progress Reports – These annual progress reports, submitted to the HLC each September, include: 1) progress made, based on timelines, goals and measures; 2) problems and challenges encountered; and 3) outstanding successes and discoveries made.
- Systems Portfolio – This document presents an overview of our institution that explains the major systems we use to accomplish our mission. AQIP institutions assemble a Systems Portfolio every four years and answer questions under nine AQIP characteristics.
- Systems Appraisal – A team of trained reviewers who read and produce an Appraisal Feedback Report that assesses the maturity and identifies strengths and opportunities for improvement within each of the AQIP Systems Portfolio’s nine characteristics.
- Quality Check-up – A team of two or three trained evaluators conduct a visit to: affirm the accuracy of the institution's Systems Portfolio; review Action Projects and strategies identified to capitalize on the strengths and opportunities for improvement; assure continuing quality improvement commitment; and confirm the institution’s compliance with accreditation expectations.
Benefits of AQIP/Continuous Improvement
Through the implementation of AQIP and continuous improvement, benefits to the college are continuously emerging. The use of quality tools has improved college meetings and increased the use of data rather than anecdotal information in decision-making. An example already underway is the modification of the college-wide program review process to systematically sustain continuous improvement and emphasize program quality. As Northark develops increased expertise in the use of quality tools, institutional performance should become more effective and productive.
In January 2005, Northark, in association with the North Central Association, had a Conversation Day, where more than 100 Northark faculty, staff, and board members identified “gap” areas – areas of high priority needing improvement at Northark. Progress in any of these areas could have a significant impact on Northark in coming years.
Conversation Day participants generated 11 "Provocative Propositions" which, over the next few months, were refined into the first 3 Action Projects. Participants also identified dozens of Quick Fixes
that were addressed in the next weeks.
The Constellation Report
Northark Faculty and Staff participated in Constellation, an online survey, in December 2004. The results of this survey were used as a starting point for Conversation Day discussions.
[NOTE: The documents below are Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files.]