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Program reviews, which include the preparation of program self-studies and the completion of site visits by review committees, are qualitative and quantitative assessments that play vital roles in the university’s mission of delivering excellent undergraduate and graduate instruction and furthering Ohio University’s research and professional profiles. All academic programs are reviewed periodically—every seven (7) years, normally—to help identify program, college, and university goals and priorities; measure the progress of ongoing initiatives; and provide important information for institutional accreditation. More specifically, program reviews provide information to stakeholders regarding the size and stability of academic programs, programmatic strengths and weaknesses, the status of faculty and staff resources, student profiles, curricular outcomes, and equipment and space needs.
II. Committee Composition and Purview
Central to any program review is an on-campus evaluation conducted by a faculty committee, which, after closely examining a program’s self-study, meets with program faculty, staff, and students. (See Appendix A: ‘Site Visit Requirements,’ University Curriculum Council [UCC] Approved 2-10-09.) It also meets with the program’s presiding dean and provost. The committee’s size and composition depends on the size and complexity of the program under review. The typical arrangement sees one external reviewer and two to three internal reviewers. UCC’s Program Review Committee works with programs to determine the ideal number of reviewers.
A program-review committee is comprised of ‘external’ and ‘internal’ faculty reviewers:
These are distinguished colleagues from programs at other institutions who are specialists in the program’s discipline/area. They evaluate such matters as curricular coverage, scholarly output, and so forth. They play an essential role in the program-review process in light of their expertise and ability to place a program in national and international disciplinary contexts. Programs are required to submit a list of possible external reviewers to the Program Review Committee (PRC) of the University Curriculum Council by July 30. They should ponder conflicts of interest or other similar issues before submitting their nominations. The PRC and the Provost’s office together make final determinations
These are OU faculty appointed by the PRC of the UCC. The PRC selects internal reviewers from a cadre of OU faculty who have received training and/or have reviewed programs in the past. Programs have an opportunity to provide objections to any particular appointment, though the PRC has the final word. With ‘local’ knowledge of the university’s mission, policies and practices, internal reviewers examine program procedures and processes, faculty development, resources, student services, advising, diversity, and so forth.
The committee produces a written report that provides commendations, outlines concerns, makes recommendations, and arrives at a conclusion regarding the program’s viability. The committee’s report should address self-study and site-visit findings, covering program strengths, challenges/weaknesses, opportunities, etc. The report should be evaluative rather than descriptive, and should be forward-looking, not simply an assessment of the program’s current status. It is highly recommended that committee members have a completed draft of the report before the external reviewer departs; site-visit agendas include time for drafting the report. Normally, the committee composes a joint report, but separate external and internal reports may be produced. The report(s) must be submitted to the PRC within one week of the visit’s conclusion.
The report should include an Executive Summary (some 1-1.5 pages) that briefly outlines committee findings (commendations, concerns, recommendations) and an evaluative narrative (lengths range between five and 10 pages) that addresses programmatic practices, curriculum, teaching, research, students, alumni profile, and resources, in addition to expounding upon the commendations, concerns, and recommendations noted in the Executive Summary.
III. Site Visits: Scheduling and Remuneration
Programs are in charge of scheduling site visits. Working with the PRC (which assigns internal reviewers), a program under review identifies site-visit dates (scheduled for October or November, typically) and composes a site visit’s agenda (examples are available from the PRC). In most cases, site visits take two days and must include meetings with faculty, staff, students, the dean, and the Provost (or representative). The PRC’s role in scheduling involves working with programs to make sure internal reviewers are assigned and that their visits coincide with that of an external reviewer.
External reviewers are compensated with a stipend by the Provost’s office, and the Provost’s office also reimburses external reviewers for out-of-pocket expenses related to the site visit. Program administrators should contact the Provost’s office for assistance and specific information, such as account numbers. It is important to note that external reviewers are compensated through BobcatBUY, and thus external reviewers must complete all appropriate BobcatBUY paperwork before any payment can occur. The PRC does not handle any aspect of external-review compensation. Compensation for internal reviewers is funded and arranged by the Provost’s office, without any need for administrative work on the part of individual programs. Internal and external reviewers received compensation only after their report(s) have been submitted to the PRC and to the program under review. Again, the Provost’s office handles all internal-review compensation, while programs should work with the Provost’s office to arrange compensation for external reviewers.
March PRC Chair Notifies Programs of Upcoming Review
July 30 Program Submits List of Potential External Reviewers to PRC
Sept 15 Program Self Studies Due
Oct/Nov Site Visit of Review Committee
The report must be submitted to the PRC within one (1) week of site-visit completion. It then flows to the program and the appropriate dean’s office, which have two (2) weeks to comment. If no comments are provides during the two-week window, the PRC will consider the report accepted by the program and dean. If the report includes a graduate component, it then goes to the Graduate Council, which has the span of two (2) meetings to review it. If there is no graduate component, the report, once reviewed by the program and dean, goes to the University Curriculum Council for approval (upon the endorsement of the PRC), then is placed on the agenda of the Board of Trustees as an informational item. A report on a program with a graduate component flows from the Graduate Council to the UCC (upon endorsement by the PRC), then to the Board of Trustees. This process should be completed by late in the spring term.
V. Areas of Inquiry and Analysis
The site-visit committee will receive a program’s self-study before the visit begins. A self-study entails a program’s responses to questions provided in either the ‘Ohio University Self Studies Guidelines for Academic Assessment: Program Review (Appendix B, valid until 2017) or the document ‘Self Study Guidelines for Academic Program Review (Appendix C: UCC Approved 4-30-13), valid beginning 2017). The latter focuses much attention on outcomes assessment, per Criterion Four of the Higher Learning Commission’s Criteria for Accreditation (Appendix D). Reviewers may use such questions as suggested areas of further inquiry or embark on any additional line of relevant inquiry. The report may be structured in a way similar to the structure of the self-study and corresponding self-study guidelines. The following areas of analysis and inquiry have been collected from peer institutions and other sources as an added (i.e., non-prescriptive) resource for review committees, with some already appearing (but phrased differently) in OU program-review guidelines for self-studies:
History, Development, and Expectations of the Program
Size, Scope, and Productivity
Demand for the Program
Quality of Program Outcomes
Equipment, Facilities, and Other Resources
Resources Generated by the Program
VI. FAQs About the Review Process
Q: How often do program reviews take place? A: Reviews are typically conducted on a seven-year cycle.
Q: Will my program be notified of an impending review? A: Yes, by March for autumn program reviews. Programs are notified by the chair of the UCC Program Review Committee (PRC), who works with programs to keep the process moving and on time.
Q: When are self-studies due and are there guidelines? A: Self-studies must be submitted to the PRC and to external reviewers by September 15 (the PRC supplies the self studies to the internal reviewers). The guidelines are found on the Program Review Committee’s website (http://www.ohio.edu/facultysenate/committees/ucc/program-review.cfm).
Q: How are the internal reviewers chosen and compensated? A: The PRC selects internal reviewers from a cadre of OU faculty who have received training and/or have reviewed programs in the past. Programs have an opportunity to provide objections to any particular appointment, though the PRC has the final word. Compensation for internal reviewers is funded and arranged by the Provost’s office, without any need for administrative work on the part of individual programs.
Q: How are external reviewers chosen and compensated? A: Programs are required to submit a list of possible external reviewers to the PRC by July 30. Programs are asked to ponder conflicts of interest or other similar issues before submitting their nominations. The PRC and the Provost’s office together make final determinations. External reviewers are compensated with a stipend and are reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses related to the site visit. Before processing reimbursements or the stipend, program administrators should contact Anita Leach (email@example.com) in the Provost’s office to obtain an account number and to ask general financial questions.* It is important to note that external reviewers are compensated through BobcatBUY, and thus external reviewers must complete all appropriate BobcatBUY paperwork before any payment can occur. The PRC and the Provost's office do not process external reviewer compensation or other expenses related to the review.
Q: How many external and internal reviewers review any particular program? A: It depends on the size and complexity of the program. The typical arrangement sees one external reviewer and two to three internal reviewers. The PRC works with programs to determine the ideal number of reviewers.
Q: Who handles the scheduling of the reviews? A: Programs are in charge of scheduling. Working with the PRC (which assigns internal reviewers), a program under review identifies site-visit dates (scheduled for October or November, typically) and composes a site visit’s agenda (examples are available from the PRC). In most cases, site visits take two days and must include meetings with faculty, staff, students, the dean, and the Provost (or representative). The PRC’s role in scheduling involves working with programs to make sure internal reviewers are assigned and that their visits coincide with that of an external reviewer.
Q: When are internal and external reviewers compensated? A: Stipends for internal and external reviewers are processed only after their report(s) have been submitted to the PRC and to the program under review.*
Q: Do internal and external reviews happen at the same time? To whom should those reports be submitted? A: Yes, they do, and those reviewers can choose to compose a single report or the external and internal components can take form as separate reports. Reports are submitted to the PRC, the program’s chair, and the Dean’s office.
Q: Do chairs and deans have the opportunity to comment on the reports? A: Yes. Chairs and deans have two (2) weeks from the report’s submission to comment. Those comments are appended to the report, which then flows to Graduate Council (if the program has a graduate component), the UCC, the Provost’s office, and, ultimately, to the Board of Trustees.
Q: What happens if a program doesn’t comply with program-review guidelines and specified timetables? A: All of the program’s UCC business (course approvals, etc.) gets tabled until the process is back on track.
* The Provost's office covers the cost of internal and external reviewer stipends, and external reviewers' out-of-pocket expenses related to the campus visit.
Patrick Barr-Melej, Faculty Fellow, Office of the Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Planning, firstname.lastname@example.org
Howard D. Dewald, Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Planning, 311 Cutler Hall, 1 Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701 (email@example.com).
Anita Leach, Executive Assistant for Faculty and Academic Planning, 310 Cutler Hall, 1 Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701 (firstname.lastname@example.org)