Embarking on the journey of launching a new program at your college or university is an exciting endeavor, but the regulatory landscape can be a daunting terrain to navigate. Many college and university personnel find themselves grappling with uncertainty about what evidence to provide and how to demonstrate compliance with specific standards set by institutional or programmatic accreditors. In an era where higher education websites offer a plethora of examples, it’s crucial to understand the distinction between examples and exemplars when it comes to the regulatory space. While examples can serve as general guides, they should not be mistaken for perfect templates. Here I shed light on this crucial distinction and provide higher education staff with actionable tips for a smoother regulatory approval process.
Understanding the Difference Between Examples and Exemplars
Before delving into the tips, it’s important to clarify the difference between examples and exemplars when working in the regulatory space. Examples are instances of documents, reports, or data submitted by other institutions to accrediting bodies. They can serve as helpful references, offering insight into the types of information that might be required. On the other hand, exemplars are not just examples; they are models of excellence. Exemplars represent the gold standard, and assuming that any document submitted by another institution is flawless can lead to significant pitfalls. Recognizing this distinction is the first step toward a more informed and successful regulatory approval process.
Alternatives to Using Examples & Exemplars in Regulatory Work
Customization is Key
While examples can provide a starting point, it’s crucial to customize documents and evidence to align with the unique characteristics of your institution and the proposed program. Copying and pasting from examples might not capture the specific nuances and strengths of your institution, potentially leading to a misrepresentation of your capabilities.
Engage in Peer Collaboration
Instead of relying solely on online examples, consider engaging in collaborative efforts with peer institutions. Sharing insights, challenges, and successful strategies with institutions facing similar regulatory processes can offer a more nuanced understanding. Peer collaboration allows for the exchange of real-world experiences and promotes a collective learning environment.
Regularly Review and Update Documentation
The regulatory landscape evolves, and so should your documentation. Rather than relying solely on outdated examples, strive to stay abreast of changes in accreditation standards and requirements. Regularly review and update your documentation to reflect any new expectations, ensuring that your submission remains relevant and compliant.
Seek Guidance from Accreditation Experts
Most institutions have dedicated accreditation liaisons or experts who can provide valuable guidance. These individuals possess an in-depth understanding of accreditation standards and can offer insights tailored to your institution’s context. Consult with them regularly to ensure your documentation meets the necessary criteria and standards. That said, some colleges and universities don’t have the luxury of full-time compliance and accreditation experts on staff. On the other hand, there may not be anyone who’s had experience working with a particular state agency or accrediting body. In those cases, hiring a consultant can be a wise investment.
Use Examples Judiciously
Examples can be powerful tools when used judiciously. Rather than mirroring another institution’s document entirely, extract relevant concepts, structures, and approaches that align with your institution’s context. Adapting best practices from examples can enhance the quality of your submission without compromising authenticity.
In the realm of regulatory matters, the journey to program approval requires careful consideration, strategic planning, and a nuanced approach to documentation. While examples can serve as valuable guides, they should not be misconstrued as flawless templates. The key lies in understanding the unique needs of your institution and tailoring documentation accordingly. By following these tips, higher education staff can navigate the regulatory landscape with confidence, ensuring that their submissions stand out for their authenticity and compliance.
About the Author: A former public school teacher and college administrator, Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher provides consultative support to colleges and universities in quality assurance, accreditation, educator preparation and competency-based education. Specialty: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). She can be reached at: Roberta@globaleducationalconsulting.com