Quality Assurance

Last Updated 05/02/2024

In traditional higher education institutions, quality is commonly viewed broadly, covering institutional functions to include teaching and academic programs, research and scholarship, staffing, students, building, facilities, equipment, service to the community, and the academic environment. Quality assurance (QA) focuses on the process to achieve quality—to assure internal and external constituents that a credential provider has processes that consistently produce high-quality outcomes. QA is a continuous, active, and responsive process that includes strong evaluation and feedback loops. QA asks: "How does an institution know it is achieving the desired results?"

Key institutional characteristics that increase the likelihood that quality outcomes will be realized include: (1) clear statements of intended learning outcomes; 2) satisfactory performance on national, state, and industry  licensing and certification examinations; (3) direct assessment of exiting students’ abilities consistent with institutional goals and demonstrating the "value added" by the institution given students’ starting points; and (4) students’ satisfaction with the institution’s contribution to the attainment of their goals relative to the costs incurred.

Characteristics of quality are also often expressed by employers who hire institutions’ graduates, seeking: (1) technical knowledge and competence in a field; (2) literacy (communication, computational, and technological skills); (3) “just-in-time” learning ability that enables graduates to learn and apply new knowledge and skills as needed—often referred to as "lifelong learning" skills; (4) ability to make informed judgments and decisions (correctly define problems, gather and analyze relevant information, develop and implement appropriate solutions); (5) ability to function in a global community including knowledge of different cultures and contexts; (6) characteristics and attitudes needed for workplace success (flexibility and adaptability; ease with diversity; motivation and persistence; ethical standards; creativity and resourcefulness; ability to work with others, especially in groups; and demonstrated ability to apply these skills to complex problems in real-world settings).

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