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Updated: 03/11/2014 11:04, Counter: 3452

ABET ACCREDITATION: BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES

Nguyen Hua Phung, Pham Tran Vu and Thoai Nam

Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering – Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City

Abstract

Accreditation of education program is the recognition of an outside organization about the quality of a training program or a training organization. Accreditation is the recognition of an external organization about the education quality of a program or an educational organization. ABET is an organization that accredits the quality of education programs in Engineering, Technology, Computing and Applied Science areas. This paper presents the requirements of education quality in the view of ABET as well as the benefits and challenges when achieving accreditation by ABET.

1.      Introduction about ABET Inc.

In order to support the development of education by assessment and quality accreditation, ABET[1] is an organization founded by the professional associations in the US. At the time of establishment in 1932, ABET had 7 member associations. Today, there are 33 professional associations joining ABET. Every year, there are about 2,000 volunteers from member associations taking part in ABET activities such as operating ABET, evaluating educational programs, etc.

This organization defines a set of criteria for accrediting undergraduate/postgraduate educational programs, temporarily called ABET standards. ABET accreditation ensures that accredited educational programs satisfy the quality criteria defined by experts from professional associations. ABET accredits undergraduate programs in the fields of Engineering, Technology, Computing, and Applied Science.

Along with other accreditation bodies, achieving ABET accreditation becomes an important requirement for education programs in relevant areas. ABET accreditation has been officially recognized by Council of Higher Education Accreditation since 1997. Today, ABET has accredited for about 3,466 programs at 698 institutions worldwide.

ABET accredits educational programs not only in the US but also in other countries when requested. Since 2007, ABET has extended its accreditation for undergraduate programs from countries other than the US. Until now, there have been 28 other countries having educational programs accredited by ABET. In the South East Asia, Singapore, Philippines, and Indonesia have programs officially accredited by this organization. In addition to the direct accreditation of foreign education programs, ABET also recognizes accredited programs by other accreditation bodies through mutual recognition agreements such as Washington Accord, Sydney Accord, and Seoul Accord.

2.      ABET accreditation criteria

ABET defines 9 accreditation criteria: Students, Program Educational Objectives, Student Outcomes, Continuous Improvement, Curriculum, Faculty, Facilities, Institutional Support, and Program Criteria.

“Students” is the first criterion to be reviewed. It represents the view of ABET, in which students are the center of learning and teaching process. This criterion requires that the academic unit needs to follow students’ development and help them achieve the desired results, define the requirements of student admission, support students through advisory systems, operate teaching programs, etc.

“Program Educational Objectives” describes the abilities of students after a few years of graduation. Program educational objectives of a program must be built in accordance with the university's mission and based on the needs of the different stakeholders of the program such as industries, alumni, students, faculty members, etc.

One of the most important criteria of ABET is “Student Outcomes” (which was the “Program Outcomes” previously). This criterion defines specific requirements (including at least 11 items) on the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students must possess at the time of graduation. This criterion represents the views of ABET, where the success of an educational program is measured by the amount of knowledge and skills that the students achieve when participating the program rather than what are taught by lecturers in classes.

Another important criterion is “Continuous Improvement”, which requests that an education program must clearly define a student assessment procedure in order to continuously improve and enhance the quality of learning and teaching.

The criterion “Curriculum” includes a number of requirements on the minimal amounts of time allocated to different bodies of knowledge. The most important idea of this criterion is that the students are given enough time to achieve “Student Outcomes”.

The other criteria are defined to ensure that an academic unit has enough capability to successfully run an educational program such as the quantity and quality of teaching staff, financial supports, facilities for teaching and learning, etc.

3.      The benefits of ABET accreditation:

3.1  Benefits for students:

Enrolled in an ABET accredited program, students will:

·         Receive a quality education program that satisfies requirements of professional organizations. The programs that are accredited by ABET must be continuously improved based on the feedback from industries, alumni, etc.

·         Have more opportunities to develop their personal careers after graduation as ABET is an internationally recognized organization, many companies have stated their priority to recruit graduates from ABET accredited programs [2].

·         Have advantages when working for American companies, or pursuing American professional certificates [3].

3.2  Benefits for universities

When an educational program is granted ABET accreditation that means:

·         The quality of the education program is globally recognized.

·         The academic unit in charge of the program (Faculty/ Department) has been working hard to deliver best teaching practices to help students achieve necessary knowledge and skills for their future careers.

·         Faculty members have to participate in self-evaluation processes to continuously improve teaching quality.

·         The quality of students’ achievements is the primary measurement of the quality of teaching activities in this education program.

·         Student exchanges among accredited programs are made easier.

3.3  Benefits for the society

As discussed above, ABET is an organization established by professional associations, and the accreditation criteria used by ABET reflect the expectation of society from educational programs. Therefore, achieving ABET accreditation confirms that the quality of accredited programs have met professional requirements of the society. Adjustment process when preparing for ABET accreditation is an educational product that meets the needs of society. The process of adjusting educational programs during the preparation step to satisfy ABET standards is exactly the process of tailoring educational products to meet the demand of the society.

While Vietnamese economy needs to attract foreign investment, achieving accreditation from American professional associations confirms that the country human resources are well trained, and hence helps to attract more investments. This is reflected in some of the actions of large companies. For example: Boeing funded the entire budget for ABET workshop in Vietnam in 2007 and partially in 2008; Intel has been invested in HEEAP projects with a request that curricula of programs involved with HEEAP will be eventually accredited by ABET.

4.      Challenges

4.1  Teaching activity adjustment:

According to ABET accreditation requirement, the quality of students is the primary measurement to evaluate quality of teaching and learning activities. Therefore, lecturers and instructors must have the ability to implement the most suitable teaching methods in order to help students achieve the necessary requirements.

When preparing for accreditation of Computer Science and Computer Engineering programs at the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering, faculty members must participate in training workshops about building course learning outcomes and teaching methods that can help students meet these outcomes, etc. Many discussions were held by departments, teaching groups to find better solutions that could help students to acquire new skills.

4.2  Building quality assurance procedure

“Continuous Improvement” requires that each educational program needs to have an effective procedure to measure students’ learning progress. The quality of students required by each criterion needs to be reviewed and evaluated systematically. The evaluation results need to be reviewed regularly by an authorized program committee to improve educational quality. .

With a special permission from the Board of Rectors of the university, the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering appointed a chairperson for each educational program. In addition, each program also has an evaluation team who are responsible for collecting and processing data to evaluate the extent to which students meet ABET criteria. The Faculty also forms program committees for educational programs, who duty is reviewing evaluation results and proposing changes when necessary to improve educational quality.

4.3  Enhancing relationship with industrial partners:

According to ABET accreditation criteria, industrial partners play a very important role:

·         Experts from industry can help to define the program educational objectives.

·         Enterprises employ graduates from educational programs. Therefore, their feedbacks to the quality of educational programs are highly accurate and important.

·         Enterprises can help to train students with state-of-the-art technologies.

Every year, the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering organizes a meeting with industrial partners. The main focus of these meetings is to find ways to improve educational programs as well as to send students for internships. In 2011 meeting, representatives from industrial partners discussed actively on the objectives we should set for the new educational programs to be implemented in 2014.

4.4  Financial support for facilities:

Planning to renew laboratory equipment is an essential activity in order to help students get necessary skill for their careers. In addition, learning materials such as textbooks, references, e-libraries are also important support for students.

5.      Conclusion

Achieving ABET accreditation is a commitment of Ho Chi Minh University of Technology about maintaining high teaching quality to society. Having programs accredited by a well recognized organization like ABET gives students more opportunities in their future careers. However, to be accredited by ABET for an education program, we need to be patient and overcome many challenges. After years of preparation, two educational programs of the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering have been officially accredited by ABET. We hope that in near future, there are many more other educational programs of Vietnamese universities accredited by ABET.

References

[1] ABET home page, abet.org, 2014.

[2] Employer prefer ABET-Accredited programs, http://abet.org/DisplayTemplates/IndeedJobSearch.aspx?id=70, 2014.

[3] California - Professional Engineer Requirements, http://www.laymaneng.com/?page_id=190, 2014.

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