Many people have asked me why we bother with accreditation and the reasons behind our nearly 10-year journey with AdvancED | Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC). I will tell you, as the experience is fresh on my mind with our third external review now completed. As a way to provide a little context, the process includes years of performance diagnostics, months of document preparation, capped off by an external review with an evaluation team that spends multiple days exploring one question: are we qualified to provide education? The core responsibility of our accreditors is to evaluate leadership capacity, learning capacity, and resource capacity. The reviewers have all spent years in education, administration, and teaching. They come with the responsibility to dive deep into the institution’s processes, standards, procedures and to give a formal rating of quality comparative to other schools and school systems; AdvancED includes 36,000 institutions.
We at Bottega have a belief that improvement comes from oversight and direction by experts from many disciplines over a given period of time. By subjecting ourselves to the accreditation process we feel that it makes us stretch, and makes us better. It could be compared to someone receiving a certificate of completion vs a certificate of competency. To get, and keep, our accreditation we have to deliver results not just certificates. Having oversight is much like an entrepreneur who has mentors, a college or university that has a board of advisors, and a corporation that utilizes a board of directors. In short, a person or group who sees what you cannot or will not see. The accreditation committee helps us see where we need to improve, and where we are succeeding.
The practice of oversight, or a focused review, is actually more established than one might think. Common references to groups who collaborate and challenge each other in healthy competition within a collective effort are also known as a mastermind group, a committee, or council and can be traced back hundreds of years. MIT Center for Collective Intelligence has emerged to encourage business leaders to embrace rather than reject the human-machine relationship. Professor Thomas Malone recently was quoted, “Today, it’s about how they can become more collectively intelligent as technology continues to advance. At this stage, I encourage leaders to take a step back from the day-to-day and consider what their business would look like if it had perfect collective intelligence.”
Accreditation is, in fact, a form of collective intelligence. For example, accreditation has been around since the 19th century. That is a lot of data! Some will argue that it is out of touch and archaic, but I would submit that it is all about the data. As a school, if we can access the experience of accreditation resources, academic reviews, and credit-granting processes; we can reverse-engineer a more streamlined experience for students. Combine those academic resources with industry experts, College & University partnerships, and a superior technology platform- we prepare the best learning experience for the present and especially the future of computational science. The Accreditation process in partnership with data utilization makes that possible as well as provides the challenge for the willing institution to continuously improve. With the ever-changing world of education and industry, we are sure to see great changes, as well as future regulation. I believe that there should be a standard for every industry, especially technology education and unfortunately, I have seen that everyone does not operate under the same principles of quality. I challenge all companies, schools, boot camps, etc. to seek accreditation, and improve the very education that you seek to deliver.