A mock site visit, also known as peer review, provides useful information that can be used to improve an academic program. For example, the peer review experience confirms a program’s strengths and identify areas where additional work is needed. Programs that maintain specialized accreditation undergo a mandatory site visit on a regular basis. All programs may benefit from conducting a mock, which is simply including an external perspective as part of their regular review process.
Why should academic programs consider organizing a mock visit on a regular basis? They…
- Provide another perspective, data source with which to strengthen your program.
- Give students, faculty and staff the opportunity to share concerns as well as good suggestions that you can act upon.
- Raise the university’s awareness about your program mission, learning goals, successes, needs and accreditation standards, if applicable.
How do programs with specialized programmatic accreditation benefit from a mock(s)? They…
- Provide faculty and students an overview of the accreditation process, what kinds of questions site reviewers ask, and the meaning behind the questions. You can send questions to people in advance of the mock and then schedule time to debrief with the mock evaluator.
- Reveals if logistics work.
- Identify your blind spots and unnoticed strengths if organized early (e.g., 3 months to six weeks before the actual visit). You can impress upon everyone who participants in the mock what distinctive institutional strengths or future planned innovations should be mentioned.
- Can continue to build your team’s pride in your program; especially if you conduct a second mock, if appropriate, second mock ensures the logistics are flawless.
What I wish that I knew before I scheduled my program’s first mock:
- Request money in your budget a year early (e.g., consulting fee, travel, lodging, reviewers time, and creation of report). Secure the consulting contract with your external colleague early in the year and ensure that the person has accreditation experience. Select someone who will “shake the trees” (and identify a back-up). Find a consultant through your professional network (e.g., identify at a conference or professional meeting).
- Complete a self-study early so that the consultant can read a draft prior to the visit. Ask one consultant to read the self-study and a different consultant to read it again as part of a mock.
- Share information about the program (e.g., standards, self-study sections) and specific questions that will be asked with people who will be interviewed. Meet with them to help them prepare.
- Make your mock visits real – include an agenda, work room with evidence, meetings with students, adjuncts, advisory board members and administration.
- Remember to do a visual walk-through all key areas and ask for feedback.
- Identify a “runner” who is available all day to assist the team. Exchange cell phone numbers.
- Require a summary report of strengths and concerns. Use it as part of your annual program-level assessment project and/or as a tasks list to consider as you prepare for an actual site visit.
- Establish a communication plan for a mock and actual site visit. When a site team member requests additional information from someone other than the program director/dean, this program director/dean must be informed and consulted prior to responding to the information request.