The Open Pathway seeks to achieve the following goals.
The Open Pathway separates the continued accreditation process into two components: the Assurance Review and the Quality Initiative.
In preparation for the Assurance Review, an institution develops an Assurance Argument that has links to materials in an Evidence File.
The Assurance Argument is organized by the Criteria and their Core Components.
For each Criterion, the institution offers:
Within the Assurance System, an institution’s Evidence File comprises two sections. In section one, the Commission contributes recent comprehensive evaluation and interim reports, a trend summary from the institution’s most recent Institutional Update submissions, copies of official actions and correspondence, public comments, and any other information the Commission deems necessary.
In section two of the Evidence File, the institution uploads its own evidentiary materials that, together with its Assurance Argument, demonstrate that it meets the Criteria for Accreditation. To the extent possible, an institution is encouraged to use existing materials as evidence rather than create new materials exclusively for the accreditation process. Examples of such evidence include existing mission statements, budget documents, assessment and curriculum reports, minutes from meetings of governing boards and other prominent committees, and materials submitted to and received from specialized accreditation organizations and state agencies.
The Open Pathway requires the institution to undertake a major Quality Initiative designed to suit its present concerns or aspirations. The Commission assumes that strong institutions are continuously engaged in improvement, without guidance from the Commission. It asks the institution to select one major improvement project that meets its current needs or aspirations and to designate that project as its Quality Initiative.
The Quality Initiative takes place between Years 5 and 9 of the 10-year Open Pathway cycle. A Quality Initiative may be designed to begin and be completed during this time or it may continue an initiative already in progress or achieve a key milestone in the work of a longer initiative. The Quality Initiative must have scope and significance but there is no requirement that it encompass an entire institution. The Quality Initiative is intended to allow institutions to take risks, aim high, and if so be it, learn from only partial success or even failure.
A comprehensive evaluation takes place in Year 10 of the ten-year Open Pathway accreditation cycle. The components of the comprehensive evaluation in the Open Pathway are these:
In the comprehensive evaluation, peer reviewers determine whether the institution continues to meet the Criteria for Accreditation by analyzing the institution’s Assurance Filing (Assurance Argument and Evidence File); a preliminary analysis is followed by a campus visit. The purposes of the visit are to validate claims made in the institution’s Assurance Filing and to compare those materials with what the team finds during planned activities while on site.
Here is the complete Open Pathways booklet: