Frequently asked questions (Pre-Site-Visit)
What is a QEP? Is this different from Quest for Distinction?
QEP stands for Quality Enhancement Plan. It’s a plan for how we can improve education at VCU. We’re required to develop a QEP every 10 years by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the agency that accredits VCU. But we didn’t develop this plan just because it’s required; we’re always looking for ways to do things better at VCU. The QEP is different from Quest for Distinction, VCU’s strategic plan, but it is aligned with Quest. They both have many of the same goals: to give VCU students a world-class education.
What is this QEP about? What’s the focus?
The title of our QEP is “Learning that Matters: Building a culture of generalizable education.”
So this is about Gen-Ed?
No, this is much more than general education. It’s about education that has substantial and lasting impact beyond any particular course, major or degree. A truly generalizable education crosses domains and expands the boundaries of what the learner considers possible. Like ripples in a pool, generalizable education spreads its influence in ever-widening circles. The title of our QEP uses a play on words -- riffing on general ed to arrive at generalizable education -- but it’s way more than semantics.
How would the QEP do that?
To build this culture of generalizable education, our QEP focuses on four specific elements -- what we’re calling pillars:
- “Discovering Connections: Tier II of the VCU Core Curriculum” -- This pillar will improve our Gen-Ed core, expanding the courses that help explain how the world works. Among other things, we hope to have the same 30-credit core for every program at VCU -- so you won’t lose ground if you change majors. That will make it easier for you to graduate on time.
- “Contributing to a Networked World: Digital Engagement” -- This pillar is not just about increasing our online courses but also creating new pathways to degree completion in four years, increasing your opportunities to learn new media literacies and to become digital creators rather than only digital consumers. And, as a student, you will become a co-creator of VCU’s expansion of its online strategy by participating in new forms of online learning as they are rolled out and providing feedback on your experiences.
- “Mapping Your Learning Journey: Academic Advising” -- This pillar will expand our advising strategy by extending what are called “high impact practices” to second and third year students and introducing a process of guided discovery to assist you in mapping your degree path and in making better informed decisions and choices about what courses to take for your degree path. This will involve more technological tools and more face-to-face advising opportunities.
- “Finding Your Vocation: Career Planning and Professional Development” -- This pillar will improve services to you for exploring possible career options -- through courses in Tier I and self-directed online modules and experiential learning. There will be a portal for identifying experiential learning opportunities like internships, service learning, study abroad, and research positions. And, greater assistance will be provided for developing job application materials such as resumes, portfolios, and other materials.
Who wrote the QEP?
The writing of “Learning that Matters: Building a culture of generalizable education” was an 18-month process that involved a lot of people with a genuine interest in improving student learning and the learning environment at VCU. It started in the summer of 2012 at a leadership retreat for senior administrators. Then, we established a steering committee and had a series of conversations with VCU students, faculty, and staff in 2012 and 2013. Work groups fleshed out the ideas and the first draft was put to paper by QEP co-directors Joe Marolla, former Vice Provost for Instruction and Student Success, and Jeff South, associate professor of Mass Communications.
After that, more input was received from students, faculty, and staff, and “Learning that Matters” was updated and refined by Jeff South and co-director Gardner Campbell, our Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success who joined VCU in August 2013.
Does this just affect undergraduate students?
Actually, no, our “Learning that Matters” will benefit graduate students, first professional students, and our graduate students in Doha, Qatar, and undergraduate and graduate students in Martinsville, VA, too. Our steering committee and work groups were very intentional about this. Here are some examples:
A focus in our Digital Engagement pillar is on becoming a digital creator, which includes scholarly communication and publication, and intellectual collaboration in a networked world. These skills and experiences are very important for graduate and first professional students, wherever they are located and no matter what profession they pursue.
Mapping the Learning Journey is equally important for graduate and first professional students as undergraduate students. VCU’s building out of DegreeWorks, as an audit tool, will help you track progression through your program so you’ll know whether you are on track. Part of the plan, too, is developing comprehensive advising strategies in academic units that will strengthen advising support to you.
Graduate and first professional students have different needs than undergraduates when it comes to career guidance. The Graduate School’s Preparing Future Faculty and the Leaders and Entrepreneurs Academy for Professional Development programs will be expanded and an NIH-inspired Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training program will be developed. And, our University Career Center will work with the Graduate School and academic units to develop career planning tools and programs especially for graduate and first professional students.
When will VCU start implementing the QEP?
The SACSCOC will send one of their vice presidents with a team of ten reviewers from other universities to talk to us about our “Learning that Matters” plan. This is part of their on-site review for the reaffirmation of VCU’s accreditation. The team is reviewing the written plan now and will discuss it with us during their visit February 11 – 13.
What happens after SACSCOC approves the plan?
After we talk with the reviewers and hear their suggestions, we will begin implementation. So, most likely, we will start-up gradually in the March through June time period this year. It is a 5-year plan, so it will roll out in phases during 2013 through 2017.
How will we know if it's working? What happens if we miss our targets?
Our plan includes multiple ways of telling us whether “Learning that Matters” is working. We will conduct student learning outcomes assessments and also track progress in student retention, student persistence, and graduation rates. We also have outcomes associated with each of the four pillars that will be measured, and we will conduct satisfaction surveys and alumni surveys. So, there is a mix of direct and indirect measures that we will use.
If we miss a target, then we will look at it from various angles, like whether the target was too high or too low and/or whether unexpected challenges arose and/or whether our plan was implemented differently than intended.
How will we know if we are succeeding in implementation of the plan? What happens if the roll out does not go as planned?
We’re also doing an implementation evaluation. We expect that with a large and multi-faceted project like this that is implemented in phases, we will learn along the way whether and where we need to make adjustments. So, we will monitor implementation and our progress from the very beginning and be thoughtful and flexible as we proceed. We definitely will make adjustments if needed and then follow how effective the adjustments are. We see this as a normal part of continuous improvement.
Information from both the assessments and the implementation evaluation will be included in our annual reports and our Impact Report on “Learning that Matters: Building a culture of generalizable education” to the SACSCOC in the 5th year.
January 30, 2014
The institution has developed an acceptable Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that includes an institutional process for identifying key issues emerging from institutional assessment and focuses on learning outcomes and/or the environment supporting student learning and accomplishing the mission of the institution.
The institution has developed a Quality Enhancement Plan that (1) demonstrates institutional capability for the initiation, implementation, and completion of the QEP; (2) includes broad-based involvement of institutional constituencies in the development and pro posed implementation of the QEP; and (3) identifies goals and a plan to assess their achievement.