Module 2: What You Need to Know Before the Visit
A. Objectives of the Pre-Visit Preparation
The objectives of the pre-visit preparation are fourfold:
- Schedule the on-site review and develop a working relationship with the institutional representative(s).
- Assemble a team that is a balanced representation of the profession and able to accurately assess the quality of the programs to be visited.
- Complete a substantial portion of the review prior to the on-site visit, based on materials furnished by the institution.
- Develop a plan for the additional review to be conducted during the on-site visit and request additional material to be provided by the institution either prior to or during the on-site visit.
Key Team Chair activities and the timing for each activity are found in the table below. We will review each in detail in this module.
|Obtain visit assignment and information using commissioner secure website||Early- to mid-May|
|Schedule visit and begin developing working
relationship with institution
|Mid- to late-May|
|Form visit team||Mid-May to late-June|
|Establish travel logistics||No later than one month prior to visit|
|Prepare for on-site visit||August to week before visit|
B. Obtain Visit Assignment and Information Using the Commissioner Secure Website
In early- to mid-May, you will receive an email notifying you of your on-site review assignment(s) and asking you to go to the Commissioner Secure Website to obtain the detailed information you will need to start preparations for the on-site review.
As a Team Chair, you have access to the Commissioner Secure Website, which you will use for the following:
- Manage your visit team.
- View the Request for Evaluation (RFE).
- Obtain the previous review report.
- Post visit dates.
- Access and download accreditation review documents.
Follow these steps to use the Commissioner Secure Website:
Step 1: Log in using your ABET username and password.
Step 2: Click on the “Commissioner” link under your name.
Step 3: Click on the “Manage Visit” link on the menu bar below the web page title. Your list of review assignments, both visits and reports, will be displayed.
Step 4: To view the Request for Evaluation (RFE) that contains the list of programs included in the visit or report and the contact information for the dean and institutional representatives, click the “View” link on the institution’s row to the right.
Step 5: To access the previous review’s Final Statement(s), to view information for this assignment, to post visit dates, and to approve Program Evaluators, click the “Select” link in the column to the left of the institution’s name.
Step 6: Review the information displayed in the “Evaluation Details” box. You will see information concerning observers, if a visit, whether it is simultaneous or joint with another commission, be able to view previous Final Statements, the RFE, contact information for your Co-Chair (if one is assigned), Editor 1, and Editor 2, and post your visit dates. Many programs provide preferred visit dates. If these dates do not fit your schedule, work with the program to set new dates for the visit.
Step 7: To post visit dates, click the “Update” link beside the visit dates line. Either confirm the visit dates preferred by the program or type in the new visit dates using the format shown. Click “Save.” The visit dates will be recorded automatically, and an email will be sent notifying all societies needing to assign a program evaluator that visit dates are now available.
Step 8: To view the short bio data for the assigned PEV, click on the PEV’s name. You need to confirm the PEV is acceptable to the program before approving the PEV.
Step 9: To approve a program evaluator, click the “Select” link in the left-hand column of the program row. In the program row, you are still able to see at-a-glance the program name and degree designation, the program criteria curricular area, Lead Society for assigning the PEV, the type of review, and the number of PEVs needed for the program in that curricular area. New to this site: You will also see the percentage of alternative delivery methods used in the program and whether you will need to visit remote locations (multiple sites).
Step 10: Click on “Update” in the Approve/Disapprove Program Evaluator and Observer area. Select the appropriate designation from the drop down menu to approve or disapprove the PEV. If disapproving a PEV, make sure to provide short comments in the comment box so the society understands the reason for the disapproval of the PEV. Click “Save.” The status of the PEV will be updated automatically.
Please Note: Visits require you to contact the institution to set visit dates so you can post them on this site. Reports will be sent directly to you by the institution after July 1. For report assignments, you should email the institution to introduce yourself and confirm the mailing address for the report.
C. Schedule the Visit and Begin Developing a Working Relationship with the Institution
Once you have received your assignment(s) as a Team Chair for a given accreditation cycle, contact the institution to confirm their preferred dates or schedule new dates for the review visit, and begin developing a working relationship.
You should send an introductory email message to the dean. The purpose of this correspondence is to:
- Introduce yourself.
- Confirm the programs to be reviewed.
- Initiate discussions concerning visit dates and schedule details.
- Request review materials and representative transcripts be sent to each visit team member.
- Request recommendations for lodging and meals during the on-site visit.
- Communicate that the only occasion for a social meeting with the visit team can be a luncheon on the first day of the visit, and then only if the institution wishes to host such a luncheon.
- Specify requirements for the materials display, including course materials, samples of student work, and assessment materials.
- Request appropriate working space and supplies for the team during the on-site visit.
A sample letter to the dean is available and should be used as a guide for preparing your letter. It is usually more convenient to modify the sample letter as appropriate for the institution and visit than to create a new letter. The document is located in each commission’s TC Workbook. The links to these workbooks are located in this module, Section H under Forms.
Guidelines on Setting Visit Dates
- Visits usually occur Sunday through Tuesday. However, other schedules can be accommodated.
- Sunday is used to conduct preliminary team meetings and to begin review of display materials prepared by the programs being visited. This is important, as it sets the stage for the in-person interviews that begin on Monday morning. Early display material review also allows time for the institution to provide additional documentation you initially may find missing.
- The institution should be in full session during the visit. Be aware of possible academic, national, and religious holidays that may affect the academic schedule.
- The chief executive officer of the institution should be present for an interview with the Team Chair and at the exit meeting.
- Avoid dates that correspond to significant local events (football weekends, homecoming, parents’ weekend, etc.) as they will usually limit lodging options.
Visits should be scheduled for September, October, and November, as later visit dates are often subject to weather delays and introduce difficulties in timing of report processing. December visits should only be used in special circumstances.
For simultaneous or joint visits with more than one ABET commission, the visit dates must be coordinated among all Team Chairs. It is important to begin this coordination as soon as possible. See Module 5 for more information.
In developing a working relationship with the institution:
- Offer to act as a resource for questions concerning the accreditation process. If the institution poses questions you are unable to answer, contact your editor to determine how to advise the institution. Ensure every question by the institution is answered correctly and in a timely manner.
- Remind the institution that you will be available to meet with its representative during the Institutional Representatives’ Day at the Summer Commission meeting.
- Remind the institution of the useful resources available on the ABET website (www.abet.org), including the accreditation criteria, policies, and procedures.
- Inform the institution of the approval process for team members.
- Request the institution ship the visit materials (self-studies, transcripts, course catalog, advising forms, institution and program promotional material, and other descriptive material deemed appropriate by the institution for pre-visit review) to you and the team (once approved).
D. Form the Visit Team
Once you have determined a visit date with the institution and posted it on the Manage Visit Team page of the Commissioner Secure Website, member societies will begin to populate the team with program evaluators. You will receive an email each time a society makes an assignment for your visit team.
- Check each program evaluator’s bio to make sure there are no conflicts of interest and the team is reasonably balanced (industry/academe, PEV experience, gender, ethnicity, etc.).
- Confirm that each program evaluator is indeed available on the dates of the visit and knows of no potential conflicts of interest.
- If you need to reject a program evaluator for any reason, do so as soon as possible so the member society can obtain a replacement in a timely manner.
- Confirm the contact information for each PEV to ensure that the self-study and other pre-visit materials are delivered to the correct address.
Once all (or most all) of the program evaluators are assigned and confirmed available, forward their names and bios to the institutional representative, and request confirmation that the team is acceptable to the institution. Once the institutional representative has confirmed acceptance/rejection of each program evaluator, mark each program evaluator as either “approved” or “rejected” as appropriate in the Commissioner Secure Website Manage Visit Team web page.
Member societies may also make requests for observers to your visit team through the Manage Visit Team secure website. It is your choice whether to accept observers on your visit team. If you already have a large team, there are already a large number of observers assigned, and/or the observer will be shadowing a new program evaluator (first visit), you may wish to decline the request. The institution MUST approve all observers. If the institution wishes that no observers are included on the visit team, that information will be indicated on the RFE.
Observers do not have input into the team’s recommendations and must understand the confidentiality of all visit information. Travel expenses (including meals) are not to be included in the team’s expenses; observers are responsible for their own travel expenses.
State Engineering Licensing Boards may also make requests for observers to your visit team. They will contact the Team Chair directly using information provided by ABET Headquarters.
Once all (or nearly all) team members have been approved, contact the team members to begin the review process by sending a letter/email to the team. The purpose of the letter is to:
- Confirm team member acceptance.
- Introduce team members to each other and provide contact information.
- Advise team members of the visit schedule.
- Prompt team members to begin travel arrangements and to notify you of their arrangements as soon as possible. Information concerning the ABET Travel Policy is found on the ABET Secure Website for both PEVs and Team Chairs. See Travel Logistics below for more information on travel.
- Prompt PEVs to begin specific pre-visit review tasks.
- Outline expectations for pre-visit review work and due dates.
- Remind PEVs of materials needed (criteria for the current visit cycle, Accreditation Policy and Procedure Manual, PEV visit forms) to conduct the review and how to obtain.
- Remind PEVs of communication requirements and prohibitions with the institution.
- Remind PEVs of the PEV Competency Model.
A sample letter to the visit team is available and should be used as a guide for preparing the letter to the team. It is usually more convenient to modify the sample letter as appropriate for the institution and visit than to create a new letter. These sample letters are located in each commission TC Workbook. The links to these workbooks are located in this module, Section H under Forms.
E. Establish Travel Logistics
All travel must follow the ABET Travel Policy to be reimbursed. The ABET Travel Policy may be found at the Commissioner Secure Website.
Remind PEVs that:
- All travel should be booked using ABET’s official American Express travel agent.
- Airfare reimbursement will not exceed the cost of a ticket purchased three weeks in advance of the visit as quoted by American Express.
- Mileage to/from the visit location will be reimbursed only up to the cost of equivalent airfare.
- Taxis, bus, and shuttle expenses exceeding $25 must have receipts.
- Car rental expenses submitted for reimbursement must have been booked through American Express. Do not accept additional insurance coverage. Note: As Team Chair, you should seek to coordinate transportation between the airport and hotel, and hotel and institution to minimize the number of rental cars required.
- Each team member should make his or her own air travel arrangements. The Team Chair will make the hotel arrangements. (See next section.)
- A Saturday night stay and/or Tuesday night stay will be covered if needed to assure the team member will be able to participate fully in the Sunday team meetings and/or exit meeting.
As Team Chair, it is recommended that you:
- Work with the hotel on room reservations, team meeting room, catering, etc. The team meeting room could be a hotel meeting room or for small teams, the Team Chair suite, or a private meeting room on site. For large teams, (typically 10 or more), a group rate might be available. Ask the hotel.
- Obtain maps of the local area and institution prior to arriving. You might consider asking the institutional representative to highlight the location of key institution buildings, hotels, and restaurants on such a map(s).
- Think through meals with care. Meal time is a critical time for quality interaction and team building. However, be aware of the time and length of the meal, especially Monday night. Team members still have work to do after the Monday team meeting and dinner, drafting the exit statement and updating forms. Also remember to ask the team for any dietary restrictions so you can make dinner choices with these in mind.
- Maintain a “master list” of everyone’s travel arrangements with contact information (including cell phone numbers and hotel phone number). Make sure everyone has a copy.
F. Prepare for the Site Visit
Once the visit date is set and the team formed, the next key actions are to set the schedule for the visit and to review the materials (self-studies, transcripts, course catalog, advising forms, institution and program promotional material, and other descriptive material deemed appropriate by the institution for pre-visit review) sent by the institution and begin preparation of the visit forms.
A detailed schedule for the visit will be developed in conjunction with the institutional representative and visit team members. It is important that this be done early given the limited time available during the on-site visit and the busy schedules of institutional leaders. It is often an iterative process involving input and feedback from both the institution and the visit team. Consider sending the institutional representative and team members a sample schedule with common times for all team members filled in. The institutional representative and team members can then provide input/feedback on their needs and availability. Be sure to include time in the agenda for transit between the hotel and institution and from one meeting location to the next.
G. Typical Schedule for General Visit Visiting Team
Day 0 (typically Sunday)
- First team meeting late morning/over lunch
- Visit institution to review display materials and tour facilities (laboratories, classrooms, etc)
- Second team meeting
- Visit team dinner
Day 1 (typically Monday)
- Team meeting with the dean(s). This is the dean’s opportunity to tell the team about the programs being reviewed in their institutional context.
- Meetings with institutional leaders (Team Chair) and program leadership, faculty, staff, and students (PEVs) per schedule
- Luncheon with institutional representatives
- Continue meetings with institutional leaders (Team Chair) and program leadership, faculty, staff, and students (PEVs) per schedule.
- Meet with support area representatives (PEVs).
- Team meeting
- Visit Team dinner
Day 2 (typically Tuesday)
- Team Chair and/or PEVs follow-up with institutional leaders, program leaders, faculty, staff, and/or students to resolve any open questions and/or inconsistencies.
- Complete exit statement and visit form documentation.
- Debrief dean(s) (Team Chair) and program head (PEVs) on findings.
- Team working lunch
- Exit meeting with institutional leadership (approximately 2 pm)
- Visit Team departs institution
Sample on-site visit schedules:
These all require secure login. Sample schedules are located in each commission’s TC Workbook. The links to these workbooks are located in this module, Section H under Forms.
Please Note: It is strongly suggested that team members (PEVs and Team Chair) leave Tuesday morning unscheduled to allow time for follow-up and exit statement and visit form final preparation.
As Team Chair, your schedule will include meetings with the dean(s), provost, institutional CEO, registrar, admissions director, institutional assessment officer, co-op director, placement officer, financial officer, computing or research administrator, or others who have a budgetary impact on the programs being reviewed, as appropriate. For simultaneous and joint visits, you should coordinate plans for these meetings and share responsibility across teams for common support areas such as the library, computing facilities, mathematics, and sciences.
Depending on the commission (ANSAC, CAC, and ETAC), you may also need to coordinate the schedule for the visit of each individual program. This includes working with the PEVs to identify faculty, student, and staff meeting needs; communicating them to the institutional representative; and, working with them to develop the detailed program schedule.
It is advisable to have a visit team conference call one or two weeks prior to the visit date to review the visit schedule, share initial review, and potential shortcomings. It is also advisable to request the PEVs complete and send a copy of their initial review using the PEV Visit Report and PEV Worksheet (as appropriate for the commission) prior to this call. This will help you ensure that each PEV will be adequately prepared for the on-site visit.
Also, about two weeks prior to the visit, finalize the detailed schedule with the institution. Make sure that all requested meetings are scheduled as agreed and that no unnecessary items are included (i.e., visits to individuals or programs not associated with the review, social events, etc). As Team Chair, you are responsible for the visit schedule. Do not allow the institution to distract you and the visit team with additional activities that are not pertinent to the review. There will always be circumstances that require last minute rearrangements, so remain flexible.
IMPORTANT NOTE: ABET Headquarters will set up the visit team conference call for you if you request it. Contact the Accreditation Manager with day and time (Eastern), list of participants and their email addresses, and the name of the moderator (Team Chair).
You may also want to note that the evaluation of a program’s compliance with each of the various requirements of the Program Educational Objectives Criterion and the Student Outcomes Criterion is an important element of ABET’s outcomes-based accreditation criteria and the program’s quality assurance processes. Evaluation of the program’s program educational objectives, student outcomes, and continuous improvement processes is part of the pre-visit and visit review. You need to understand the basics of continuous improvement of student learning. For a refresher on continuous improvement of student learning, visit Module 4 of the Refresher Training now.
The visit team will be responsible for completing a number of forms prior to and during the visit.
Commission Team Chair Workbooks
Each commission has completed Team Chair workbooks containing all required forms, instructions and other valuable resources for successfully leading a visit. These are updated for each review cycle and posted on the secure MyABET site. Look for the TC Workbooks link under “myABET LINKS.” You will find links for downloading each commission’s latest TC Workbook there.
The PEV will be provided with a variety of forms to help walk through the Self-Study Report and conduct a preliminary review of a program’s compliance with the ABET Criteria. Forms to help with the review of the Self-Study Report include the following:
- The PEV Visit Report, including Transcript Analysis, Curriculum Analysis, and Faculty Analysis
- Program Evaluator Worksheet
PEVs are required to complete these forms prior to the team’s arrival on campus. Please review the below forms.
Applied Science Evaluation Forms
Program Evaluator Visit Report (contains Program Evaluator Worksheet)
Computing Evaluation Forms
Engineering Evaluation Forms
Engineering Technology Evaluation Forms
Program Evaluator Visit Report (contains Program Evaluator Worksheet)
It is highly recommended that you request a copy of the PEV’s initial review using the appropriate above form(s) two weeks prior to the visit to: 1) determine that all team members have completed their initial review; 2) identify requests to the institution for additional information; and, 3) identify common potential shortcoming areas for team discussion.
Using this information, you can draft the agenda for the first Sunday team meeting and begin to draft the Team Chair exit statement.
I. Resources Available Before the Visit
Several resources are available to help you in your role as Team Chair before the visit.
For Team Chairs
Log in to the Commissioner Secure Site to access TC Workbooks.
For Program Evaluators
Information for program evaluators includes:
In summary, pre-visit preparation lays the foundation for the visit. The pre-visit process starts in early to mid-May and proceeds until days before the visit. It involves obtaining visit assignment and detailed information from the Commissioner Secure Website to initiate discussions with the institution to set the on-site visit date and develop a working relationship. Pre-visit preparation also involves formation of the visit team. While PEVs will be assigned to the visit by the member society, it is still the Team Chair’s responsibility to make sure there are no conflicts of interest and that the team is appropriately balanced. It also involves working with the institution and visit team to determine the visit schedule, working with the team to review the pre-visit materials sent by the institution, and completing the pre-visit forms.