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Frequently Asked Questions

What is AQIP?

AQIP stands for the Academic Quality Improvement Program, which is an alternative accreditation process developed by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It consists of a continuous process of examining institutional practices and working together to identify needed improvements. A minimum of three Action Projects are always active, with at least one focusing on the core function of the college: Helping Students Learn.

Prior to our acceptance into AQIP, Heartland Community College engaged in the Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality (PEAQ) accreditation guidelines and processes. These processes involved self-studies and on-site visits by Consultant-Evaluators. Excerpts from past self studies conducted by Heartland Community College are available under History: Self-Studies.

Why did HCC choose to apply to AQIP?

By its nature, the AQIP process offers a forward-looking approach both to accreditation and to institutional quality improvement. Ever since the College's founding in 1990, HCC has embraced processes designed to create a culture of quality improvement, and AQIP fits very naturally within those institutional traditions. AQIP's emphasis on teamwork and continuous improvement, as well as its focus on specific practical actions, help to make the accreditation process more meaningful to the entire College community.

How does AQIP work?

Heartland was accepted into AQIP in October of 2005 which started us in a seven year cycle.

  • Campus Conversation Days are held annually to garner new ideas and report progress
  • Action Projects are created based on ideas from throughout the campus
  • Recomendations from Action Projects are submitted for approval to the cabinet
  • The Systems Portfolio is updated annually and periodically submitted for feedback from external reviewers (the first portfolio will be written in 2008/2009)
  • Every seventh year Heartland's accreditation is reviewed for reaffirmation

What are the 9 AQIP Categories?

These 9 categories are the key processes for measuring and analyzing our institution's performance within AQIP. The relationships among the 9 categories is depicted at AQIP Categories Diagram** (PDF format, 281 KB, 1 page)

AQIP Categories Diagram

**Note: You must download and install Adobe® Acrobat® Reader™ in order to view and print PDF documents.

  1. Helping Students Learn
  2. Accomplishing Other Distinctive Objectives
  3. Understanding Students' & Other Stakeholders' Needs
  4. Valuing People
  5. Leading & Communicating
  6. Supporting Institutional Operations
  7. Measuring Effectiveness
  8. Planning Continuous Improvement
  9. Building Collaborative Relationships

What has Heartland accomplished through AQIP?

What is my role in AQIP at Heartland Community College?

In order that AQIP be fully effective, the entire campus community should be fully involved. There are several ways to participate, including: joining an Action Project or the Coordinating Committee, assisting with Campus Conversation Day planning, writing articles for the AQIP newsletter or assisting with the collection of information for the Systems Portfolio. To get involved contact the AQIP Coordinating Committee chair or use the suggestions link.

What is an Action Project?

Action projects are the vehicles through which the college focuses on improving specific areas. Three or four projects are always active and at least one focuses on the core function of the college: Helping Students Learn. To be successful, Action Projects require involvement of administration, faculty and staff members engaging in continuous quality improvement.

The current Action Projects at HCC are:

How are new Action Projects created?

The New Action Project Subteam collects ideas from various sources such as suggestions made to this site, Campus Conversation Days, etc. The New Action Project Subteam and the Coordinating Committee evaluate these ideas based on a number of criteria. A small team writes a charter for the selected project with input from appropriate stakeholders. Finally, the project activity begins once team members are identified. For further details see AQIP New Projects Process** (PDF format, 34 KB, 1 page).

What is the Systems Portfolio?

The AQIP Systems Portfolio is a document through which HCC will identify and self-evaluate each of the major systems Heartland employs to accomplish its mission and objectives, such as Helping Students Learn and Valuing People. We anticipate that every part of the campus will be involved in creating the portfolio. The task of assembling the Systems Portfolio will give all of us a better understanding of the usefulness of the systems and processes used at HCC.

Upon the initial completion, the Systems Portfolio will be available electronically and will be maintained yearly.

Heartland's initial Systems Portfolio was submitted on June 1, 2009. Upon review during the Fall 2009 semester HCC received valuable feedback in the form of a Systems Appraisal Feedback Report about our strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Information on the Systems Portfolio can be found at History: Systems Portfolio.

The Fall 2009 Systems Appraisal Feedback Report can be found at History: Systems Portfolio: Systems Appraisal Feedback Report.

What are the AQIP Cycles of Improvement?

"AQIP is a quality improvement program and a quality assurance program for higher education organizations. It operates by involving participating institutions in three disctinct cycles that occur simultaneously. Each cycle has a different duration and sequence of distinctive processes."

Every Year: Action - Action Project Updates and Maintenance of Systems Portfolio

"This one-year cycle drive continous improvement by having every AQIP college or university tackle three or four Action Projects that it has chosen, committed to completing in a few months or years, and published in AQIP's on-line Action Project Directory. Organizations can complete Action Projects and begin new ones at any time. Each fall, they provide Action Project Updates to AQIP on the progress of current projects, and AQIP provides written feedback on these reports. Improvements in the processes an institution employs or the performace results it achieves are incorporated into its published Systems Portfolio."

Every Four Years: Strategy - Systems Appraisal and Strategy Forum

"This four-year cycle drives improvement by having every AQIP organization create and maintain and up-to-date Systems Portfolio describing key systesm and processes the organization uses to achieve its goals and the performance results it obtains from them. A Systems Appraisal of the Systems Portfolio provides institutions with written, actionable feedback they can use to create strategies and actions that will move them quickly toward achievement of their goals. Participation in a Strategy Forum drives organizations to use this feedback in shaping new strategies, aligning systems, and creating specific Action Projects."

Every Seven Years: Accreditation - Check-Up Visit and Reaffirmation of Accreditation

"This seven-year cycle reviews evidence from both the action cycles and stragegy cycles, evidence that demonstrated that an AQIP organization continues to comply with the Higher Learning Commission's Criteria for Accreditation - and that continuing its participation in AQIP will result in measurable performance improvement. A Check-Up Visit to the institution a year or two before its Reaffirmation of Accreditation review confirms the improvements it is making as well as the accuracy of the evidence it has provided to AQIP while providing helpful feedback and consultation on specific issues of its choosing."

from: Academic Quality Improvement Program, The Higher Learning Commission

How do I find out more information about AQIP?

For information on the Higher Learning Commission's Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP), see http://www.aqip.org.