Online Schools of Public Health and Public Health Programs *

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1 Online Schools of Public Health and Public Health Programs * This paper addresses a specific audience: online schools of public health (SPH) and public health programs (PHP). For the purpose of this paper, an online SPH or PHP is defined as one that offers its public health coursework and degrees solely via distance, ie with no on-site public health degree offerings. This paper defines hybrid SPH and PHP as those that offer one or more public health degrees through a fully online format and one or more public health degrees through a campus-based format. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) currently accredits more than 15 hybrid SPH and PHP. Hybrid SPH and PHP are not intended as this paper s audience, though they may find it useful to consider concepts from this paper when incorporating online program(s) of study into the self-study document and accreditation site visit. Finally, this paper defines campus-based SPH and PHP as those for which all public health degree completion requires regular classroom attendance and other regular contact that is placebased. Campus-based SPH and PHP may offer coursework in an online format. Campus-based SPH and PHP may allow students to choose, on a course-by-course basis, whether to enroll in an online or an on-site classroom section, but campus-based SPH and PHP do not offer a fully online pathway to the MPH or other public health degree. At present, the majority of CEPH-accredited SPH and PHP are campus-based. Many CEPHaccredited SPH and PHP integrate sophisticated technology, including online learning, into their campus-based programs of study, but they are not this paper s intended audience. Subject to all accreditation criteria Online SPH and PHP are subject to the same accreditation criteria as campus-based and hybrid SPH. In other words, an accredited SPH or PHP, regardless of the mode of delivery, must possess all of the characteristics described in CEPH s Accreditation Criteria documents. These characteristics describe a multidisciplinary public health unit, encompassing faculty, staff and students. The curriculum, or offering of classes, is but one aspect that is subject to the accreditation review. The online SPH or PHP must demonstrate the ways in which it meets all accreditation criteria. Though methods for demonstrating compliance with the criteria may vary, it is the SPH/PHP s obligation to demonstrate that it meets all criteria. This paper will now focus specifically on elements that differentiate review of online programs in 1) the self-study document and 2) the conduct of the site visit. It is intended to be helpful to * This is a technical assistance document, intended to be helpful to institutions seeking accreditation and to site visit teams in evaluating online schools and programs. It is not a policy paper and does not supplant formally adopted criteria that guide the decision-making process of the Council on Education for Public Health. Interested parties should refer to Accreditation Criteria for Schools of Public Health, June 2011, or Accreditation Criteria for Public Health Programs, June 2011, for the accreditation criteria. 1

2 online SPH and PHP in self-study preparation and to CEPH s on-site evaluators in conducting the site visit. SELF-STUDY DOCUMENT The self-study document should discuss online education throughout the document. For schools of public health (SPH), the criterion is 2.14, and for public health programs (PHP), the criterion is In both sets of accreditation criteria, the standard is titled Distance Education or Executive Degree Programs. Online and hybrid SPH and PHP must certainly respond to this criterion, but they must also respond substantively to all other accreditation criteria. The response to Criterion 2.14 or 2.12 is but one aspect of the online SPH or PHP s self-study document. Mission and Evaluation An online SPH/PHP should have a mission, values and accompanying goal statements and measures that effectively capture all aspects of instruction, research and service (Criterion 1.1). Such statements and measures should depict the unique nature of SPH/PHP but should ensure that the SPH/PHP defines and evaluates its performance in a manner that aligns with all expectations contained in the existing accreditation criteria. Thus, when setting target levels for outcome measures, the SPH/PHP should be attentive both to the unique characteristics that distinguish an online setting and to the need to demonstrate compliance with the instruction, research and service components required of accredited SPH/PHP. Organizational setting and governance An online SPH/PHP must depict the organizational structure that defines decision making for the school or program. In such settings, the discussion of how the setting facilitates[s] interdisciplinary communication, cooperation and collaboration, is particularly important, as is evidence that The organizational structure shall effectively support the work of the program s constituents. (Criterion 1.4) Additionally, an online SPH/PHP must document the means through which program administration and faculty have sufficient prerogatives to assure integrity of the program. (Criterion 1.5) This criterion explains that faculty members should have formal opportunities for input in decisions on admissions, resources, faculty recruitment and promotion, curriculum, research and service activities and degree requirements. Also, standing and ad hoc committees, with explainable exceptions, should include student members. Finally, faculty (in addition to program leaders) should be involved in the broader context of governance at the home institution. For example, faculty should represent program views and interests in graduate school policy-setting and decision-making. Assuring active, engaged participation of faculty and students who are not geographically proximate may present a challenge, so the self-study document must explain the methods and tools employed to execute an appropriately participatory governance system in a distance-based environment. 2

3 Resources Faculty resources For online SPH and PHP, precisely documenting available faculty resources may require extra attention. For PHP, each MPH area of concentration ( generalist is considered a concentration) must be able to present at least three full-time faculty members. These faculty members must be 1) employed full-time at the institution that houses the PHP and 2) primarily dedicated to the program s instruction, research and service (at an effort greater than.50 FTE). There must be five full-time faculty members in the PHP who possess these characteristics for each area of concentration that offers a doctoral degree. As with any program, the expectations for full-time faculty members constitute an absolute minimum expectation, and the total number of available faculty must be appropriate to the number of enrolled students and to the program s unique mission and curriculum. In general, the PHP must demonstrate that its faculty complement 1) meets at least the minimum expectation and 2) is sufficient to support the program s student body and research and service programs. Please refer to CEPH s Technical Assistance document Required Faculty Resources for Accredited Public Health Programs and Schools of Public Health for additional information on general expectations relating to faculty resources. PHP must present an overview of available faculty resources in table format (see CEPH Templates and 1.7.2, available at These tables require presentation of faculty headcount (HC), that is, how many individuals support the program, and faculty full-time equivalence (FTE). CEPH does not mandate a particular method for calculating faculty FTE, as such calculations may depend on institutional context (such as the relative expectations for teaching and research). In PHP, the faculty FTE for each individual should include an accounting of the individual s total time spent on teaching in the public health program and doing research and service that is affiliated with the public health program. Affiliated research and service would include projects that directly impact the research, teaching and service components of the PHP being accredited. Such impact might be demonstrated in public health research that provides examples or case studies for PHP classes or in research or service projects that stand to employ students or alumni from the PHP. In calculating FTE, the self-study must exclude time spent by each faculty member in 1) teaching and advising at another institution or for any degree program that is outside the scope of accreditation review and 2) any research or service that does not directly relate to the SPH/PHP and its students. 3

4 In online SPH, the template for presentation of faculty resources is the same as that referenced above, but definitions vary slightly, due to the typically larger array of degree offerings in an SPH. Contact CEPH staff, or consult the appropriate criteria document, for additional information on required faculty resources for SPH. Budget statement The self-study document should present a single budget statement for the SPH/PHP, and the statement should follow the format of CEPH Template In online SPH/PHP, the budget statement must clearly depict all revenues and expenditures. When an SPH/PHP receives support in the form of provision of physical space or computer equipment (rather than receiving a financial allocation) from the university in which it is housed, this should be noted in the appropriate section of the self-study narrative. It should not, however, be included as a dollar figure in the budget table. The budget table should only show resources that actually accrue to (or are spent by) the program or school. Research and service funds should only appear on the table if they come to the PHP/SPH as an actual resource in the form of direct funds and/or salary support. Other resources The self-study must document the other resources available to faculty and students in all of the categories specified in the documentation requests for Criterion 1.7. If many faculty work in their homes or in external offices not controlled by the SPH/PHP, the self-study text should note that fact. The self-study should not present such space and other resources as SPH or PHP holdings in its presentation of space, library facilities, etc., since the self-study should clearly depict those resources that are held by, and within the control of, the SPH/PHP and/or the home institution. Curriculum: general Online SPH/PHP must present all degrees that are offered in the unit of accreditation review in table form (see CEPH Template 2.1.1). The self-study should present each area of concentration advertised to students as a separate line entry. Criterion 2 relates to many facets of the SPH/PHP curriculum, and online institutions must document the manner in which each degree option fulfills each expectation. Online SPH/PHP must answer each applicable criterion, just as campus-based and hybrid SPH/PHP must answer each criterion. For example, when an online SPH/PHP offers a professional degree such as the MPH, the selfstudy document must document that the degree requires at least 42 semester hours for completion; (Criterion 2.2); explain how the SPH/PHP addresses the five core areas of public health knowledge in this degree program (Criterion 2.3); explain how the SPH/PHP implements 4

5 a planned, supervised and evaluated field experience (Criterion 2.4); and explain how the SPH/PHP implements an integrative culminating experience (Criterion 2.5). Also, the self-study must present graduation and job placement rates for all students, including part-time students enrolled in online programs of study. As with campus-based and hybrid programs, calculation of graduation rates is based on the SPH/PHP s self-defined expected time to graduation. The SPH/PHP should be prepared to explain its decision to set a particular expected time to graduation. When degree programs enroll part-time students, it is reasonable to expect that SPH/PHP will set longer times to graduation than those established for full-time programs of study. Curriculum: distance-learning specific In addition to responding to all other criteria, online SPH/PHP must respond to Criterion 2.12 (for PHP) or Criterion 2.14 (for SPH). This criterion provides a detailed series of documentation requests designed to solicit information that is specific to the design and implementation of distance-based educational components. Discussion of the program s methods for facilitating interaction and discussion among students, between students and faculty and between faculty, students and community constituents is particularly important. Self-study readers must understand precisely how the dialogue and discussion that are so important to graduate education occur in the online setting. Research, service and workforce development Accredited SPH/PHP are expected to have an active program of research, community service (in addition to university committee service, which CEPH addresses under Criterion 1.5 s discussion of governance) and workforce development. The expectations for online SPH/PHP do not differ from the expectations of campus-based or hybrid SPH or PHP. Faculty are expected to be actively involved in generating and applying public health knowledge, and the SPH/PHP is expected to provide opportunities for students to be involved in such projects. Involving students and faculty who are not located at a single physical site in collaborative research, service and workforce development may be challenging, but the challenge does not relieve the SPH/PHP of the accreditation requirements. In research, the self-study asks that institutions use CEPH Template and accompanying narrative to describe the SPH/PHP s research endeavors. The SPH/PHP must develop and explain its method for determining which research, service and workforce development activities to document. For example, funding need not come directly to the SPH/PHP in order for research or grant-funded service to be considered part of the institution s portfolio, but all listed research must clearly or directly impact the SPH/PHP s mission and operations. For full-time faculty, all research funding typically accrues to the SPH/PHP or to the university; if the research funding runs through another institution, the self-study must clearly indicate this. For non-full-time faculty ( other faculty), the self-study must clearly indicate where the funding accrues. In such cases, the SPH/PHP should be prepared to justify the link between the listed research activity and the SPH/PHP that is being reviewed. 5

6 Research, service and workforce development activities of other faculty should be clearly distinguished from those of full-time faculty in all tabular and list presentations. Use of bold text or shading can differentiate the activities of individuals in each category. Faculty information The self-study should present detailed information on all core faculty in the format of CEPH Template and information on all other faculty in Template These templates ask the SPH/PHP to present an individual FTE allocation for each faculty member. The overall totals should correspond with the summary information presented earlier in the document depicting total faculty resources (Template 1.7.2). The discussion of faculty procedures and policies must include discussion of hiring, annual (or other) evaluation, promotion and faculty development opportunities available to all faculty. This includes both faculty whose primary appointment is at the host university and faculty whose primary employment is elsewhere. When different policies and procedures for hiring, promotion, evaluation and faculty development apply to different groups of faculty, the selfstudy must provide information on all. Additionally, online SPH/PHP must document the ways in which they recruit, retain and promote a diverse faculty and staff (Criterion 1.8), in terms of age, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion and national origin. Many discussions about promoting diversity in the classroom have originated from an approach predicated on in-person contact between students and faculty. Online SPH/PHP are subject to the same considerations and requirements. Student information The same considerations that apply to describing faculty procedures and policies apply to discussion of students. The accreditation criteria do not set specific admission standards, but the SPH/PHP must be able to clearly articulate its own admissions standards and processes. This information must indicate how the online SPH/PHP uses the admissions process to select students who are likely to be successful in completing the program and pursuing careers in public health. As with faculty, online SPH/PHP must document the ways in which they recruit, retain and promote a diverse student body (Criterion 1.8), in terms of age, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion and national origin. (Discussed above in the summary of faculty considerations.) Additionally, the self-study must discuss academic advising and career advising. The self-study must document the processes that the SPH/PHP has in place to facilitate active engagement among students, faculty and staff (and community constituents/public health workforce members). In an online SPH/PHP, student advising might take place through one or more of these methods: 1) in-person meetings at a mutually convenient time (for students who are able to travel to campus); 2) telephone conference; 3) asynchronous ; 4) live online chat; 5) video- 6

7 or voice-enabled chat. Regardless of the format, it is important that every student has an advisor and that the advisor and student meet regularly. Regular interaction between student and advisor is, in some respects, more vital to online SPH/PHP offerings than it is to campus-based offerings, since the lack of required physical attendance on campus necessitates a more formal structure for checking in and ensuring that questions are answered. The SPH/PHP should also have a system by which advisors regularly monitor the academic progress of all advisees to identify students who may be having difficulty in progressing through courses or completing the degree. In addition to advisement that helps students select classes and projects, online SPH/PHP must provide career advisement. Career advisement may take different forms for different settings. For example, an SPH/PHP that primarily enrolls employed adults may focus its career advisement in a different manner than an SPH/PHP that primarily enrolls full-time students. The composition of the student body does not, in any case, relieve the SPH/PHP of the obligation to provide active career advisement. Even when students enroll in the SPH/PHP while already employed, it is the SPH/PHP s responsibility to guide students potential progress toward new positions and opportunities that may be available based on attainment of the public health graduate degree. SITE VISIT Site visits to online SPH/PHP may be more time-intensive than other site visits. Essentially, during the site visit, the team of peer reviewers must be able to validate the self-study and analyze compliance with the accreditation criteria. This may require more than the day and a half typically associated with PHP or the two and a half days typically associated with SPH. CEPH may also require additional members for the site visit team in order to ensure appropriate expertise and to facilitate review. CEPH staff will work with the SPH/PHP during the early stages of planning the accreditation review to determine whether an extended visit or team is necessary. During the site visit, reviewers must have the opportunity for synchronous, interactive contact with faculty, students, alumni and community constituents (including those who are internship preceptors, employers of graduates and individuals employed in public health services or agencies in a community served by the SPH/PHP). Additionally, if the SPH/PHP uses resources such as instructional designers or media specialists, these individuals should be included in meetings with site visitors. This may be accomplished through teleconference, in-person meetings or a blended setting that incorporates both in-person and distant participants. Because site visits involve very tight schedules and full agendas, it is imperative that these interactions be well-planned and wellsupported so that reviewers can maximize the time spent in conversation and do not encounter technical problems. The agenda and arrangements must accommodate the extra time required for ensuring that participants dial in or log on before each session begins. Reviewers also must have access to the distance-based classroom. In most cases, this will necessitate a computer terminal for each site visit team member, with login access that allows visitors to review classes from both a student and a faculty perspective. While reviewers 7

8 typically do not need to see information with identifiers that might be considered confidential, accreditation review requires that reviewers be able to see student work and the faculty assessment of that work (eg, graded practicum reports). Review also requires that site visitors are able to understand and assess the learning environment. All site visits incorporate time for review of documents in the resource files compiled by the SPH/PHP. For online SPH/PHP, this review time must typically be extended. Reviewers need ample time to review the documents typically included in resource files, such as syllabi, course evaluations, meeting minutes and sample student work. Reviewers also need time to understand the organization of the virtual classroom and the learning modalities used. This may be similar to the concept of sitting in on a class. Distribution authorized: September 26, 2008 Updated: July 15, 2011 Council on Education for Public Health 800 Eye Street NW, Suite 202 Washington, DC Phone: (202) Fax: (202) Website: 8

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