Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Using Academic Management for Continuous Improvement at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
“Only after your curriculum information and student outcomes are digital, can you make informed decisions on how to improve your study programs.”
Már Perez, Director of Education, PUC School of Engineering
According to the QS World University Rankings, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC) is #1 in Latin America, and its School of Engineering is ranked #32 globally. With 125 years of history, it is home to nearly 5,500 students and more than 170 professors across Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Master’s, and doctorate programs.
In 2018 the School of Engineering received accreditation from the prestigious ABET agency, a non-governmental, non-profit organization recognized by the United States Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which specializes in science and engineering programs. 4,307 programs in 846 higher education institutions worldwide have received this accreditation to date.
One of the main requirements for ABET accreditation is to perform a constant assessment of student learning outcomes. Therefore, the School of Engineering had to collect relevant data frequently, convert it into relevant evidence of student performance, and associate it to the curriculum, course programs, and their corresponding syllabi.
More specifically, they had to follow up on the observed outcomes for each of the curriculum competences and visualize this information to guide the improvement of programs at the macro, mid and micro-curricular levels.
One of the School’s main challenges was to digitally transform the entire management process. “At the beginning, we did everything manually. Before the course began, we held workshops with professors, where they completed the competency matrix on paper so our team could type it into Excel,” Mar Pérez, Director of Education at the PUC School of Engineering explains.
The process of documenting courses was costly and there was no single place to access program descriptions. The School needed to gather information, organize it, and report it coherently to present it to ABET. uAssessment – uPlanner’s curriculum management solution – was implemented to fulfill these requirements.
With uAssessment’s help, the School of Engineering was able to build a course repository with competency-focused documents that, in addition to consolidating the information in one place, reported about areas where the expected outcomes were not being achieved and needed improvement. This repository can be accessed by students and staff alike to monitor study plan execution.
Additionally, uAssessment generated student grade reports in evaluation instances that were linked to graduation requirements. This generated evidence for accreditation and provided data for teachers to work on improving student performance.
The School of Engineering had to track competency achievement and required a tool that would provide evidence to make curricular improvement decisions.
With the information now available and properly structured in uAssessment, the PUC School of Engineering aligned course objectives with graduate profile definitions in light of student performance, and by unifying criteria for building course programs. They were also able to present ABET with this information in an orderly and coherent manner, helping them achieve their accreditation.
Also, on top of being instrumental to achieve ABET accreditation, uAssessment gave the School of Engineering a better overview of its performance. “If you don’t process information in a formal, regulated, or standardized way, you can’t make comparisons with previous years. This tool not only facilitates and streamlines processes but also allows us to have a perspective of previous and future years to make much more informed decisions,” Mar Pérez explains.
Finally, uAssessment helped reduce staff workload in the collection of evidence for the accreditation process, improving the perception of teachers and students regarding endeavors like this, which are usually very demanding and tedious.