Virtual Supporting Evidence Article
Preparing for an ACEN site visit is a significant undertaking and a great team-building opportunity. It involves time and effort from all parties involved, and even seasoned veterans often have questions as their visit date approaches—and many of those questions surround documentation. “What supporting evidence is included with my report?” “What documentation should be available onsite for the team to review, and should all of it also be included in my report?”
The ACEN Guidelines for Written Reports helps to clarify any questions you may have. Using this document and the instructions for your particular report type (also available on the ACEN website), you’ll find examples of supporting evidence and the format you can use to make it accessible to peer evaluators.
For starters, let’s talk about the report that goes with your visit. Each visit report to the ACEN—be it a Candidacy Presentation, a Self-Study Report, a Focused Visit Report, or a Follow-Up Report—has three required components, and only the first two are included in the report document itself. These components come straight from the guidelines listed above:
- Narrative for each Criterion required in that report. For a Self-Study Report, this is every Criterion, but it might be fewer for a Focused Visit Report, a Follow-Up Report, or a Candidacy Presentation. You can find guidance on how to write this narrative by reviewing the Focused Questions;
- Required appendices (if applicable). See the guidelines for more details, but certain Criteria have required appendices. You can choose to include optional appendices, but these will count as part of the report’s page limit. Each type of report has a maximum number of pages allowed, so include additional appendices only if you think it’s the best way to describe or support your compliance with the Standards and Criteria. However, there is no page limit for required appendices or virtual supporting evidence, so consider sharing pertinent “optional appendices” as virtual supporting evidence instead;
- All non-confidential supporting evidence should be made available to peer evaluators electronically at the same time as the report is submitted. Confidential information (e.g., personnel files) should not be provided virtually to peer evaluators; instead they should be accessible onsite during the visit.
A frequently asked question is, “What is this ‘everything else’ being submitted as virtual supporting evidence, and how do I submit it?” Again, the guidelines have that information. Check pages 3 and 4 for a list of some recommended documents to provide. Some of these include the student handbook, workload tables, and evidence of faculty scholarship. These documents can be referenced in your report and included as virtual supporting evidence. Also, make sure you remember that only non-confidential information should be transmitted at the time the written report is sent to the peer evaluators six weeks in advance of the visit. Confidential information will be reviewed during the visit.
Another frequently asked question is, “How and when do I share these documents with peer evaluators visiting my program?” Check the instructions for your particular type of report for more details, but generally you’ll send the virtual supporting evidence to them at the same time you submit the report. Suggestions include mailing a USB storage drive or provide login information for a cloud-based storage site, but regardless, make sure that all documents are searchable (not scanned) PDFs. For a Follow-Up Report, which doesn’t have a visit, you’ll submit this virtual supporting evidence directly to the ACEN with your report, instead of sending it to peer evaluators.
We hope this article and our guidelines provided you some guidance as you’re preparing your report. We also hope you remember that we’re your supportive partner; we’re on your side and want you to succeed. If you’re still confused or need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out by contacting the ACEN office. We are here to help you any way we can.