ABET, Inc., the recognized accreditor for college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology, is a federation of 30 professional and technical societies representing these fields. Among the most respected accreditation organizations in the U.S., ABET has provided leadership and quality assurance in higher education for over 75 years.
The Northwest Association of Accredited schools is one of the nation's six acknowledged accreditation agencies. The geographic territory of the Association consists of the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, and other geographical areas designated from time to time by the Board of Trustees.
The Program Educational Objectives for the Biological Engineering degree program are broad statements that describe the characteristics and attributes that graduates are expected to demonstrate three years after graduating with the B.S. degree from USU. The Program has an assessment and evaluation process that periodically documents and demonstrates the degree to which the Program Educational Objectives are attained. The Program Educational Objectives are identified below.
On a three-year cycle, the Department Head and ABET Coordinators interview selected employers of our biological engineers who graduated three years earlier, with a focus on industrial and governmental employers rather than graduate and professional schools.
Results of the assessment activity concerning employer responses with regard to former graduates (2004) meeting the Program Educational Objectives are shown in the Table below. Employers were requested to rank students on a scale from 5 to 1 for Excellent (5), Good (4), Fair (3), Poor (2), and Failure (1). The criterion for meeting each Program Educational Objective was an average score of 4 (Good).
|Student||Quantitative Score for Program Educational Objective|
On the same three-year cycle as described for assessment, the process for evaluation involves review of the assessment information by the Department Head, then evaluation of the assessment information by the Department Head who makes recommendations to the ABET Committee and Program faculty for program improvement. The process results in identification of actions to be taken to improve the Program, followed by implementation of actions by the Program faculty.
Review and evaluation of the assessment results shown in the Table above and provided in qualitative statements on the assessment forms indicate that all three Program Educational Objectives of the Biological Engineering program were attained. Average scores were 4 (good) for all three PEOs. In addition, qualitative responses indicated that Program graduates are strong and competitive with respect to performance. Therefore, attainment of the Program Educational Objectives is achieved.
Program outcomes are narrower statements that describe what students are expected to know and be able to do at the time of graduation. Engineering accreditation (ABET) Outcomes "a" through "k" have been summarized as Biological Engineering Program Outcomes 1 through 6. The Outcomes are identified in the table below that shows the correlation between ABET Outcomes and Biological Engineering Program Outcomes.
Relationship between Program Outcomes and ABET Outcomes (a) through (k) including
|Program Outcomes||ABET (a - k)||Description of Program Outcomes and Relationship to ABET Outcomes|
|1||(a)||Students have proven themselves to be proficient in mathematics, the sciences, and engineering.|
|2||(b, c)||Students have shown a capacity for investigation and experimentation, including the analysis and interpretation of data (b), as well as the ability to design a cost-effective biological system, component, or device (c).|
|3||(d, g)||Students have exercised their engineering skills as part of a multi-disciplinary group (d), and have demonstrated the capability to communicate verbally, in writing, graphically, and through engineering media (g).|
|4||(e, k)||Students have demonstrated the ability to solve engineering analysis and design problems (e) utilizing both fundamental engineering principles, as well as modern engineering technology and tools (k).|
|5||(f, h)||Students have demonstrated an understanding of the standards of professional conduct and ethical responsibility (f), in addition to the role that an engineer plays in modern global society (h).|
|6||(i, j)||Students have manifested recognition and commitment to the need for life-long learning as a professional (i), and have broadened the scope of their interests beyond engineering to include awareness of contemporary issues and the world around them (j).|
Six sources of information for assessment are used that include a combination of external, internal, and behavioral observations data. External assessment data sources include those identified as numbers 1 through 3 in the table below. Behavioral observations assessment data are identified under number 4 in the table and include maintaining records of student participation in professional organizations, conferences, internships, and other professional activities outside the classroom as well as in service activities and organizations. Internal assessment data sources include those identified as numbers 5 and 6 in the table. These assessment tools and the frequency of information collection are described in the table. Evaluation of achievement of every program outcome is based on two means of assessment as identified in the table below.
|Employer feedback for students after graduation and initiation of employment that are aggregated by Outcome||Yearly|
|Industry Advisory Board interviews of graduating students and academic program review||Yearly|
|Fundamentals of Engineering Examination results||Yearly|
|Student coursework performance measures that are aggregated by outcome (examinations, papers, etc.) and supplemented by "Course Instructor Self-evaluations"||Yearly|
|Capstone Design (Biological Engineering Design I, II, and III)||Yearly|
The assessment means (evidence) for each accreditation (ABET) Outcome and Program Outcome are summarized in the table below. Also shown is the achievement (+) or lack of achievement (-) for each outcome based on evaluation of the assessment information.
Specific Assessment Means Utilized for each Program and ABET Outcome
|Achievement||+ +||+ +||+ +||+ +||+ +||+ +||+ +||+ +||+ +||+ +||+ +|
Data from the six sources of assessment information identified above are collected and summarized in quantitative, tabular form, as well as in written summary form. Summaries of the assessment information sources are then used to evaluate the achievement of Program outcomes.
Evaluation of the assessment information involves interpretation of the data and evidence, accumulated through the assessment tools identified above, to determine the extent to which program outcomes are being achieved. Assessment data summaries are used by the department ABET Committee, Curriculum Committee, and department head for evaluation of outcomes achievement.
Based on the assessment information developed and evaluated, all accreditation (ABET) Outcomes are achieved and therefore all Program Outcomes are achieved.
Continuous Program Improvement Based on Assessment and Evaluation
Program educational objectives are reviewed and evaluated by the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) and by the employers of students. Program Outcomes are also reviewed and evaluated by the IAB. Based on the information that was obtained, the Program educational objectives were modified and are as presented in the previous section on Program Educational Objectives, and involved adding detail and definition to the Objectives. With regard to Program Outcomes 3, 5, and 6, changes were implemented and are summarized here. For Outcome 3, more involvement of undergraduate students in making poster and platform presentations at professional conferences, on-campus symposia, and classroom presentations is providing students with more feedback and practice. Practice in communication skills (verbal and written) is increased through participation in sponsored professional meetings. The Biological Engineering Program continues to expand student participation in professional presentations, and specific examples include the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE), "Posters on the Hill" at the Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, and USU Undergraduate Scholars Day. Increased emphasis on communication skills has been added to the Capstone Design experience so that all students are included. Specifically, a competitive written project proposal is required to be prepared by every student (or team of students) that is externally evaluated (from the Biological Engineering Program) by the USU committee on Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO), with an award of $500 for successful proposals. In addition, the Biological Engineering Program provides a match in the amount of $500 for each successful project proposal. Student proposals are evaluated with regard to effective communication of project plan, organization, design, and proposed approach.
With regard to Program Outcome 5, more discussions of ethics issues and inclusions of ethics and professional responsibility have been added to multiple courses (BIE 1000, 3220, 4890, 5810) as a result of this finding. Capstone Design I (BIE 3870) includes an examination on professional ethics and professional conduct.
With regard to Program Outcome 6, The requirement in the Capstone Design for students to prepare an engineering project proposal provides students the opportunity to identify and gain knowledge of a contemporary issue to address ABET Outcome (j). We have expanded opportunities for undergraduates to become involved in life-long learning as a professional (ABET Outcome (i)). In addition to students attending professional meetings both on and off-campus to make presentations (described above under "Program Outcome 3,") the Program encourages every student to join a professional society as early as possible in their academic career. Specifically the Program will pay 50% of the cost for a student to join a professional organization at the student rate.
The Biological Engineering Department has a structured and systematic approach for data-based decision making. We have the ABET Committee, an Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, and an advisory board that was formed in the Fall of 2002, with representation from the different areas of specialization within the department. The following graphic illustrates how the BE department has been and will continue to collect data, perform data analysis, recommend changes, and implement changes for undergraduate curriculum improvement.
The culture of continuous improvement utilized by the Biological Engineering Program involves the steps of: (1) assessment, (2) evaluation, and (3) actions to improve the program that are guided by the Program Educational Objectives and the Program Outcomes, as described above. The use of external, internal, and behavioral data and information that comprise six different sources results in a strong program with constituent participation and involvement. Based on the process described above, the Biological Engineering Program at USU continues to achieve Program Educational Objectives and Program Outcomes as required by the U.S. engineering accreditation organization (ABET/EAC), as well as to support the missions of Utah State University, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Biological Engineering that are described on the USU web site at: http://www.usu.edu.