Glossary of accreditation terminology

Key Accreditation Terms
Term Definition
Accreditation A voluntary, non-governmental system of evaluation used to protect the public interest and to verify the quality of service provided by member institutions.
Accreditation actions Any COA decision affecting the accreditation status of a program. These actions are: 1) grant precandidacy, 2) grant candidacy, 3) initially accredit, 4) continue accreditation, 5) conditionally accredit, 6) withdraw accreditation, or 7) deny initial accreditation.
Administrative Unit Refers to the academic organizational unit that houses one or more programs in library and information studies. In different institutions, an administrative unit may be a Department, School, or College.
ALISE Association for Library and Information Science Education. The mission of ALISE is to promote excellence in research, teaching, and service for library and information science education.
Appeal The right and process available to a program or institution for a review of the COA’s decision to withdraw accreditation or deny initial accreditation of the program.
ASPA Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors. ASPA-member accreditors set national educational standards for entry into approximately 40 specialized disciplines or professions. ALA/COA is a member of ASPA and follows its Code of Good Practice.
Assessment Identification, collection, and preparation of data to evaluate the attainment of student learning outcomes. Effective assessment uses relevant direct, indirect, qualitative and quantitative measures appropriate to the outcome being measured.
Biennial Narrative Report (BNR) Required report submitted every two years to the COA by a program head. The purpose of the report is to demonstrate continued compliance with the Standards, to share major developments, and to illustrate ongoing program planning.
Candidacy status Accreditation status indicating that the program is ready to begin the two-year process that culminates in the Self-Study document, comprehensive review of the program, and a COA accreditation decision.
CAO The chief academic officer at an institution of higher education, typically the Provost or Vice President for Academic Affairs.
CEO The chief executive officer at an institution of higher education.
CHEA The Council for Higher Education Accreditation. A private, nonprofit national organization that coordinates accreditation activity and recognizes regional, institutional, and professional accrediting agencies in the United States. Officially recognizes the American Library Association as the accrediting agency for master’s-level programs in library and information studies.
CFLA Canadian Federation of Library Associations.
CoA The Committee on Accreditation - The autonomous committee responsible for the implementation of the accreditation of master's programs in library and information studies. The CoA develops and formulates standards of education for library and information studies, as well as policies and procedures for ALA accreditation and administers the accreditation review process of educational programs for library and information professionals, under the auspices of the American Library Association (ALA).
Communities served by the Program Constituencies, communities, and stakeholders include representatives of the program’s students, alumni, employers, and the professional community, including members of historically underserved and underrepresented groups. Program constituencies may also include program faculty and staff, in certain contexts of the standards. The community may be defined by geography or by discipline. When the program seeks to serve a new community (i.e., an online cohort or a specialized concentration), then those new constituencies, communities, and stakeholders need to be engaged in the systematic planning.
Communities served by the Profession Members of the community the profession seeks to serve, including members of historically underserved and underrepresented groups.
Comprehensive review process Periodic review of a program by the CoA to evaluate a program’s compliance with the Standards. The review process includes submission of a Self-Study, a visit by an External Review Panel (see also Visit), and a CoA accreditation decision informed by a meeting with the program.
Conditional accreditation Accreditation status indicating the program’s need for significant and immediate improvement to come into compliance with the Standards.
Conflict of interest Disclosure of any personal, financial, and/or professional interest that might create a conflict with the ability to fairly and objectively carry out one’s responsibilities as an ERP or COA member.
Continued accreditation Accreditation status granted to programs that continuously demonstrate evidence of their conformity to the Standards. Also known as accredited.
Decision document The official document sent to a program’s dean and to the institution’s chief executive officer conveying the COA’s accreditation decision following a comprehensive review.
Directory of institutions offering ALA-accredited master's programs List of library and information studies programs currently accredited by the American Library Association. The directory is available as a searchable database, in PDF format and as a list of institutions with accredited programs.
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Intended to compass belonging, accessibility, and justice. Also see ALA ODLOS Glossary, and policies and resources available by the respective ALA (ODLOS, ASGCLA, former ASCLA) and ALISE (DEI, Disability and Inclusion) groups.
ERP The External Review Panel. A group of two to six library and information faculty and practitioners appointed by the COA through the Office for Accreditation to visit a program and verify information in the Self-Study. Panelists are also vetted by the program to avoid any conflicts of interest.
ERP Chair Refers to the chairperson of the External Review Panel (ERP).
Evaluation One or more processes for interpreting the data and evidence accumulated through assessment processes. Evaluation determines the extent to which student learning outcomes are being attained. Evaluation results in decisions and actions regarding program improvement.
Faculty Faculty as a whole, including both full-time faculty members (tenured/tenure-track and non-tenure-track) and part-time faculty members.
Faculty Workload All individual faculty activities that contribute to the accomplishment of unit-related activities and responsibilities, as defined in the unit’s faculty handbook, the faculty’s contract, and institutional policies.
Initial accreditation Accreditation status granted to a library and information studies program being accredited for the first time.
Institutional accreditation The evaluation and accreditation of an institution as a whole, usually by a regional accreditor. As a prerequisite to accreditation of a program, the ALA requires that the parent institution be accredited by its appropriate institutional accrediting agency. The ALA/COA does not accredit institutions.
Interim reports The annual statistical and biennial narrative reports submitted by programs to COA. The Committee reviews these reports at its spring meeting.
LIS Library and Information Studies - In the context of ALA-CoA communications, LIS has this specific reference. In other contexts, including some ALA-accredited programs, LIS may refer to Library and Information Science.
OA Director Refers to the Director of the Office for Accreditation.
Plan for the Self-Study Document submitted by the program to the Office for Accreditation and the ERP Chair one year before the site visit to ensure that the preparation for the review is done in a timely and effective manner.
Precandidacy status Status granted by COA indicating the program's and institution's commitment to achieving ALA accreditation.
Program Refers to a set of courses and other requirements designated by the institution to lead to a master's degree. A school may offer degree programs not accredited by the ALA, such as undergraduate, other master's, post-master's, or doctoral programs. ALA COA accredits programs, not schools, colleges, or institutions.
Program Goals & Objectives Program Goals: Broad statements of what a program intends to achieve or accomplish. Program Objectives: Statements specifying how the program will achieve its goals within a certain timeframe.
Program Head The administrator in charge (dean, director, chair, coordinator) of the accredited program or the program seeking accreditation. The program head has primary responsibility and is the main contact fo accreditation business.
Program-level Learning Outcomes (PLOs) Statements of the knowledge, skills, values, and abilities all graduates of the program should possess. Program-level Learning Outcomes based (PLOs) are the focus of the ALA accreditation standards. Course-based Learning Outcomes (CLOs), Module-based Learning Outcomes (MLOs), or Assignment-based Learning Outcomes (ALOs), may be used to inform and measure Program-level Learning Outcomes (PLOs).
Program Unit Refers to the unit, consisting of faculty, staff, and resources, offering and supporting one or more programs in library and information studies. In different institutions, a program unit may be the same as the administrative unit or a subset of the administrative unit.
Public Member Two members of the COA who are appointed from the public at large to represent the public interest.
Research Is understood to be (1) broad in its inclusiveness of scholarly activities of a wide variety; and (2) inclusive of communication of results through appropriate means.
Retroactive period of initial accreditation Period of time that applies to students who graduated from a program before COA granted initial accreditation to the program. Students who who complete degree requirements in the 24 months prior to the date that initial accreditation is granted are considered to have graduated from an ALA-accredited program.
Schedule of comprehensive reviews The calendar of scheduled comprehensive reviews maintained by the Office for Accreditation. The schedule is available on the Office for Accreditation website as an assurance to the public and the profession that the COA regularly reviews LIS programs.
Self-Study Document (formerly called Program Presentation) and accompanying materials prepared by the program as part of the comprehensive review process. This document describes the program; how it meets the ALA Standards for Accreditation; analyzes its strengths, weaknesses, and challenges; and sets forth the program’s plans and goals for future development and continued compliance with the Standards.
Special Report Report submitted by a program to the COA to address issues or areas of concern as outlined in the Decision Document or in the COA’s response to a statistical report or biennial narrative report.
Specialized accreditor Agency that accredits post-secondary professional and occupational education programs or schools. ALA/COA is a specialized accreditor.
Standards Refers to Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies, the essential features of accredited library and information studies programs. The Standards are developed by the CoA and approved by the ALA Council.
Statistical Report Required statistical information submitted annually to COA. COA reviews data about faculty, students, curriculum, and income and expenditure. The data is collected in cooperation with ALISE. ALISE members compile and analyze the data in the annual publication ALISE Statistical Report and Database.
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) A broad term used to refer to learning outcomes at different levels, including program, course, module, assignments, etc. The accreditation standards focus is on Program-level outcomes. See Program-level Learning Outcomes (PLOs)
Systematic Planning An ongoing, active, broad-based approach to (a) continuous review and revision of a program’s vision, mission, goals, objectives, and learning outcomes; (b) assessment of attainment of goals, objectives, and learning outcomes; (c) realignment and redesign of core activities in response to the results of assessment; and (d) communication of planning policies and processes, assessment activities, and results of assessment to program constituents. Effective broad-based, systematic planning requires engagement of the program’s constituents and thorough and open documentation of those activities that constitute planning.
Visit or site visit Refers to the part of a comprehensive review in which members of an ERP visit the program unit and institution to validate and augment the information contained in the Self-Study. Most visits are conducted as on-site visits in which members of the ERP travel to the program location. This document is written from that perspective. However, alternative approaches, such as virtual visits, may also be used, following consultation with the Program Head, the OA Director, and the ERP Chair.
Withdrawn accreditation Accreditation status indicating a program is no longer accredited by ALA, as of the date specified by the COA. A school and institution may voluntarily withdraw its accredited program from the ALA accreditation process. The COA may withdraw accreditation for serious lack of compliance with the Standards, for failure to participate in the process, or for not meeting financial obligations to the COA.