Institutions use the Assurance System to provide their narrative, evidence and other materials for comprehensive evaluations, Assurance Reviews and Systems Appraisals. Peer review teams also access the system to conduct reviews and draft their analysis and recommendations.
Access to the System
HLC grants access to the institution’s space within Assurance System to one official designee at the institution to serve as the Assurance System Coordinator. This is typically the coordinator of the institution’s accreditation efforts.
The System Coordinator identified for an institution should:
- Have facility using a web browser and knowledge of how to create PDF documents.
- Have a basic understanding of the accreditation process or willingness to learn.
- Have knowledge of which individuals and groups at an institution might be helpful in providing documentation supporting the accreditation process.
- Be able to organize electronic materials and delegate tasks to others.
- Have an email account through the institution's email system. (This becomes the login ID for the Assurance System; the ID must be from an email account provided by an institution. In other words, personal email accounts such as Gmail or Yahoo are not permitted)
Assurance System Coordinators are required to watch a recorded training webinar in order to gain access to the system. The webinar is about 70 minutes long. Coordinators should follow the instructions in the webinar to activate their account in the Assurance System.
The Assurance System Coordinator may grant access to a maximum of 14 additional individuals to work within the Assurance System. HLC will assign a password to each person who gains access to the system and each user may change his or her password after they log in the first time. The institution is responsible for granting or revoking this access; HLC does not manage the additional accounts.
HLC also will grant the following individuals access to the institution’s space in the Assurance System:
- Peer reviewers assigned by HLC to conduct the review and provide a recommendation.
- Individuals assigned by HLC to the decision-making process.
- The institution’s HLC staff liaison and other HLC staff as needed.
Assurance System Coordinator Change
Institutional Use of the Assurance System
The institution’s users may log in to the system at any time throughout their pathway cycle to upload and maintain documents.
Users of the Assurance System are divided into three groups. Regardless of the group, each user is included in the count toward the 15 users allowed in the system.
Coordinator: System coordinators have the ability to create and delete users, assign due dates, add evidence to the Evidence File, edit the institutional narrative, and will ultimately lock the Assurance Argument or Systems Portfolio for submittal. Although the institution is limited to one main Assurance System Coordinator who receives communications from HLC regarding the system, the institution may designate two more users at the “coordinator” level (for a total of three coordinators).
Contributor: Contributors may add evidence to the Evidence File and draft, edit and delete material from the institutional narrative.
Read-Only User: These users only have access to review the institutional narrative and Evidence File. They do not have the ability to edit, draft or delete any material.
The institution will draft its narrative within the Assurance System. The institutional narrative differs depending on the institution’s pathway designation. Institutions that are in candidacy, on sanction, or on the Standard and Open Pathways write Assurance Arguments, which are organized around HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation and Core Components. Institutions on the AQIP Pathway write Systems Portfolios, which are organized around the AQIP Pathway Categories.
Only one user at a time is able to edit a section of the narrative. The rest of the team will be unable to open the document until the current user has finished working on it and checks it back into the system.
The Assurance System includes an activity log that maintains a history of additions, deletions or changes. This log is available to both the institution and HLC.
HLC will preload certain information into the Assurance System. For institutions in candidacy, on sanction, or on the Standard and Open Pathways, the five Criterion and all of the Core Components will be loaded into the Assurance Argument section. For institutions on the AQIP Pathway, the six AQIP Pathway Categories and all of the Subcategories will be loaded into the Systems Portfolio section. This preloaded material does not count against the maximum word allowance. The Evidence File contains HLC documents the institution may want to reference in its narrative.
Additional forms that are required as part of a review, such as the Federal Compliance Form, are also available in Assurance System.
At the end of the Assurance Review, Systems Appraisal or comprehensive evaluation process, HLC archives the institutional narrative and Evidence File and activates a feature whereby the institution determines whether it wants to copy its Assurance Argument or Systems Portfolio and/or Evidence File to use in its next review. The instituion may choose to copy either or both sections, or to start its next review from scratch. Anything copied into the institution's next review may be edited, revised or deleted as needed. The institution is responsible for maintaining long-term files outside of the Assurance System that it deems necessary for its own purposes.
Peer Review Use of Assurance System
The peer review team assigned to an institution will have access to the institution’s Assurance Argument or Systems Portfolio and Evidence File after the institution’s lock date. The team will use the system to read the narrative and study the evidentiary material.
At the conclusion of the online review or, if applicable, the on-site visit, the team will use the Assurance System to write its report and recommendation. HLC staff will have access to the team’s work to enable consultation with peer reviewers.
Training and Support
New users should review the Assurance System training webinar, user manual and FAQ list for help navigating the system. The Help section of the Assurance System also provides information regarding system requirements and informational videos, as well as a form for submitting questions to HLC. Assistance should be requested only through the system so HLC can keep an accurate record of possible issues.