The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on rapidly increasing cost of college education in the US. Over the past ten years, the cost increased 92%, which was almost twice that of health care costs (at 47%) and four times that of consumer price index (at 27%). This comparison alone points to one major way to bring down the costs, that is, via automation. Much of academic activities are still managed in a labor intensive manner.
An example is the undergraduate accreditation process. A typical department sets aside funds to provide release time equivalent to 50% of a faculty member during all of the six years between two accreditation cycles, along with support for a graduate assistant to work with this professor. This is an enormous amount of money. In our case, much of the time is being spent in assembling student records (other aspects are easily documented) to prove that our students met the criteria set by the accreditation board. We have developed an open source software tool that will automate this process; this should cut the cost down substantially while enhancing ease-of-use and reuse, reliability, and transparency of the process.
A paper on this ABET Accreditation tool is scheduled for presentation at the 2013 ASEE Conference in Atlanta, GA. Here are the installation and user manuals. We will be glad to help you install the software and use it at your university. Please contact Dr. Shankar at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you can share your experiences with us so we can improve the tool. The tool helps automate one aspect , documentation of Criteria 3, perhaps the most important and labor intensive aspect of the accreditation documentation process. However, the tool could use a better user interface! We plan to improve the user interface with user feedback. Incorporation of other Criteria is also planned, within the next year. Here is an MS thesis at the University of Nevada, Reno, NV, where they have developed a complementary tool. We hope to integrate the two as our next step.
We will expand our efforts to address other areas of academic productivity in our graduate level course.