One of the roles of a pioneer is to show the way for others. That’s what PSU did for 13 other universities and community colleges last November with a workshop that told the story of its work implementing a new way of earning accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Pittsburg State and Butler Community College, another HLC “pioneer,” teamed up to offer the workshop to representatives from institutions in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The HLC accredits about 1,100 degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region of the U.S. In 2010, PSU was one of a handful of institutions selected by the HLC to help lead the way in a very different approach to accreditation.

The new model that PSU is pioneering moves away from the traditional, exhaustive self-study and instead focuses on a self-improvement “pathway.” PSU’s Pathway zeros in on student learning. One of the university’s goals in the new process is to assess the general education core, which includes writing, math and communication. A second goal is to begin assessment of co-curricular learning, which is generally defined as student learning that takes place outside the classroom.

“It is ultimately about student learning,” said Dr. Lynette Olson, provost and vice president of academic affairs. “This is a rare opportunity for PSU to be a leader in a process that not only helps us improve student learning, but also has the potential to radically change university accreditation across the region.”