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February 18, 2021 CEAB statement on COVID-19

February 18, 2021

The members of the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) commend the efforts of administrators, faculty, students and all stakeholders in Canadian engineering education for their hard work in the difficult situations we have all encountered in the last year. Efforts to adapt to the new reality created by COVID-19 have been monumental, and the collective dedication to quality engineering education in Canada has given us another reason to be proud of our system. Building on the statements previously made by the CEAB with regards to COVID-19 (review them on the Engineers Canada website) and in light of our better understanding of what the short-, medium- and long-term implications the global pandemic will have on CEAB accreditation, this communiqué is intended to provide additional information on the CEAB’s position on several important aspects of our work:

Plans for the 2021/2022 visit cycle

In light of the ever-changing nature of public health restrictions across the country, the CEAB decided at its February 6, 2021 meeting that the 2021/2022 accreditation cycle would occur virtually. The CEAB is confident that virtual accreditation visits maintain the same level of rigour as those conducted in-person. In making their decision, the CEAB considered the risks of planning for in-person visits that may be cancelled, the availability and flexibility of the volunteer pool, and the resource capacities of programs, the CEAB, and the CEAB Secretariat. This decision provides the benefit of certainty for all of those involved in the accreditation visit process. Building on the experiences of virtual visits that are occurring in the 2020/2021 cycle, the Guide for the Virtual Evaluation of an Engineering Program will be updated and circulated to programs to be visited in 2021/2022. 

Temporary changes to programs

The CEAB recognizes that as institutions continue to follow public health directives in their jurisdiction, on-line teaching, or some hybrid form of teaching, may continue for the foreseeable future. The CEAB maintains that all criteria, regardless of program modality, must be met by accredited programs. The CEAB’s position continues to be that any changes implemented to accommodate restrictions due to the pandemic will be considered ‘temporary’. Therefore, programs that are delivered on-line while public health guidelines require physical distancing are not required to submit a notice of significant change to the CEAB. Should a program make permanent changes to their program when restrictions are lifted, the CEAB must be informed through the Notice of Significant change process.

Engineering faculty across Canada have innovated countless solutions to teaching and learning challenges this year. For the 2021/2022 visit cycle, programs will be asked to provide a high-level summary of the temporary changes put in place for the continuation of program delivery. This information will further contextualize the environment in which the program continues to run, despite pandemic-related restrictions. These changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Alterations to promotion and graduation policies (e.g. implementation of pass/fail grading schemes)
  • Adjustments to the methodology for quantifying curriculum content (e.g. Accreditation Units, K-factor or other)
  • Changes to project-based courses to accommodate a virtual setting
  • The delivery modality of courses (e.g. which courses transitioned to on-line and which were offered on-site)
  • How lab components of programs are being delivered
  • Changes to the graduate attribute/continual improvement process within the program.

This information will be conveyed to the visiting team, in writing, as an addendum to the Questionnaire.

Extended breaks

Many HEIs chose to extend their 2020 winter break and may or may not have made accommodations to extend the semester by a similar length in compensation.  As per the statement released by the CEAB on March 12, 2020, any AU or program coverage lost due to extended breaks will be considered in the same vein as an ‘unforeseen’ event and, as such, there is no expectation that the programs will have to justify to future CEAB visiting team the impact on AU counts. This will be clearly communicated to all visiting teams for coming visits.

Graduate Attributes and Continual Improvement

The CEAB recognizes that the collection of Graduate Attribute data may have been interrupted during the pandemic. As such, the CEAB will be flexible with the program’s identification of the ‘snapshot year’ for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 visit cycles. Moreover, the CEAB criteria expects that assessment results will be obtained regularly, with results for all twelve graduate attributes obtained over a period of six years or less. Semesters identified for data collection do not have to be consecutive and may be selected from different academic years. Programs seeking accreditation should ensure that their curriculum maps accurately show the relationship between learning activities for each of the attributes and semesters in which these take place.

The CEAB will continue to discuss the impacts of the pandemic of the snapshot years for programs being visited in future cycles with the recognition that a) data collection for semesters impacted by the pandemic may be challenging, and b) data that is collected during the pandemic may be anomalous.

Ongoing monitoring and communication

The CEAB continues to monitor the impact of the pandemic on HEIs and its own accreditation activities. The CEAB will take into consideration extenuating factors when evaluating programs impacted in subsequent accreditation cycles that may be affected.

The CEAB remains committed to ensuring the highest quality of engineering education is delivered via accredited programs and to prioritizing open and ongoing communication with all stakeholders. HEIs, regulators, and the public are invited to monitor Engineers Canada’s website for further information on Engineers Canada’s and the CEAB’s response to this unique situation. Anyone with questions, concerns, or suggestions about any aspect of accreditation is encouraged to reach out to Mya Warken, Manager, Accreditation and CEAB Secretary (mya.warken@engineerscanada.ca) at any time.