Winter 2018 Articles

Decisions, Decisions

During the past weeks, the CACREP Staff have been working to communicate over 120 accreditation decisions made by the Board at the January 2018 meeting. These decisions included full reviews of programs seeking initial or re-accreditation, and reviews of interim reports, substantive change reports, midcycle reports,  and requests for extensions. The work of site teams played an integral role in many of these decisions, whether providing a comprehensive picture of a program in a team report for a current full review, or having done so in the past, with programs continuing to respond in Interim Reports to cited standards. The CACREP Staff greatly appreciates the important work you do as CACREP site team members.  If there is anything we can do to support your work as a site team member or if you have any questions, please reach out to me directly at [email protected] or give me a call at 703-535-5990.

The central focus in this newsletter, the second issue of The Visitor, is on considerations regarding reviewing programs with online education components. The newsletter includes an overview article by Dr. Urofsky on this topic and a feature article by Dr. LoriAnn Sykes Stretch on online education and conducting site visits for programs with these components. As with all of the newsletter articles, please share your feedback, questions, comments with me directly, so we can provide supplemental information in future newsletters as needed.

There is also preliminary information in the newsletter about the approach CACREP is developing to provide continuing education opportunities and to enhance the feedback process for site team members. One of these continuing education tracking opportunities is included for this newsletter as well as for the Fall 2017 newsletter. Further information on this will be included in future newsletters as implementation continues.

Again, many thanks for the critical work you do in support of the CACREP accreditation process.

Warmest Regards,

Jonathan Collum

Reviewing Counselor Education Programs with Online Education Components

by Robert Urofsky, Ph.D., Vice-President of Accreditation and Training

Increasingly, counselor education programs are including online education components. The extent to which these components are included, when included, varies considerably. At one end of the spectrum are programs that operate as traditional face-to-face instructional programs, but some instructors utilize e-discussion boards to facilitate student interaction around specified topics outside of class meetings. While one perhaps could argue what the other end of the spectrum is, for now let’s say it’s programs that operate one hundred percent online, with course sessions occurring in real time via online video connections. CACREP does not have a separate set of standards addressing online distance education. In this article, I will examine some considerations for site visitors as they work to apply the CACREP Standards in relation to programs having online components. Dr. LoriAnn Stretch’s article, included in this newsletter, provides information for site team members on different types of online education and on structuring site visits for reviewing programs with online components.

CACREP does not utilize a separate set of standards for programs with online distance education components. All programs apply under the same accreditation criteria. It is the programs’ responsibility to demonstrate how the educational approaches utilized meet the requirements specified in the standards. As with any site visit, when programs that have online components are being reviewed, the program representatives and site team reviewers come together to explore how the program seeks to meet the accreditation standards and for the site team to make determinations on whether they believe the requirements of the standards are being met.

In some instances, the manner in which a standard applies in relation to a program employing online education components is fairly clear. For example, 2016 Standard 1.G indicates, “The institution provides technical support to all counselor education program faculty and students to ensure access to information systems for learning, teaching, and research.” Site teams likely would be interested for this standard in the technical support available to assist faculty and students in accessing a learning management system (LMS) and other electronic resources, and the support available when technical and access challenges arise.

In other instances, how a standard would be applied may be less clear and somewhat dependent on the extent to which online education components are being utilized. For example, 2016 Standard 1.BB indicates, “All core and non-core counselor education program faculty have relevant preparation and experience in relation to the courses they teach.” For programs in which there is a fairly low level of technology integration in the program delivery, the primary emphasis for the team may be on the educational backgrounds and experiences of the faculty. In situations where there are high-levels of technology integration in program delivery, the team may expand its emphases to include consideration of how faculty are prepared to develop a course for delivery in a learning management system or to foster student learning in an online environment.

In the vast majority of instances, the key considerations in reviewing a program with online education components are the same as they would be in reviewing a fairly traditional program. These considerations center on the methods the program utilizes to meet the CACREP Standards. The central difference lies in the need for the reviewer to seek to understand the standard in relation to a program’s online education components. For example, 2016 Standard 1.I addresses the counseling instruction environments programs utilize for skill development for individual and group counseling. In responding to this standard, programs operating primarily as face-to-face instructional programs will likely center on the physical spaces and related observational capabilities designated for skill modeling, instruction, and practice, whereas primarily online programs will likely focus on how technology is utilized for these same purposes. In each instances, the program would address the procedures utilized for maintaining privacy and confidentiality in the in-person or online environment.

Site Teams face even more unique challenges when there are multiple delivery formats in place within the same counseling program. For example, a counseling program is offered in a face-to-face format, an in-person and online hybrid format, and a completely online format. In these instances, teams have a multitude of considerations, including: 1) the comparability of the programs using CACREP’s multiple sites policy (applicable to different delivery formats as well as sites; see Fall 2017 The Visitor for additional information on the multiple sites policy); 2) the level of interactivity between the different delivery formats; and, 3) the different considerations for a particular standard in relation to each of the program delivery formats.

These reviews are multifaceted. The CACREP Board consistently indicates that there are different ways to meet the CACREP Standards. This is reflected in the wide variety of programs CACREP accredits. As with all site visit reviews, the CACREP Board depends on the site teams to present a clear picture of the program delivery format(s); clear indicators of whether the standards are met or not, and if not why; and, if there are any contextual variables (e.g., differing levels of quality between the program delivery formats) that need to be considered by the Board when making accreditation decisions. The site team should clearly indicate its findings in the Team Report, which goes to CACREP Board and to the institution, and in the Team Recommendation, which goes solely to the CACREP Board and includes the team’s recommendations for accreditation of the program(s).

Conducting Online Program Site Visits

by LoriAnn Sykes Stretch, Ph.D., The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

I first encountered online education in 1976 in a short story I was reading in my third-grade class.  I was instantaneously fascinated with the idea and little did I know this would be a defining moment in my future career.  Fast forward almost forty years and online education is not only a reality but for many students a preferred modality of obtaining a graduate education. The Babson Survey Research Group recently found that while higher education enrollments continue to decline, enrollment in online education continues to increase comprising almost 32% of all higher education enrollments (Seaman, Allen, & Seaman, 2018).

Not surprisingly, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling Related Education Programs (CACREP) is facing similar trends in online counselor education programs seeking CACREP accreditation.  As of January 2018, CACREP accredits 57 Master’s and doctoral online counselor education programs across 30 institutions.  CACREP evaluates all programs against the same set of standards and does not differentiate by modality (CACREP, 2017, p. 6).  Just like any other site visit, the team’s focus needs to be on how the site meets standards and not on the modality used to meet the standards. To effectively conduct a site visit of an online program, team members will want to understand some best practices specific to reviewing an online counselor education program.

Types of Online Education

The first step in preparation for any visit is reading CACREP’s response to the program’s self-study, the program’s self-study, and the program’s addendum, if one exists.  Ideally, an online counselor education program will clearly describe the online education format in the self-study.  There are many variations of online education.  Two keys terms to understand are synchronous and asynchronous.  Synchronous learning occurs in real-time where there is an almost simultaneous audio and visual interaction, such as live class sessions via videoconferencing. Asynchronous learning occurs when students engage with course material, peers, and faculty by reviewing material stored online and then posting responses or assignments online in a Learning Management System (LMS) by a specified deadline.   Asynchronous courses may include pre-recorded lectures, webinars, readings, websites, and other learning activities that the students complete independently or with a group of peers. Both forms of learning involve learner-instructor, learner-content, and learner-learner interaction (Quality Matters, 2014). In the context of online counselor education courses, online learning is interactive, faculty-led, and structured.

Many online education programs currently accredited by CACREP engage in a hybrid form of online education, also known as blended learning, though at least one accredited program identifies as fully online.  Two models that are the most prominent are a flipped course room with live course videoconferences and asynchronous courses with a residency component.  The flipped course room model utilizes an LMS to store recordings, readings, learning activities, and assignments.  Students complete weekly learning activities in preparation for live class sessions typically held weekly. Other programs use an asynchronous model that includes residencies.  Residencies vary greatly in format, length of time, and frequency.  For example, students in a hybrid program with a residency may be required to complete all their course work online in asynchronous courses and then attend two face-to-face residencies at designated times during which they demonstrate the skills they have been learning in their courses.  All CACREP programs require on-site fieldwork placements.

Planning the Site Visit

Online programs may have a centralized or decentralized administration and faculty model.  Ideally, the Team Chair and CACREP Liaison will conduct planning meetings via the technology the program utilizes for administrative and curricula purposes.  This will provide insight into the program’s process.  When planning the site visit, Team Chair should be cognizant that the team will want to see how the program runs daily, which may require remote meetings with many of the stakeholders.

Team Chairs will want to survey the level of experience team members have with online learning.  Team Chairs and CACREP Liaisons may need to engage in additional training and provide extra support to team members who are unfamiliar with online learning and how to utilize LMS technology. Team Chairs will also want to ascertain each team member’s perceptions of online learning.  Team Chairs and members must be able to engage in an unbiased review of the online program.  While research has clearly evidenced the efficacy of online education, some counselor educators confuse correspondence education with online education and the two forms of education are quite different.

Business as Usual

As the schedule is developed, the Team Chair will want to design the schedule in a way that replicates the types of interactions the stakeholders typically engage one another.  In other words, the Team Chair will need to consider who is needed on-site and who can be interviewed remotely.  When reviewing an online site, replicate business as usual as much as possible. In a recent site visit, the site team meet with several members of the faculty remotely and had each faculty member show the team through screen sharing what a typical day might be like regarding advising, teaching, and administrative duties.  The team was able to see how the faculty engaged with one another remotely, as well as students, and witnessed first-hand how collegial relationships were formed and maintained using videoconferencing.

Minimize Impact on Residency

Often, site visits run concurrently with an in-person residency. While this provides the site team with access to multiple faculty and students, the team needs to be aware that the in-person modality is not the typical interaction that students or faculty have.  The site visit needs to be coordinated with the residency schedule to minimize the impact on the residency participants.  Residencies are incredibly exhilarating and exhausting for those involved.  The CACREP Liaison and, if possible, the Chair of the program and Clinical Director need to be able to focus on the site visit and have other faculty members dedicated to the residency experience. When the site team meets with the faculty working the residency, the meeting needs to occur at a time when other faculty or staff can cover the residency activities to not add additional time obligations on residency faculty. Likewise, meetings with students should be included in the residency schedule when possible.  Teams can also meet with students who are not attending residency via teleconferencing.


Clearly, technology is a critical element of an online counselor education program.    To fully understand how a program meets the CACREP Standards, the team will want to become familiar with the technology the program utilizes.  While the team is not evaluating the technologies used, the team will need to understand the technology at a basic level to evaluate how the program is meeting the CACREP standards.  Online education programs utilize many different forms of technology; however, the primary technology is the learning management system, which houses the program’s courses. While there are many learning management systems, the three most prevalent are Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas.  The program should identify the learning management system in their self-study.

When developing the site visit schedule, Team Chairs and CACREP Liaisons should build in time for technology demonstrations, online course tours, and how to access and navigate student services online.  The program will need to provide a staff member who can be available to the team throughout the visit to assist with videoconferences, accessing course rooms, and navigating other technologies utilized by the program.  The CACREP Liaison will want to meet with the identified technology support staff prior to the visit and provide a comprehensive list of technologies and websites to which the team will need access, so that temporary user names and passwords can be established.

When possible, advance access to key technologies and course room portals is helpful to the site team.  Programs will want to set up a guest access for reviewers, so the team may preview selected courses and other resources to which students may have access, such as an advising forum or program community page.  If a program has not provided such access, the Team Chair should request access for the team to ensure the team has time to become familiar with the LMS and experience the LMS from a student perspective.  Programs can provide links to tutorials on the LMS or the team can visit YouTube to download relevant tutorials to learn more about the LMS. This will allow the team to spend less time trying to understand the technology while on site.

Technology does fail, so the site team will want a backup plan for when this happens.  This can be an alternate videoconferencing system and/or a phone conference.  The CACREP Liaison will need to include phone numbers for all scheduled participants in case of technical difficulties or failure.  All online programs should be able to articulate a back-up technology plan for when technology fails.

Course Information and Autonomy

One significant difference between in-person courses and online education is the way in which faculty members disseminate course information to students.  Syllabi have traditionally been the all-in-one source for information for students; however, syllabi are not the best source for understanding the content of most online courses.  In fact, many online programs utilize syllabi templates to ensure consistency in learning outcomes and signature assignments.  Faculty member provide the bulk of course expectations and content instruction in the course discussions, content pages, and announcements in the course room. Team members will want to examine the online courses, especially when evaluating Sections 2 and 5 of the 2016 Standards, as the courses offer far more detail related to methods of instruction, counseling-related research being infused in the course, and assessment methods.

In online course development, faculty members often serve as Subject Matter Experts in course development and work in conjunction with instructional designers.  This collaborative approach to course development may be new to some team members and could be misconstrued as the faculty member not having the authority to determine program curricula.  However, this collaborative model is a best practice in online course development as it taps into the content knowledge of the faculty member and the online design and technology knowledge of the instructional designer.  Both sets of knowledge are critical to an effective online course development.


Assessment is potentially a strength of many online programs. The online programs can easily integrate competency and grading functions into courses, especially with assessment technologies, such as Taskstream/Tk20/Livetext, Time-2-Track, or Clinical Training Manager, which aid in the collection and analysis of learning outcome data.  To fully evaluate Section 4 of the Standards, teams will need to meet with faculty and staff managing the program’s assessment plan for a demonstration of how program uses technology to systematically collect and utilize data to inform individual student progress and program modification.

Report Writing

The site team can also utilize technology to compile the site report.  Cloud based tools, such as Dropbox, Google Docs, and Box, allow team members to share and collaborate on report writing.  Team members can work simultaneously in the document(s) throughout the site visit, which typically reduces the amount of team meetings after hours.


Every site visit is unique and the ultimate guide to our work as Team Chairs and members are the 2016 CACREP Standards.  Every suggestion and recommendation made by the team must be grounded in a standard or CACREP Board policy and not be based on the modality used to meet the standard.  Team Chairs and members need to approach a site visit with an online program with curiosity and an openness to new and innovative ways to deliver counselor education.  When in doubt, ask for further clarification.


CACREP (2017). CACREP Board Policy Document. Retrieved from

Quality Matters (2014). The Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric. Retrieved from

Seaman, J.E., Allen, I.E., & Seaman, J. (2018). Grade increase: Tracking distance education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved from

 Chair’s Corner

So I’ve been asked to mentor a new team chair. What does this mean?

Before answering the question above, let me first express my respect and appreciation for the hard work, dedication and professionalism you have demonstrated in your work as site team chairs in support of the CACREP accreditation process. There is an old adage, of course, that says no good deed goes un…; well, let’s go with rewarded. The reward for some team chairs is being asked to mentor a new team chair on a site visit. Site visits are an integral part of the CACREP accreditation process. It is essential that CACREP have a group of qualified and experienced site visitors available who can take on the organization, coordination, and leadership functions of the site team chair role. Maintaining a group of qualified and experienced team chairs is an ongoing process.

One method CACREP utilizes in preparing new team chairs is to pair them with experienced team chairs for an initial visit. The new team chair serves in the role of team chair on an actual visit for the first time but with the guidance and mentorship of an experienced chair throughout the full breadth of the visit. The importance of the mentoring these new team chairs receive during this visit cannot be overstated. This experience, combined with the experiences they had as team members on prior visits, establish a framework the new chairs will take into their future work as solo team chairs.

New team chairs have all completed: 1) a minimum of three site visits in the role of a site team member, with positive reviews from the sites and/or fellow team members; and 2) a new team chair orientation and training session. The next phase of the preparation is to be selected to serve as a team chair on a visit and to go out on this visit with a team chair mentor. The important point, here, is that the new team chair is the designated team chair for the visit. The experienced chair is on the site team in an enhanced team member role, mentoring the new chair pre-, during-, and post-visit in completing the various team chair tasks associated with a site visit. This distinction is an important one as the representatives of the institution hosting the site look to the designated chair as the point person for the visit.

To the extent possible, it is helpful for the mentoring the experienced team chair provides to occur behind the scenes. This helps minimize questions regarding the new team chair’s role-associated authority and competency. CACREP received feedback from one institution that while they recognized the new team chair in the role of site team chair, they experienced some confusion during the visit in relation to the mentor’s activity and leadership during meetings  as to whom questions, concerns, etc. should be directed. A recommended first step for any visit under these arrangements is for the new chair and the mentor to have a planning call, not only to discuss the upcoming visit, but to get a sense of one another and to begin to talk through the roles, expectations, and preferences they each have heading into the planning process.

It can be helpful to consider mentorship in three areas: 1) preparing for the visit; 2) conducting the visit; and, 3) coordinating writing the team’s report and closing out the visit process. These three areas mirror, for the most part, the organization of the Team Chair Handbook, available on the CACREP website ( . This document is a useful resource for both the new team chair and the team chair mentor, in terms of identifying necessary actions and areas for discussion for each phase of the site visit.

In summary, on visits where there is a new team chair paired with an experienced team chair mentor, the new team chair is the designated chair for the site visit, and the mentor is there to help guide him or her through the process. To borrow a phrase from the solution-focused literature, the team chair mentor is there to guide from a step behind.

 What’s New at CACREP

As mentioned in the last newsletter we are actively rolling out our new online on-site team report form.  You can take a look at the new form here. The new form includes some updated features over our old online report based on feedback from teams in the past.  These features include, an in-line agenda builder as well as the ability to select MET/NOT MET for an entire section of standards. We are also beginning to provide team members with access to ShareFile for accessing forms as well as review specific materials including self-studies and addenda.

Continuing Education

Additionally, we are working to enhance the continuing education opportunities and expectations for site team members, as well as the mechanisms for team member evaluation and feedback. Each issue of The Visitor, the site visitor newsletter, will present opportunities for site visitors to document some continuing education, by completing a short, multiple choice quiz on the content in the newsletter.  If you didn’t get a chance to read the first issue of The Visitor, you can access it here.  The quiz for that issue is available here. The quiz for the current issue is available here. We will track successful completion of the newsletter quizzes in our new recording system for team member continuing education. Additional opportunities for continuing education will be forthcoming and in a variety of formats.

All of our efforts are in recognition of the great work that you do and the need to continually support you in the most helpful ways possible.

Questions? Comments?

We thank all of you, as always, for everything you do in support of the CACREP accreditation process.  If you ever need anything related to site visits or simply have questions please feel free to reach out to Jonathan ([email protected]).