"Over the last three years we have had pass rates of 91% (81 out of 89), 95% (86 out of 91), and 94% (29 out of 31, in our current fall semester)."
Like any other structure, when building an Exercise Science program one must start with a firm and sound foundation. The foundation of the Exercise Science Program at Liberty University was built upon competencies (i.e., Job Task Analysis items) established by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
As our department worked through the accreditation process outlined by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs: Committee on Accreditation of Exercise Science (CAAHEP CoAES), we were sure to match our courses to the required competencies. This allowed us to note which parts of our curriculum contained gaps in content.
Program enhancements were made in order to not only ensure each competency was being met, but that competencies were covered in multiple courses. Within our curriculum there are numerous hands-on learning opportunities. In addition to the two main lab courses (Applied Exercise Physiology Lab and Biomechanics Lab) many of our courses also have hands-on components.
Four essential elements to the Making of a High-Quality Exercise Science Program
During their last semester of coursework and prior to enrolling in internship, each student in our program is required to take a national certification exam, one of which is the ACSM Exercise Physiologist certification exam (ACSM-EP®). The majority of students choose to take the ACSM Exercise Physiologist certification exam.
To assist students in preparing for this certification, we have developed and implemented a course in our curriculum titled “EXSC 485 Exercise Physiologist Workshop and Certification.” This semester-long course contains 20 online quizzes (spread out over a full semester) and a two-day ACSM workshop. The quizzes cover a variety of exercise science-related topics and are based on two texts: ACSM’s Resources for the Exercise Physiologist, 2nd edition, and ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 10th edition.
"[The ]semester-long course contains 20 online quizzes (spread out over a full semester) and a two-day ACSM workshop."
Quizzes are worth a combined 200 out of 1000 points. In order to receive full credit for the quizzes, students must earn an 80% or higher score. They are allowed to retake the quizzes as many times as they like, as only the highest score is counted. The remaining 800 points in the course are derived from the student’s score on the ACSM-EP® exam, which is taken at the end of the semester.
Prior to taking the certification exam, all students in the course attend the ACSM Exercise Physiologist Workshop on campus. We offer this workshop in both the fall and spring semesters. The workshop is 15 hours in length (8.5 lecture hours, 6.5 practicum hours), takes place over two days (a Friday and Saturday), and is taught by five of our faculty members who are ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologists.
Following the workshop, students then take the certification exam within a two-week time period. Upon completing the ACSM-EP exam, students hand in a hard copy of their exam results sheet to the workshop director. The results sheet contains a breakdown of scores for four domains (Health & Fitness Assessment, Exercise Prescription & Implementation, Exercise Counseling & Behavioral Strategies, and Risk Management & Professional Responsibilities) that ACSM-EP exam questions are based upon. Over the last three years we have had pass rates of 91% (81 out of 89), 95% (86 out of 91), and 94% (29 out of 31, in our current fall semester).
To help provide faculty with additional constructive feedback on an annual basis, senior level students also complete a program assessment survey prior to graduation. The results of the survey along with the exam results are analyzed to determine which portions of our Exercise Science Program are in need of enhancement.
Incorporating the ACSM-EP into our program has not only assisted us with achieving accreditation standards but has also benefited our students by enhancing their employability and acceptance into graduate programs. We highly recommend the inclusion of the ACSM-EP workshop course into an undergraduate exercise science program and will be happy to share further details of our methods of implementation with other colleagues in the field.
"[Our curriculum] has also benefited our students by enhancing their employability and acceptance into graduate programs."
James E. Schoffstall, Ed.D., ACSM-EP, RCEP, FACSM
Department Chair: Allied Health Professions, Liberty University
David A. Titcomb, PT, DPT, ACSM-EP
Director: Undergraduate Exercise Science Program, Liberty University