A school’s accreditation status is one of the defining factors for students’ choice during the selection of educational institution. Due to the fact that the state always seeks to provide its citizens with the highest standards of learning, educational facilities must be accredited to fit these standards. School accreditation indexes the high-quality academic programs and levels of education. This essay aims to determine the basic processes an educational institution must go through to accredit its distance programs. Instead of governmental accreditation, the state relies on several agencies, which conduct the accreditation. There are two types of accreditation an educational facility may gain – regional and national accreditation. Therefore, it was stated that distance education programs could be accredited with DEAC national accreditation or MSCHE regional accreditation.
General Online Education Accreditation Rules
It is important to understand that most accreditation standards applied to the assessment of full-time programs are also applied to distance ones. Thus, any program, which offers secondary education, falls under the jurisdiction of the State, and its requirements are applied to it.
(Ozdemir & McDaniel, 2013). In addition, most regional accreditors, including MSCHE, rely on C-RAC’s Principles for Good Practices guidelines while accrediting the institution. This set of distance education courses evaluation aspects, for instance, requires the university to prove that the program fits the university’s purposes and aims, therefore, is integrated into the learning process. However, it is important to understand that in most American universities, the accreditation evaluates full-time and distance programs together, which leads to the lowering of education quality, which even the accreditors cannot control (Jung & Latchem, 2012). Therefore, it would be more convenient to go through separate accreditation to control the quality, although coupled accreditation is a less-complicated process.
As an option, the educational facility may use DEAC accreditation to provide the university with national accreditation. “The Distance Educational Accrediting Commission is a private, non-profitable organization that accredits distance education institutions and programs” (Danver, 2016, p. 347). DEAC provides accreditation in two countries (United States and Canada) for four types of universities (Danver, 2016, p. 347). There are several stages, which must be passed to acquire the accreditation from DEAC. The first stage requires the university to assess its accreditation eligibility (Danver, 2016, p. 349). Once this is assessment is done, the facility must appoint a person to be trained as a compliance officer (Danver, 2016, p. 349). A compliance officer is a person who ensures that the university complies with the standards set by the accreditor (Hammar, 2019). After that, the university writes a self-evaluation report to convene the DEAC commission to start collecting reports on the university’s standards (Danver, 2016, p. 349). If the committee is convened, volunteer agents are being sent to provide the committee with reports. After several inspections, the commission decides whether the school is credible and informs the university of its decision (Danver, 2016, p. 349). It is essential to mention that DEAC membership lasts only three years, and it is essential for the facility to re-go through this process. Undoubtedly, this method of accreditation seems the most fitting for distance education programs since the accreditors specialize in this field.
MSCHE is another way for an institution to accredit its distance education program. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is a non-profit organization, which provides educational facilities in several states (including New Jersey) with accreditation (Danver, 2016, p. 751). It is important to note that MSCHE does not offer separate accreditation for online programs; thus, the programs can be accredited coupled with full-time programs. As mentioned before, MSCHE, along with several other accreditors, follows the C-RAC’s Principles for Good Practices guidelines. Thus, first of all, the accredited facility must show its ability to effectively incorporate the distance education program into the main university program and evaluate the effectiveness of the given program (Interregional guidelines for the evaluation of distance education, 2011). The facility must also prove that it has enough resources to maintain high-level education and provide students with it (Interregional guidelines for the evaluation of distance education, 2011). Although these aspects do not serve as a strict set of requirements, they serve as additional evaluation criteria. The main criteria of evaluation consist of 14 standards of excellence, divided by two categories, which the university must strictly comply (Danver, 2016, p. 751). The first seven standards show the so-called “excellences of educational context.” For instance, this category includes administration, planning, or integrity quality levels. The second seven excellences consist of aspects of educational standards. Therefore, MSCHE provides the possibility to accredit distance education programs along with full-time ones, but a lot of requirements, which the school must strictly follow.
Accreditation is a complex process, which includes many elements and requirements. Undoubtedly, an accredited facility offers more possibilities to its graduates and provides them with a quality of education, which is being strictly controlled. It was detected that two types of official accreditation offer more or less the same possibilities, although regional accreditation requires the facility to have a physical campus site and a full-time program. At the same time, MEAC, which specifies online program accreditation, may offer wider possibilities. Each procedure requires a multistep preparation and includes serious inspections aimed to determine the quality of education in a specific school. With that being so, each facility must prove its ability to give proper education and obtain compelling educational resources.
Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions. (2011). Interregional fuidelines for the evaluation of distance education.
Danver, S. L. (2016). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Online Education. SAGE Publications.
Hammar, J. E. (2019). CFTC amends chief compliance officer duties and annual report requirements. Journal of Investment Compliance, 20(1), 10–16.
Jung, I. & Latchem, C. (2012). Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Distance Education and E-Learning. Taylor & Francis.
Odzemir, D., McDaniel, J.G. (2013). Evaluation of the state authorization processes for distance education. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 15(1).