Online Learning and Accreditation

Online Learning and Accreditation

When you’re seeking an institution of online learning at which to study, a factor to consider is accreditation. Accreditation is an educational status which accreditation bodies bestow on schools of all kinds, from elementary schools to colleges, including distance-learning colleges. Accreditation bodies are private agencies that rigorously examine educational programs and make judgments about their quality.

There are two main types of accreditation. Institutional accreditation is awarded to an entire institution, while specialized accreditation is conferred only on one part of a school. For example, a school’s math department might have specialized accreditation even though that school does not have institutional accreditation.   

Colleges do not have to apply for accreditation, but being accredited is a great boost to a school’s reputation. The entire process can take up to ten years. The first step is for a school to evaluate itself, to find areas of weakness, as compared to accreditation standards and guidelines, and then attempt to improve on those. Then the accreditation agency itself will come in and scrutinize teaching methods, faculty support, curricula, student retention and many other aspects of the educational experience. If the agency is satisfied with their findings, it will award that school “candidacy status.” After periodic follow-ups the school may earn full accreditation. This is not a permanent status, however; the agency will return over the years to make sure a school has maintained its standards, and accreditation can be revoked if it has not. 

A diploma from an accredited school can make a difference when you’re applying for jobs. Also, if you later decide to transfer to an accredited school, you’re much more likely to be able to carry over credits if your first school is accredited.  Therefore, when you first look at an online school, find out which agency has accredited it. Then go to the U.S. Department of Education’s website to make sure that agency has been approved by the government.

Keep in mind, however, that there are high-quality unaccredited distance learning schools. Some might be too new to have earned accreditation. Others might have opted not to apply for accreditation because they employ experimental teaching methods for which accreditation agencies don’t yet have metrics to evaluate. It’s also wise to remember that just because you enroll in a program that’s accredited, it’s not completely guaranteed you’ll get everything you want from your education. It’s possible that an inferior educator or two could work at an accredited institution. Also, no matter what the quality of an e-learning program is, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it. In other words, the quality of your education depends on your work ethic no matter where you enroll!

Online learning market place

Apr 27, 2012