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Subject: alt.education.distance FAQ (part 2 of 4)
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:55 GMT
*** The alt.education.distance FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) ***
Part 2 of 4 parts
FAQ Maintainers: Neil Hynd, email@example.com, Al Lepine
firstname.lastname@example.org, Editor/Originator: Rita Laws, email@example.com,
3. What do the different forms of accreditation mean and how can I choose
an appropriate educational quality assurance measure ?
The quality measures differ between each country and approach to legalizing
universities. The most widely-found approach is that universities are
granted the right to issue degrees, and that procedures are put in place
for quality measures acceptable to the body that issues the degree-granting
right in the first place.
These can vary from universities being self-accrediting through to agencies
such as the British Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
(www.qaa.ac.uk) publishing assessment results for comparative purposes. In
Canada, each of the provinces takes its own approach, with one having a
Private Colleges Accreditation Board consisting of a chair, four academic
staff members from universities, four academic staff members of private
colleges affiliated with universities or given approval to offer degree
programs, and four members of the public.
The American approach to higher educational quality assurance causes some
confusion in the DL world and is explained briefly here, since
"accreditation" has a particular meaning. You are encouraged to follow some
of the resources links later in the FAQs to further understand the meaning
of accreditation in the USA, and also the other approaches that are used
around the world.
As mentioned above, American universities are authorized at state level,
however universities holding what is known as "Regional Accreditation" are
given exemption from meeting the requirements of each state that they
operate in. The US federal government Department of Education (DoEd) also
recognizes those universities holding Regional Accreditation as being
eligible for federal student financial assistance, as also are courses that
meet listed professional accrediting bodies and those holding accreditation
of the Distance Education Training Council (DETC).
Institutes that do not have such accreditation can exist legally by meeting
the state requirements, and are known as "state licensed" or "state
approved" universities. States also exempt institutes with a religious
charter and offering theological degree programs as a constitutional right.
American universities holding Regional Accreditation (RA) will normally
only accept students or faculty from similarly accredited universities, or
holding qualifications from US DoEd-recognized accrediting bodies. DETC-
accredited qualifications can also be acceptable to RA universities, but
you are advised to check program by program. Many, if not most,
professional bodies and states will only allow licenses to practice a
profession for those holding qualifications from such recognized
This is due to the existence of un-recognized (by the US DoEd) accrediting
bodies, which can in some cases give rise to misleading statements or even
fraudulent activities - hence the "Buyer Beware" statement at the beginning
of these FAQs.
In the American environment, your choice could then be between (i) an
institute or course with accreditation recognized by the US DoEd; (ii) a
state-licensed or state-approved (as in California) university meeting
state requirements but not holding recognized accreditation; or (iii) a
university with a religious exemption from state licensing.
Selection of an American program must be made carefully by the prospective
DL student, depending on the use to which the earned qualification will be
put. In general terms, a degree from a university or course with recognized
accreditation will be the wisest choice in terms of acceptability and
As an alternative, many DL students find that state-licensed/approved
programs can meet their objectives since costs are low in comparison,
programs are highly accessible (usually with no residency requirements) and
courses tend to be vocationally-biased towards "degree completion" for
adults including credits for work experience. Indeed, the web site of a US
commission on higher education shows that the chairman holds a postgraduate
qualification from one of that state's licensed universities.
A diploma mill (or degree mill) is often defined as an illegal institution
that grants bogus degrees in exchange for money, and without requiring the
student to show proof of course mastery, or to do any substantive
coursework or testing.
Diploma mills should be reported to the appropriate authorities (such as a
local government education agency or the FBI in the USA), and shut down
promptly whenever they arise. They not only do great harm to the
"graduates" and to society in general, but also give legitimate alternative
and non-traditional education a bad name. With the advent of the Internet,
diploma mills have been appearing more frequently and you are advised to
post questions to the Newsgroup, or to otherwise check the validity of
courses that are being offered in this way.
An inferior school operating just inside the law can also be a poor choice
for a DL student since although the institute may not be a diploma mill
according to the above definition, the degree awarded may not be held in
American universities that are authorized to award degrees can also be
found listed by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for
Education Statistics, Directory of Post Secondary Institutions, Degree-
4. How do I find the DL program that's best for me and where can I find
"online universities" and DL resources on the Net ?
A simple self-assessment is a good place to start. Ask yourself about your
personal, career, and academic needs, what you want to do, and how you
There are many ways to study in DL, and to learn. Choose your method or
methods and act accordingly. For example, don't rush to buy a high speed
modem if your classes are going to be mainly through written
correspondence. Don't sign up for classes on cassette tape if you don't
enjoy audio-learning. If you hated lab classes when you were younger, make
sure you don't feel that way now before signing up for DL lab classes.
(Yes, there is such a thing as DL lab classes within several disciplines.)
Some people consult professional guidance and career counselors, and others
use an educational consulting service where a fee is paid to a DL expert
who then compiles a list of possible schools custom-tailored to the
client's needs and learning style.
DL do-it-yourselfers often start with a good book or two. The DISTANCE
LEARNING BOOKLIST, a free Internet reference, is designed for people who
are "Getting Started" in DL, and is updated once per month. It can be found
at several online services, at the web page
A recent version included information about these titles:-
- Bears' Guide To Earning Degrees Non-Traditionally
- Brochures From The Distance Education & Training Council
- Campus-Free College Degrees
- Careers Without College Series (Peterson)
- College Admissions
- College Degrees You Can Earn From Home
- Colleges With Programs For Students With Learning Disabilities
- Distance Degrees
- Distance Education, A Systems View
- Distance Learning Funding Sourcebook
- Earn An Accredited College Degree In 4 Separate Months
- Earn College Credit For What You Know
- Education On The Internet
- Finding Money For College
- Oryx Guide To Distance Learning
- Paying Less For College
- The Electronic University
- The Foundations Of American Distance Education
- The Independent Study Catalog
- The Internet University- College Courses By Computer
- The Satellite Scholar
- United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) Magazine
- USA Today Financial Aid For College
The Usenet Newsgroup called alt.education.distance is a good place to start
learning about DL programs and resources. Be sure to search the archive
using www.deja.com or scan Discussion Groups via search engines such as
Web sites, including university home pages on several continents,
scholarship sites, research and support pages, and DL innovation pages
number in the hundreds. Some examples are listed later in these FAQs, but
you are encouraged to search for more. Using standard search engines, type
in key or search words such as: DISTANCE LEARNING, DISTANCE EDUCATION,
UNIVERSITIES, and NONTRADITIONAL EDUCATION.
You can then print out or save the list of sites presented to you and
browse them at your leisure, or save the sites themselves using your
browser "Save As" feature. There are currently several excellent web sites
that act as clearing houses and link to dozens of other DL-related web
pages. Such clearing houses are useful additions to a web browser favorites
or bookmark list.
Online services or portals such as AOL, Altavista, CompuServe, MSN,
Prodigy, Yahoo and others provide areas like forums, chat rooms, virtual
classrooms and file libraries which will help you to find DL resources.
Since the AED FAQs started, there has been growth in "on-line" resources.
While universities that conduct all classes and business online may or may
not exist in significant numbers in the future, they are few in number
today. Many traditional and DL schools have a home page on the Web and e-
mail capabilities, but this does not make them "online schools". Rather,
online classes are one option among various means of learning offered by
People searching for exclusively online degrees may miss the many excellent
offerings of degree programs that are partially online, but that also
conduct learning through other means, i.e. correspondence courses, taped
You should investigate all DL options, including hybrid DL programs that
combine different means of learning, and then choose the one best for your
needs. And remember, more schools are offering DL options - every day. If
there is a certain university you are interested in attending, ask about DL
programs that are currently under consideration or that are being
Several sources for on-line educational programs are given later in this
5. What about financial aid and how can I stay motivated to complete my
Many Australian programs are "free" to citizens, although a program called
HECS calls for students to pay for their education following graduation,
but only if they earn more than $25,000 per year. Some programs are fee-
based, such as MBAs, and call for payments. Foreign students will always
pay a fee, which can be as high as $12,000 per year.
In Britain, local authority grants are available for higher education, but
you will need to check the rules and intended courses since most are aimed
at full-time campus-based programs. Part of the grant may be in the form of
a loan, to be re-paid within a certain period after graduation.
In the US, most non-loan financial aid is targeted at young adults in
traditional, regionally accredited, residential programs with a set
calendar of class dates. DL students, most of whom are mature adults in
non-traditional programs with no set start-up dates, can have a difficult
time finding scholarships. It helps to search for web sites and books that
cater for DL students seeking money for school.
DL experts John and Mariah Bear, for example, have written a book about
Financial Aid with a special emphasis on assisting DL students. Called
"Finding Money for College", it is updated annually. Also, try using a
search engine to find financial aid web pages.
One sure way to save money (especially at post-graduate level) is to
consider an American state-licensed/approved (but without US DoEd
recognized accreditation) university. If such a school can meet your
personal, academic and career goals, you will probably save a great deal of
money on the total cost of your degree. Some of the state-licensed/approved
schools offer interest-free monthly payments after an initial down payment.
However, bearing in mind earlier comments on this subject, similar cost-
range DL bachelor degrees with recognized accreditation can be earned from
several institutes, and would be a wiser choice for future acceptability
and transferability at this level of qualification especially in the USA.
The AED Newsgroup can advise you on the ever-changing bachelor-level
Then, having made your choice and financial arrangements, the next step is
to begin the program. You understand what DL is all about, you know your
own needs, you've been admitted, the books have arrived, you've got your
log-on ID and it's now time to get started.
Do you feel like procrastinating ? Well, you are not alone ! Happily,
mature adults are the most self-directed of all students. They are highly
motivated- usually by the need to get a job, keep a job, or earn a
promotion or raise. However, even highly self-disciplined adults can find
it difficult to stay motivated, especially in the Summer when warm weather
activities beckon, and most "everyone else" is out of school.
This is where the need to find and keep a support system comes in. A little
encouragement, understanding and socializing is just the medicine most
people need to keep on track for their degrees. People with computers and
modems are fortunate because the same newsgroups, forums, and web sites
that helped them learn about DL, their needs, and the available schools,
are often the same places they can turn to for support. These electronic
gatherings are also the place to pass on what you have learned - to the
"newbies" just coming along asking "So how do I get started ?"
If you are returning to your studies after a long hiatus, remember that you
are not alone. More than half of all people who begin a dissertation, for
example, never finish it. Try your local library for books written to help
the ABD (All But Dissertation) student, and for people finishing all types
One trick that some people find to be useful is to commit to achieving one
DL goal per day, every day, rain or shine. The goal may be as quick and
simple as ordering the next text book, downloading the newest posts from a
DL newsgroup, or writing one paragraph on a term paper, or as involved as a
marathon study, research, or writing session. Others set aside certain
times or days to devote exclusively to their studies. Just as one might
invest a set sum of money each month to build a financial future, so does
investing a set amount of time each month create a brighter future with a
completed degree in it.
The key is to get into a daily habit. Little by little, the DL degree moves
closer to completion.
FAQ Maintainers: Neil Hynd firstname.lastname@example.org, Al Lepine
email@example.com Editor/Originator: Dr. Rita Laws firstname.lastname@example.org,
This FAQ may be re-produced for non-profit uses, and as long as it is
copied in its entirety and without modification. It may be duplicated at
other education-related newsgroups. For any other use, including
commercial, or the use of excerpts, permission must first be obtained in
writing from the author, Rita Laws, Ph.D., at email: email@example.com
Copyright (c) 1999, 2000 by Rita Laws.
Joint Maintainer of the alt.education.distance FAQs
Webmaster, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Global Education
For Distance Education information, Al Lepine's Web Site is highly