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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

All FAQs in Directory: education/distance-ed-faq
All FAQs posted in: alt.education.distance
Source: Usenet Version

Archive-name: education/distance-ed-faq/part2 Posting-Frequency: monthly Last-modified: 1999/10/25 Version: 8.0 URL: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/education/distance-ed-faq/part2
*** The alt.education.distance FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) *** Part 2 of 4 parts FAQ Maintainers: Neil Hynd, penhill@emirates.net.ae, Al Lepine lepine1@banet.net, Editor/Originator: Rita Laws, rlaws@homes4kids.org, URL: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/education/distance-ed-faq/part2 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 accrediting bodies. 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 transferability. 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 high regard. 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- granting Institutions. 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 learn best. 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 http://personalpages.tds.net/~rlaws/ 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 www.altavista.com 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 the institution. 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 courses, etc. 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 developed. Several sources for on-line educational programs are given later in this FAQ. 5. What about financial aid and how can I stay motivated to complete my degree ? 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 programs available. 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 of degrees. 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. ** Legalities: FAQ Maintainers: Neil Hynd penhill@emirates.net.ae, Al Lepine lepine1@banet.net Editor/Originator: Dr. Rita Laws rlaws@homes4kids.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: rlaws@homes4kids.org Copyright (c) 1999, 2000 by Rita Laws. Joint Maintainer of the alt.education.distance FAQs http://personalpages.tds.net/~rlaws/dlfaq.html Webmaster, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Global Education http://www.bfranklin.edu For Distance Education information, Al Lepine's Web Site is highly recommended:- http://members.tripod.com/~lepine