Accreditation is a voluntary process, each institution must make its own choice: to seek accreditation or re-accreditation or not.
Distance learning course options have become increasingly prevalent around the world as distance learning institutions expand their course offerings and accessibility. The course certification for Distance learning courses is a key concern for both students and employers, who want to see the same course accreditation standards applied to a distance learning course as to a seated course at an already accredited college or university. The council for distance learning accreditation reports thousands of accredited institutions offering distance learning, and you can increase that number by following the steps to get distance learning course certification.
Programme accreditation is a form of quality assurance which is practiced in many countries and is usually associated with purposes of accountability and improvement in programme quality. In common with distance learning systems in many parts of the world, distance learning faces multiple stakeholder demands for greater responsiveness to societal needs through enhanced student access and mobility, through research and innovation that address social and economic development, and through engagement with local, regional and international communities of interest. Stakeholders also require that distance learning institutions are able to provide the public with comprehensive information on the manner in which they maintain the quality and standards of their core academic activities, and to demonstrate sustained improvement in this regard.
To be accredited, a programme must be a full qualification complying with the rules and regulations stipulated. A new programme is described as a programme that is newly conceptualized and not previously accredited, or a revised programme in which the changes effected constitute more than 50% of the programme. Any public or private distance learning institution wanting to offer a new programme must submit an application for accreditation of the programme through the accreditation system.
Processing an application
Once a completed application is received, it is screened for completeness and a preliminary analysis is undertaken to verify that the information that it contains is sufficiently comprehensive to enable a full programme evaluation. Where an application is incomplete, it is returned to the institution.
An evaluation panel is constituted, or one or more evaluators are appointed. Panelists and evaluators are academic peers from the field related to the programme for evaluation.
The evaluation panel or the evaluator(s) produce a report using the evaluation criteria and make a recommendation regarding the accreditation of the programme. Three possible recommendations can be made:
- provisional accreditation (no conditions)
- provisional accreditation with conditions
- no accreditation
The report and a recommendation from the IDETC secretariat are submitted to the Accreditation Committee which makes a final recommendation. The recommendation and any conditions set by the Committee are sent to the distance learning institution that submitted the application.
In cases where a programme is not recommended for accreditation, the institution may make representations. These representations:
- should be in writing
- should not repeat the contents of the original application
- should be confined to the information provided by the institution during the evaluation process: that is, information that was part of the institution's application and that was made available to the panel of evaluators
- should address the report and recommendations of the Accreditation Committee focusing on any errors and omissions that may have occurred in the evaluation process
- should reach the IDETC within 21 working days of the date of the letter
- Should the decision not to accredit a programme be upheld, the institution may not submit the same programme for accreditation for a period of two years.
Each accredited institution must voluntarily meet the standards for accreditation.
- have a clearly defined and stated mission, goals, and objectives;
- have reasonably attainable and clearly stated educational objectives, and educationally sound and up-to-date
- courses or programs;
- provide satisfactory educational services;
- offer adequate student services;
- have demonstrated ample student success and satisfaction, and have an outcomes assessment plan;
- have qualified faculty and competent administrators and staff;
- have fair admission policies and adequate enrollment agreements;
- advertise its courses or programs truthfully;
- be financially able to deliver high quality educational services;
- have fair and equitable tuition and refund policies;
- have adequate facilities, equipment, and record protection; and
- conduct continuous research and self-improvement studies.
Provisional accreditation with conditions
In cases where provisional accreditation with conditions is recommended, institutions are given a timeframe to address the conditions set. At the end of this period, a report on the conditions must be submitted to the IDETC. The report is submitted to a panel of peers to evaluate if the conditions were met. A site visit may be conducted to gather additional information pertinent to the programme or institution. The panel produces a report on its evaluation and submits it to the IDETC. This report is tabled at the Accreditation Committee. The outcome of the evaluation is communicated to the institution. In cases where the conditions have not been met, provisional accreditation may be withdrawn.
The accreditation phase
Institutions may enroll students only on completion of all the regulatory requirements, including accreditation. Public institutions are required to obtain programme and qualification approval prior to applying for accreditation. The IDETC reserves the right to undertake a site visit to review a programme for accreditation purposes.
Midway through the programme, or when stipulated by the IDETC, the institution will be required to submit a progress report for evaluation by the IDETC secretariat. A site visit will be undertaken only when circumstances warrant it. The progress report should provide details on the following:
Steps taken to address conditions set by the IDETC when the candidacy phase status was granted.
Progress in relation to the programme implementation plan submitted to the IDETC. This includes progress on implementation of the policies, strategies, conditions, etc. specified in the criteria for the candidacy phase, and with the provision of the required infrastructure. Structures, strategies, processes, etc. which are in operation or in development to ensure that the IDETC 's criteria for programme process, programme output and impact, and programme review in the accreditation phase of the programme are met. Within one year of the first cohort of students graduating from the new programme, the institution must demonstrate that it has met the conditions set by the IDETC during the candidacy phase, which include conditions relating to the evaluation of the mid-term report from the institution. Acceptable reasons and relevant evidence have to be provided in instances where the conditions have not been met. The institution is also required to conduct a self-evaluation of the programme against the IDETC 's criteria for the accreditation phase, which include those for programme input, process, output and impact, and review; and to submit a programme improvement plan to address areas in need of attention as identified in the self-evaluation. A site visit may be conducted, if necessary.
If the institution's submission is approved by the IDETC, the programme obtains full accreditation status.
New programmes are accredited as follows:
- New one- and two-year programmes may be accredited for a maximum of three years.
- New programmes with duration of three years and longer may be accredited for a maximum of six years.
To become accredited, each institution must have made an intensive study of its own operations, opened its doors to a thorough inspection by an outside examining committee, supplied all information required by the Accrediting Commission, and submitted its instructional materials for a thorough review by competent subject matter specialists.
- Accredited status gives you enhanced recognition and differentiation in a challenging marketplace.
- Benchmarking of services so that you can confirm that perceived strengths really are strengths compared with your peers/competitors.
- You will be seen to be making a public commitment to compliance with the code of practice and complaints process giving buyers confidence in the quality of your service provision and comfort that there is an independent escalation process should difficulties arise.
- Membership of Training Provider Connect giving access to a vast repository of learning related material and research without having the bind of searching and filtering the internet and other resource libraries
- Training provider connect also gives you easy access to leading industry experts and like-minded communities to discuss key pressing issues
- Independent assessment of your key business processes so that you can market and build upon your strengths whilst addressing the opportunities for improvement
- Mystery shopper service giving you unbiased, discrete feedback on the experience your clients have when they first engage with your organization.
- As an accredited member, you will be able to gain leverage from your success through IDETC branding and through promotion via the website and other marketing collateral
The Accrediting Commission
The Accrediting Commission establishes educational and ethical business standards. It examines and evaluates distance education institutions located around the world in terms of these standards. It accredits those that meet the standards. Its scope of accreditation requires a full institutional review and is based upon a method of education as opposed to grade levels, subject matter, or geographic location. In other words, IDETC accreditation is an institutional and international source of accreditation for distance education institutions.
- Accreditation is a non-governmental peer review process in which the integrity and good faith of an institution and its officers are essential.
- Accreditation is purely voluntary. The applicant institution voluntarily elects to apply for accreditation and it voluntarily agrees to comply with all standards and policies of the Commission.
- The burden of proof in demonstrating compliance with standards rests with the institution, not with the Accrediting Commission. The institution must prove to the Accrediting Commission that it meets or exceeds the standards.
- Accreditation is by its nature a formal, but nonetheless, collegial process. It works best when there is a common agreement that the chief purpose for seeking accreditation is the identification of soundness, honesty, and quality in the practice of distance education. It was never intended to be an adversarial procedure whereby legal professionals employ courtroom procedures to attain accredited status.
- The Accrediting Commission considers information about an applicant institution from any source in reaching its conclusion.
Responsibilities of the Commission
- Establish and promulgate criteria for the evaluation and accreditation of distance education and organizations.
- Establish its operating budget and provide for a schedule of reasonable fees which will assure the financial stability of the Commission.
- Receive applications from institutions desiring accreditation.
- Appoint qualified evaluators and provide for a comprehensive evaluation procedure.
- Review the Chair’s reports and all other pertinent material and accredit or withhold accreditation from applicant institutions.
- Issue a directory of accredited organizations and maintain a web site in which institutions will be identified in a manner which indicates their program offerings.
- Make available to the public current information covering the criteria for accreditation and the operation of the Commission.
- Re-evaluate at reasonable intervals the accredited organizations’ programs, organization, and courses of study.
- Exercise such other powers as are necessary to carry out the functions of a reputable, nationally recognized accrediting association.
- The institution must be a “bona fide” distance education institution and/or training provider, which is defined by the Accrediting Commission as “an educational institution or organization whose primary purpose is providing education or training which (1) formally enrolls students and maintains student records; (2) retains a qualified faculty to service students; (3) transmits to students organized instructional materials; (4) provides continuous two-way communication on student work, e.g., evaluating students’ examinations, projects, and/or answering queries, with prompt feedback given to students; and (5) offers courses of instruction which must be studied predominantly at a distance from the institution or organization.” That is, distance education should be the primary method of study for the majority of students, and distance education courses should comprise the majority of course offerings.
- The institution must be properly licensed, authorized, exempted, or approved by the applicable educational institutional authority.
- The institution’s “Application for Accreditation” must be complete.
Enroll and Complete Course: A key person must enroll on preparing for accreditation to qualify as a compliance officer.
The compliance officer and staff begin writing the institution’s self-evaluation report. The report provides data on all areas of an institution’s operation, history, course offerings, student services, finances, etc. The self-evaluation includes a wide gathering and analysis of pertinent data on all aspects of the institution and its work. It should, above all else, be a truly self-analytical document that identifies an institution’s particular strengths and challenges. It should reveal the philosophy, organization, specific practices and procedures (documented wherever possible), the success of different operations, and the outcomes of the educational process including the degree to which the institution is accomplishing its stated objectives. Data should not be amassed routinely, but in a constant search for new meanings, new methods and procedures, new hypotheses, and new ideas for improvement. The self-evaluation report really “tells a story” about the institution. What the accrediting commission is looking for is a candid self-analysis of the institution.
Steps in the Accreditation Process
2.Begin writing the institution’s self evaluation report
3.Submit application and other required information
- Institution submits application with application fee
- Institutions submits students names, catalogs, and copy of licensure
4.Undergo readiness assessment (initial applicants only)
5.Submit course materials, IDETC schedules on-site visit and surveys
- Institution submits courses materials for review
- Date of visit is set
- Students surveyed
6.Submit self evaluation report, receive subject specialist reports, and respond to comments
- Institution submits self evaluation report
- Examining committee is selected
- State observers are invited
- IDETC sends subject specialist reports and student surveys to the institution
- Institution addresses any “does not meet standard” comments from subject specialists
- Examiners receive and review self evaluation report, subject specialist reports, and student surveys
- Complaint summary is prepared
7. Institution undergoes on-site visit and examiners write reports
- Institution undergoes the on-site visit
- Evaluators test and verify information in the self evaluation report
- Chair informs the institution when to expect the Chair’s Report
- Evaluators write reports and send them to the Chair
- Observer’s and CEO’s comments are solicited
- Commission surveys on-site evaluators
8.Chair writes and submits report and institution responds
- Chair writes report and sends it to IDETC
- IDETC sends the Chair’s report to the institution for comment
9.Commission reviews, takes action and announces decision
- Commission reviews surveys, Chair’s report, and the institution’s response to the Chair’s report
- Commission makes decision and informs institution
- Commission announces decision
The institution may appeal or have a reconsideration of an action of the Commission to deny or terminate accreditation. A request for the reconsideration” alternative involves a hearing before the Accrediting Commission itself. A request for the “appeal” alternative includes a hearing before an independent three-member appeals panel.
In order for an institution to maintain its eligibility for accreditation, it must be in continuous compliance with accrediting standards and requirements. This means, among other things, that an institution must: be in continuous operation training students in accordance with its primary objective; fulfill all reporting requirements; maintain compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal requirements; and pay all sustaining, processing, and on-site evaluation fees as required on a timely basis.
The institutions which operate outside the country are subject to the IDETC’s programme accreditation policies, requirements and procedures for all their local as well as cross-border academic activities. In addition to the IDETC’s requirements, such institutions have to satisfy the relevant quality assurance policies and procedures of the countries in which they operate. The IDETC will cooperate closely with national quality assurance agencies in countries where institutions have an operational presence, in order to share relevant accreditation and audit information. All providers which are operating across borders need to ensure equivalence in the quality of provision at different sites of delivery abroad.
Obligations of Accreditation
File an Annual Report
Pay Annual Dues and Accreditation Fees
The institution should update the Teach-Out Commitment and send it to the Accrediting
Commission when there are changes in the institution’s ownership, management, or location.
The institution must inform the Commission whenever it adds or revises a course/program.
Correct any Incorrect or Misleading Information.
Advise Commission in a Timely Way
Advise Commission of Substantive Changes
Participate in Evaluations
An accredited institution must take the steps necessary to renew its accreditation at least every five years.
If at any time an institution fails to meet its obligations of accreditation in a timely manner including failure to pay its financial obligations to IDETC in a timely manner may lose its accreditation. The Commission may elect to hold a special meeting to review the findings and determine if accreditation is to be removed or affirmed.
An applicant for initial accreditation may withdraw its application at any time during the accreditation process. For currently accredited institutions, the Accrediting Commission will accept a resignation from accreditation only if the institution’s status had not been ordered to undergo or is not currently undergoing a specially-ordered accreditation review or the institution has filed all required reports or has otherwise met all of the conditions set by the Accrediting Commission for its continued accreditation and has no active students at all for one year.